“The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s campaign against consumers is significantly more widespread than I first reported. And it is stirring up a hornet’s nest of outrage, and promises of defiance.
It turns out the MDA actually sent its love letters threatening criminal charges to nine or ten consumers of farmer Michael Hartmann—nine, according to a spokesman from the MDA, and ten according to consumers who have been comparing notes among themselves.
The MDA’s action seems designed to intimidate customers of Hartmann from offering their homes as voluntary drop points for his milk, meat, and other farm products—with the goal to deprive the farmer of distribution assistance from his customers. But the consumers, mostly mothers, have begun organizing themselves under the auspices of the Raw Milk Freedom Riders. The organization issued a press release headlined: “Mothers Threatened with Criminal Charges Openly Defy MDA.”
The release includes this quote from Melinda Olson, one of those who received the warning letter described in my previous post: “The MDA’s harassment against mothers will not work. We plan to ignorethis warning and continue operating as we are. MDA should not waste taxpayer money investigating, prosecuting and jailing peaceful farmers and mothers for helping their communities secure fresh foods. Our time to stand up against this tyranny is now!”
The organization indicated that not only won’t Hartmann lose his consumer supporters, but he will gain more help. “Dozens of individuals who are disgusted with what they regard as MDA’s overly aggressive tactics are expected to join in the same activity as these mothers,” the release states.
The MDA action is a surprising strategic departure from previous enforcement actions by agencies in other parts of the country, which have confined themselves to focusing on generally one to three targeted individuals at a time—usually farmers or food club managers– in an effort to isolate them, and discourage organized backing. By going after nine or ten individuals—and consumers at that–the MDA is clearly betting that it can handle a more complex enforcement situation. Most fundamentally, it is betting that it can outmaneuver the consumers, or wear them down, in a protracted legal battle….”