“The good-cop-bad-cop routine is one of the oldest in law enforcement. Talk with me, goes the advice to the criminal suspect from the nice-guy cop, or I’ll send in our junk yard dog, and you don’t want to deal with him. Lord knows what he’ll do to get you to cough up the real story, and he’ll make sure you get a long jail sentence to boot.
Regulators from the Maine Department of Agriculture have been playing the good-cop-bad-cop game with proponents of Food Sovereignty, in an effort to convince them to back off from their fight on behalf of Dan Brown, the farmer who has been sued in a test case over whether the Food Sovereignty ordinances passed by eight Maine towns (including his town of Blue Hill) are legal. At the same time, the Maine regulators work closely with the federal regulators and, as I suggested in Part 1 of this series, have even indicated a preference for the federal hard line on food rights over their own governor’s inclination toward compromise.
One of the proponents they have played this good-cop-bad-cop game with is Heather Retberg, a farmer and one of the organizers of Maine’s Food Sovereignty initiative. Like Brown, she has refused to apply for a state permit to sell raw milk, asserting her right to sell privately, under the Food Sovereignty ordinance passed last year by her town of Penobscot. But according to nearly 700 pages of emails and other documents obtained by lawyers for Dan Brown, the Maine Department of Agriculture has told Retberg she could well be the next farmer sued by the state.
In correspondence with Retberg earlier this year, she questioned a Maine ag official about whether the agency would be able to protect her from possible enforcement action by the FDA. She attached information from an owner of Estrella Cheese, which was shut down by the FDA in 2010. Retberg said that Estrella was “a licensed, price winning cheese maker in Washington state who had worked well and favorably with her Department of Agriculture, but was left unprotected from FDA aggression and is still struggling through an awful ordeal and has ceased making cheese and may yet need to sell the farm.”
To which Steve Giguere, a Maine Department of Agriculture program manager responded: “If FDA attempts to regulate in-state sales of raw milk and we can show results of high quality milk being produced by licensed distributors who meet the standards for quality set out in the PMO (Pasteurized Milk Ordinance) we can make a very good case that Federal intervention is not necessary.” …”