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Raw Milk Trial Ends With Split Jury Verdict

A Sauk County, Wisconsin jury, meeting until 1 a.m. Saturday, acquitted Vernon Hershberger on three charges: operating a farm store without a retail food establishment permit, operating a dairy farm without a milk producer license, and operating a dairy plant without a license.

But it found him guilty on a fourth count.

That means when sentenced, the 41-year old Hershberger still could be jailed for up to one year and fined up to $10,000 for his conviction for violating a hold order placed on food on his farm in June 2010 by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)

Attorney Elizabeth Rich, vice president for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, said Hershberger’s acquittal on three of four counts is a “victory for the food right movement.” His supporters said farmer of Amish roots faced charges stemming only from his leasing cows to a private buyers club and providing raw dairy and other nutrient-dense foods to the club members.

Prosecutors said the evidence clearly showed Hershberger’s club was a retail store, complete with product price list, a cash register, and a credit card machine.

The week-long trial brought food freedom activists to the Wisconsin town of Baraboo where the court is located. Judge Guy Reynolds has not yet set a date for sentencing the dairy farmer.

Wisconsin law prohibits the commercial sale of raw milk and raw milk products.

© Food Safety News
  • Linda Machmueller

    Price list, cash register, and credit card machine? This isn’t retail? Maybe all other groups (i.e., “businesses”) that use these items to make money in WI should follow the jury’s lead. Who needs laws in WI. We’ve sure seen a lot of that in the last 3 years. Bravo, jury. You definitely belong in WI; a state that has the trickle down benefit of ignoring any laws. I guess “Cheeseheads” says it all.

    • Greg Griffin

      You may benefit from reading about the trial and the issues at hand instead of coming to conclusions based on a single internet article.

  • Doug Lowe

    I think the jurors were confused when they voted to convict Vernon Hershberger of not complying with the order to shut down production immediately. The jury correctly ruled that no law had be violated, therefore, the order to shut down had no legal effect.
    Mr. Hershberger was justified in ignoring the order, as it would have harmed the owners of the co-op by denying then of their right to self determination.

    • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

      I would say they were more confused in their ruling of the other charges.

      Hershberger broke the law. He violated a specific order.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    Costco is also a membership club. Should we say that’s not retail?

    • Tommy Jefferson

      Well said Shelley!

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    Because this wasn’t a trial about raw milk, or Hershberger’s religious beliefs, or the color of his underwear.

    This was about Hershberger’s actions.

  • Beth

    I can eat all the Cheetos, Swedish fish and any other garbage that i want found at an average 7/11 and no one seems to worry about my health. But the right to buy and consume raw milk?? Oh the horror! This has nothing to do with health and everything to do with money. If a law is ridiculous it should be changed. I grew up on raw milk. I am still kicking, as is my 86 year old mother who still drinks it daily.

  • Ann Arp

    I just found out about this and find big brother watching us. Since when does a farmer have to get the OK of big brother to have a farm and produce food. If my neighbor wants to buy some of that food it shouldn’t take the permission of the government to do so. I was raised on a farm and am healthier than most of there young kids today at the age of 65.