“The first prominent crackdown in recent years occurred in Michigan in 2006. Following an undercover investigation of a farming cooperative in Ann Arbor, authorities pulled over Richard Hebron and confiscated about $7,000 worth of food, including 453 gallons of raw milk, that he was delivering to the co-op.
They also searched his home office and seized his computer. “When they tested the milk, they couldn’t find any problems with it,” Hebron told Time magazine. “It seems like they’re just looking for some way to shut us down.” Six months after the incident, following an enormous amount of public protest, the state settled with Hebron on relatively favorable terms.
Significantly, the settlement with Hebron “approv[ed] in principle the validity of cow share agreements,” Gumpert wrote on his blog the day the settlement was announced. Thus, Michiganders now have official legal cover for obtaining raw milk in that manner.
Hebron’s milk supplier, Amish farmer David Hochstetler of Middlebury, Indiana, was visited by the FDA shortly after Hebron’s cargo was seized. He came to the government’s attention again in 2010 when 25 people were sickened by Campylobacter, a foodborne pathogen that can cause diarrhea or dysentery, that public health officials claimed had come from milk supplied by Hochstetler’s dairy. Extensive testing of the milk by both Hochstetler and the state of Michigan found no evidence of Campylobacter. Nevertheless, he was graced with the presence of more FDA agents, who tried to get him to sign an agreement stating that he would no longer ship milk out of state. Hochstetler declined.
Now Hebron and Hochstetler are again in the feds’ sights. In November each received a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury in Detroit in connection with a federal criminal investigation. The investigation appears to be part of a concerted effort on the part of the FDA and state officials to — pardon the pun — cow producers of raw milk into submission. Raw milk advocate Max Kane obtained an e-mail summarizing a 2009 conference call about raw milk that included officials from the FDA, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. The e-mail clearly shows that these officials wanted to crack down on raw milk sales. “They prefer to address one person or group at a time,” the e-mail said, “and want to start with” Hebron and Hochstetler.
The government seems hesitant to pursue its investigation, however. Hochstetler — perhaps thanks to his county sheriff, who threatened to arrest any federal agents trying to search Hochstetler’s property without a warrant from a local judge — was released from his subpoena. Hebron’s appearance before the grand jury was cancelled, but as of this writing, he has not been fully released….”