Members of a Washington, D.C.-area raw milk buying group, known as Grassfed On the Hill, are planning a demonstration next week on Capitol Hill for what they are calling the “aggressive treatment of peaceful Amish dairyman” in the context of limited budget resources.

Dan Allgyer, a Pennsylvania farmer who supplies the group with fresh unpasteurized milk, has been served by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with notice of a permanent injunction against selling milk into interstate commerce.

More than half the states, including Pennsylvania, permit the sale or distribution of unpasteurized milk within state boundaries and there is no law against consuming raw milk.  But there is a ban on interstate sales of unpasteurized milk, which can contain a wide variety of infectious bacteria — including Listeria, E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia, and Brucella.  The FDA is responsible for enforcing the federal law against interstate sales of unpasteurized milk, and began an investigation into that part of Allgyer’s Rainbow Acres Farm business more than a year ago.

“It is absolutely inexcusable that FDA has spent time, energy and money conducting an undercover sting and armed raid against a farmer over distribution of milk.” says Liz Reitzig, one of the group’s organizers, in a press release. “We contract with farmers we know and trust and engage privately with them.  The FDA has no jurisdiction here, and it’s time we stand together and demand that they stop treating our honest farmers like hardened criminals.”

Grassfed on the Hill has organized a Capitol Hill rally to protest the FDA’s actions. According to the group’s release, they plan to milk an actual cow and drink the fresh milk.  The rally, planned for 10 a.m. May 16 at Upper Senate Park in DC, is “expected to draw hundreds of raw milk advocates,” according to the group.

  • Doc Mudd

    What is the significance of the interstate profiteer being Amish? Why mention that? Are the Amish exempt from state and federal oversight when they are off the reservation?
    Monday’s forecast for Washington D.C. area:
    Scattered thunderstorms, high temperature 76, chance of precipitation 40%, chance of raw milk superstition 99%, chance of lucid legal interpretation 2%.
    A good time will be had by all. Circuses are always fun.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Its not about picking on a poor Farmer, its about the law. The FDA’s mandate is to enforce food safety law. There is a good reason why it is a bad idea for raw milk to enter into inter-state commerce. Talk to people who have been severly poisoned by raw milk and they will tell you. I applaud the FDA for trying to keep our food safe.

  • aed939

    This case will bring some clarity as to what constitutes interstate commerce. The producer, Rainbow Acres, sells milk legally in the state of Pennsylvania to the private buying club, “Grassfed on the Hill.” The private buying club takes orders from its members, and then sends a milk runner to Pennsylvania and purchases the milk on their behalf, acting as an agent of the buyer. Once the milk has been acquired by the milk runner, it is converted from commerce to private property, which is legal to possess and transport anywhere. This is the milk carpool model whereby one person gets milk for himself and his neighbors. In terms of not being interstate commerce, the critical point is that the milk runner is not acting as a wholesaler, reseller, or distributor because the milk is not resold subsequent to crossing state lines. A distributor repositions or repackages bulk product for subsequent retail sale–the club is only carpooling presold milk. Since the club does not operate as a reseller, the judge must find that the business model does not constitute interstate commerce, and therefore there is no specific conduct to enjoin.

  • Brad

    Maybe we should be asking ourselves why we continue to drink milk from another species into adulthood? Have you ever seen a 5 year old cow still drinking milk from their mother? Human milk is for humans and cow milk is for calves. Do you think it’s right to take a calf away from its mother right after birth just because you want to sell the mother’s milk? There will always be inherent risks associated with eating/drinking animal products. We should know the risks and eat/drink as we please. And no Doc Mudd, I’m not a vegan or from PETA. I just think it’s weird that we drink another species milk after being weaned from our mothers. I don’t drink much milk, but I would choose pasteurized over raw because I don’t trust the dairies to keep the pathogens out of the milk. I’d also prefer non-homogenized milk because I don’t think homogenization is necessary.

  • Michael Bulger

    Wouldn’t “Grassfed On The Hill” be exposed to prosecution? They operate in Maryland, where raw milk sales are illegal, right?
    Members are purchasing raw milk through a Maryland organization, therefore that organization is violating Maryland state law. “Grassfed On The Hill” would also be exposed to Federal prosecution because they are distributing over state lines. That they are doing this into a state who’s duly elected officials have outlawed sale of this product would make it an even more difficult act to defend.
    It seems Allgyer is in trouble because he knowingly distributed raw milk across state lines. (Labeling bottles for out-of-state locales is pretty telling.) Why “Grassfed On The Hill” hasn’t drawn legal action from State or Federal, is an interesting question. Opinions?

  • Anything edible can be contaminated, but I would not like for the government to legislate my weekly produce purchase any more than I need for them to choose what type of milk to buy. In this age of industrial agriculture, raw milk is no more risky than fresh raw spinach, cilantro or cantaloupe (we haven’t forgotten the salmonella outbreaks this year *so far*, have we?). How about some e. coli to go with your industrial production beef? The only way to mitigate risks of foodborne illness is to know your farmers and their farming methods and prepare your own food (or know who is doing it for you). Egads, add chives tainted with listeria to my list! (Wait, listeria? Isn’t that what makes raw milk so dangerous? Quick, ban chives!)