Why the Vernon Herschberger raw milk case is important for future food rights

From David E. Gumpert on The Complete Patient blog:

“I’ve been devoting a considerable amount of time and energy to reporting on the sometimes tedious ins and outs of the upcoming trial of Vernon Hershberger.

Why? What makes this case so important, in my view?

Here are six reasons I see it as being key:

1. It could go a long way toward determining whether Americans will retain the right to privately obtain foods the government may object to. Note, I say “retain.” Americans have always had the right to obtain food privately–whether directly from farm stores or at church suppers or via lemonade stands or from neighbors selling extra milk or cans of food.

It’s just that the “right” wasn’t called a right, because it was a custom or a tradition, a part of the fabric of life in communities large and small. Elected and appointed officials didn’t even think to question it because they were getting food that way as well. But in recent years, as government at all levels has begun challenging the custom ever more often and aggressively, we the people have been forced to position this long-standing custom as a “right.”

So while Hershberger says he is making food available to members of a discrete private group of individuals, who have leased his animals and have ownership of their production, the state says there is no such distinction between the mass of shopping consumers, who are part of the public, and members of a private food group. In the dispute I wrote about over instructions to a potential Hershberger jury, prosecutors have taken dead aim at the defense proposal to separate Hershberger’s food club members from “the public.” The state noted that “…defendant requests that the jury be instructed that ‘owners or operators’ of a farm are not members of ‘the public.’…There is simply no such exception in the licensure requirements of (the Wisconsin statute) or in the definition of retail food establishment…” In a footnote, the state adds, ” ‘General Public’ means persons who are served a meal, but are not part of the household.”

2. The case can provide clues to underlying political agendas and ambitions. Political trials, in particular, are great for providing insights into the political priorities of those in charge. In Wisconsin, you have to ask why the state’s popular attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, has fixated on the Hershberger case. Especially when his priority has been violent crime…..”

More on The Complete Patient blog.

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