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Wisconsin Dairy Farmer’s Religious Beliefs Won’t Stop Trial

Vernon Hershberger’s religious beliefs do not provide any resolution to the legal consequences he must face for operating a food establishment without a license, operating as an unlicensed milk producer, operating a dairy plant without a license and violating a product hold order.

The Wisconsin raw milk dairy farmer therefore will proceed to a long-delayed jury trial expected to take five days beginning May 20.

Hershberger was able to delay the start of the trial when his attorneys began raising constitutional issues over their client’s religious beliefs last December. His attorneys opined that because Hershberger was raised Amish, his natural tendency was not to pursue administrative rights to appeal agency orders because such action would be more confrontational than his religious teachings permit.

As a result, the original trial date of Jan. 7 was postponed so Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Guy Reynolds could conduct a pre-trial hearing on the Constitutional issues in March and this week issued his oral ruling from the bench.

“None of (Hershberger’s religious beliefs) prohibit, on their face, the exercise of any secular rights,” Judge Reynolds said.

In the pre-trial hearing on the issue, state attorneys pointed out that the dairy farmer had already appealed his bond conditions in a criminal case. That was followed by Hershberger’s side, which said his religious tenets only involved civil matters like the hold order issued by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection before criminal charges were filed.

But Hershberger was a party to a 2007 civil case involving an automobile accident in which he filed a 5-page motion asking to have the case dismissed. Reynolds said there was no evidence of “such a religious tenet,” only “the sincerity of the religious beliefs asserted here.”

Wisconsin officials raided Hershberger’s Loganville dairy farm in June 2010. They found sealed containers of food and ordered him to discontinue sales. But the state alleges Hershberger violated the so-called “hold order.”

After the raid, Hershberger is accused of having set up a so-called “buyer’s club,” involving 100 families who purchased raw milk and assorted other dairy products including ice cream. He is getting defense help from the nationally known Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Some experts speculate that jury nullification will be a trial strategy. If the current schedule holds, there will be only one more pre-trial hearing on May 7.

© Food Safety News
  • Emily73

    So the Amish routinely violate the law as a matter of religious beliefs? Weakest excuse EVER.

  • underthewybluesky

    It’s all about the money, religion is just the shield.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carl.collicott Carl Collicott

    Wisconsin is a foreign country?

    The assault on Americans and their right can be attributed to a unfamiliar policy referred to as the Federal Conformity Clause. In essence, the system is designed to facilitate defacto government encroachment in the several states.

    Case in point, Congress created the Food for Peace program, (7 U.S.C. 1691 et seq),an international agreement, administered through the Department of Interior,(Agriculture) (Commodity Credit Corporation), hats are changed, according to the background.

    One of the pertinent provisions of the Act, is that it’s not be exercised in the several states. With that as a background, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer authority, amended per Public Law 111-8 reproduced below, is limited to the Food for Peace Act.

    “jurisdiction once challenged cannot be presumed” numerous court decisions.

    TITLE 7 – AGRICULTURE
    CHAPTER 41 – FOOD FOR PEACE

    SUBCHAPTER II – ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
    AND FOOD SECURITY

    § 1701. Economic assistance and food security

    (a) In general

    The President shall establish a program under this subchapter to provide for the sale of agricultural commodities to developing countries and private entities for dollars on credit terms, or for local currencies (including for local currencies on credit terms) for use under this subchapter. Such program shall be implemented by the Secretary.

    (b) General
    authority

    To carry out the policies and accomplish the objectives described in section 1691 of this title,
    the Secretary may negotiate and execute agreements with developing countries and private entities to finance the sale and exportation of agricultural commodities to such countries and
    entities.

    2009
    Amendments

    OMNIBUS
    APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009

    [[Page
    123 STAT. 524]]

    Public Law 111-8

    111th Congress

    Sec.
    718. None of the funds made available in fiscal year 2009 or preceding
    fiscal years for programs authorized under the Food for Peace Act
    (7 U.S.C. 1691 et seq.) in excess of $20,000,000 shall be used to
    reimburse the Commodity Credit Corporation for the release of eligible
    commodities under section 302(f)(2)(A) of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust
    Act (7 U.S.C. 1736f-1): Provided, That any such funds made available
    to reimburse the Commodity Credit Corporation shall only be used
    pursuant to section 302(b)(2)(B)(i) of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian
    Trust Act.
    Sec.
    732. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, there is hereby
    appropriated
    (1) $1,877,000 of which $1,408,000
    shall be for a grant to the Wisconsin
    Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection,
    and $469,000 shall be for a grant to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Foods, and Markets, as
    authorized by section 6402 of the Farm
    Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (7 U.S.C. 1621 note);