“You might think the Minnesota Department of Agriculture would regroup and reassess after being handed its head by a Minneapolis jury that acquitted Alvin Schlangen of misdemeanor charges just two months ago.
But no, the agency is pushing full speed ahead in a separate administrative case it filed months ago–one of three cases, together with the Minneapolis case and another misdemeanor case in Schlangen’s home of Stearns County that were filed against the farmer in connection with his food club’s distribution of food to more than 100 members.
The MDA clearly is more confident taking its case to a judge, rather than a jury, which isn’t required in an administrative case such as this. The administrative case is potentially less onerous for Schlangen– the judge in this case can order Schlangen to obtain a food license and discontinue distributing raw milk, but can’t penalize him for ignoring his orders; that would require the MDA to appeal for criminal penalties, and could put the case before a jury…again. No, this is more about harassment, requiring an expenditure of time and energy by Schlangen and his lawyer from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
Latest in the MDA’s bag of tricks in this administrative case is a motion for summary disposition–a ruling by the judge that MDA is right, before a trial even occurs. To support its motion, the MDA presented the judge late last month with an affidavit from an MDA inspector that she was able to sign up as a member of Schlangen’s food club and place an order–all via a publicly available web site. MDA Compliance Supervisor Jennifer Erickson stated she “created an alias, Jennifer Smith. As ‘Jennifer Smith’ MDA was able to place an order…for unpasteurized butter and unpasteurized milk. At no time was ‘Jennifer Smith’ required to become a member of ‘Freedom Farms Coop’ to complete the order.” …”