Ever since Justice Paul Kowarsky acquitted Durham area farmer Michael Schmidt on 19 raw milk related charges in January of 2010, a truce of sorts has prevailed on the raw milk front in Ontario. And the massive publicity that accompanied that acquittal has made Michael Schmidt into even more of a public figure and a hero of the food rights movement across North America than he was before.
Since that decision, Michael Schmidt has assisted or intervened in raw milk controversies in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, and has spoken at conferences in New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
But that success on the legal front has been overshadowed by the Ontario government’s pending appeal of Justice Kowarsky’s decision, a decision which anyone could have predicted would be unpopular with interest groups such as the “Dairy Farmers of Ontario”, a milk marketing monopoly whose members’ quota investment runs in the order of $30,000 per cow.
Although it’s been argued that the British model demonstrates raw milk sales are not incompatible with quota systems, nonetheless, the DFO sees Michael Schmidt, and the iceberg of underground raw milk producers he’s the tip of, as a threat to their monopoly and market share.
Although there’s little hard evidence to support it, the widespread publicity that Michael’s case has given to the raw milk cause can only have fuelled the desires of many consumers to taste the forbidden food.
Michael has no plans to expand his operation to meet rising demand but instead has offered a series of “Cow Share College” courses to instruct other farmers in the ways of safe raw milk production.
It’s difficult to know how large the underground market for raw milk is in the province, but conservative estimates put it at several times the number of customers Michael Schmidt serves.
Clearly the Crown’s appeal of Michael’s acquittal threatens this tenuous opportunity to develop a working together between raw milk producers and the regulatory community, a working together that Michael has repeatedly sought over the last nearly twenty years. Such a working together has been in progress in Michigan, so the idea is not without precedent.
If the Crown appeal is successful, it could result in driving the raw milk traffic in Canada deeper underground and farther from the kind of standards, oversight and regulation which Michael Schmidt has been advocating.
Supporters of raw milk and interested members of the public are very much invited to come out to the courthouse at 50 Eagle Street in Newmarket for 9:30 am on
Tuesday Wednesday April 13th to show their support for raw milk justice. Michael’s lawyer Karen Selick anticipates that the case could take all day, and that if it can’t be decided on the 13th, the continuation is likely to be postponed to a future date rather than continue the following day.
Background reading: Defense Factum, Crown Factum; read all the arguments for and against the appeal. Thanks to the court’s acceptance of a motion earlier this year, the defense has been allowed to introduce additional evidence and constitutional arguments beyond those used in the trial in 2009. The original 19 charges stem from a raid at Schmidt’s farm in November of 2006. Curiously there were a number of other raids on raw milk operators across North America at about the same time.