PHILADELPHIA — In the predawn fog of an April morning last year, armed federal agents fanned out across darkened Lancaster County, Pa., pastures in search of contraband.
Months of investigation had led to this point. Strong evidence suggested that Rainbow Acres — a small Amish farm just outside Kinzers — served as the hub of a large-scale smuggling operation responsible for shipping hundreds of gallons of illicit product across state lines.
After sweeping past dozing cattle and roosters waiting to crow, the agents finally found what they had come for: dozens of coolers filled with unpasteurized milk.
That 2010 raid resulted in civil sanctions filed in April against farm owner Daniel Allgyer. But the case has also fueled a growing debate between the federal government and the estimated 9 million American consumers of a product they call “raw milk.”
Since 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stepped up enforcement against dairy farmers whose product, the agency says, poses a significant risk to public health. And Pennsylvania — the country’s fifth-largest dairy producer and home to many traditional Amish and Mennonite farms — has become a flash point for the conflict. But for raw milk devotees, Allgyer — who declined to be interviewed for this article — is just the latest farmer to fall victim to a federal law that they say doesn’t make sense in today’s world.
“He is being treated as if he were a drug lord,” said Jonathan Emord, a lawyer representing Allgyer’s customers in Maryland. “This is fresh milk we’re talking about.”…”