Raw Milk Crackdown
“They came in the dark, shining bright flashlights while my family was asleep, keeping me from milking my cows, from my family, from breakfast with my family and from our morning devotions, and alarming my children enough so that the first question they asked my wife was, ‘Is Daddy going to jail?'”
That’s how Amish farmer Dan Allgyer described an early morning visit last week from two FDA agents, two U.S. Marshals, and a Pennsylvania state trooper. Apparently, investigating a single farmer for possibly trafficking raw milk across state lines requires a show of force.
“I became aware of the cars as soon as I walked out on the sidewalk as part of my morning routine around 4:30 a.m. and immediately said to myself something is going on,” Allgyer wrote in a statement for the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association. “I was watching and noticed three cars were cruising down right behind each other, and immediately thought, hey, that looks like trouble. I watched and pretty soon one car came back and parked on my neighbor’s farm, on private property.”
After tooling around, the cars showed up Allgyer’s property. “They all got out of their vehicles – five men all together–with big bright flashlights they were shining all around. My wife and family were still asleep. When they couldn’t find anybody, they prepared to knock on the door of my darkened house. Just before they got to the house I stepped out of the barn and hollered at them, then they came up to me and introduced themselves.”
Without telling him what is was, one of the agents handed Allgyer an FDA warrant that allowed the agents to inspect Allgyer’s farm. The warrant read: “You are authorized to take all necessary actions, including, but not limited to, the use of reasonable force, to effectuate entry to the above-named premises, the land and buildings located there, at reasonable times during ordinary business hours and to remain thereon to inspect within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner all portions” of Allgyer’s farm.
Allgyer isn’t the criminal that the FDA is making him out to be. “When Americans first began pasteurizing milk at the turn of the last century, testing was rudimentary and farms were far less hygienic,” Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote in February, the first time inspectors showed up to raid Allgyer’s farm. “Today, the situation is different. Testing for the presence of such pathogens is much more precise, and farms are far cleaner. While processing milk remains a good choice for milk shipped to the population as a whole, there are a group of food rebels who would rather drink their milk straight from the cow.”
When Allgyer asked why the agents wanted to inspect his farm, FDA investigator Joshua C. Shafer said, “We have credible evidence that you are involved in interstate commerce.”
“I went to go talk to my wife,” Allgyer said in his statement. “As I walked away, they held a quick excited conversation and I heard one of them say, ‘I’ll take care of him.’ At that point, apparently, they had designated one of the marshals to stick close to me and dog my footsteps. He followed me as I walked toward the house. I went in the house quickly and told my wife a few words to let her know the situation, then immediately came back out of the house before the marshal had time to follow me in. When I came back out, they were inspecting all the coolers sitting out. They spent about a half hour digging through the packed coolers filled with milk and other food – all private property – taking pictures.”
After watching the agents root through his barn, open his freezers, and dig through his dumpster, Allgyer set about milking the cows, hours behind schedule.
“When I was just about done milking, Schafer and the other agent came in the barn and wanted me to answer some more questions. I told them I would not. The second agent said, ‘Are you gong to deliver those coolers to Bethesda and Bowie Maryland?’ I just looked at him. Then Schafer made a gesture and said, ‘The stickers with those towns names are on the coolers,’ as through to say, you might as well tell me.”
Allgyer refused to say anything and the agents left. Several days later, Allgyer received a letter from the Food and Drug Administration that read, “An investigation by the u.s. Food and Drug Administration has determined that you are causing to be delivered into interstate commerce, selling, or otherwise distributing raw milk in final package form for human consumption.”
The letter does not list the evidence against Allgyer, nor does it name specific violations. In fact, the letter from the FDA says exactly the opposite: “This letter is not intended to provide an all-inclusive list of violations.” Two paragraphs later, the letter instructs Allgyer to report within 15 days “the specific steps you have taken to correct the noted violations.”
“Failure to make prompt corrections could result in regulatory action without further notice. Possible actions include seizure and injunction.”