County sheriffs and federal officials bickering over land, guns and water policies are as old as the West, but the Constitutional Sheriffs Convention, underway for the past three days in Las Vegas, has something new on the menu — food safety regulation. 

“I made the decision that the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office was not going to be the milk police,” Sheriff John D’Agostini told his Board of Supervisors in California ahead of the convention.

Sheriff D’Agostini was testifying in favor of the “Local Food and Community Self-Governance” ordinance that El Dorado farmer Pattie Chelseth was asking the supervisors to adopt.

Last April 7, Sheriff D’Agostini refused a request from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to provide back up while state agents issued a “cease and desist” order for Chelseth’s “unlicensed dairy.”  

Sheriff D’Agostini’s decision not to cooperate with state and federal food safety agents during enforcement actions may not be that unusual.   

In Indiana, Elkhart County Sheriff Bradley D. Rogers went a step further, telling federal regulators that repeat inspections of Forest Grove Dairy amounted to harassment of raw milk producer David Hochstetler and could result in the feds being arrested.

The sheriff sent an e-mail to federal officials advising them to obtain warrants before they returned to the raw milk dairy, an action the U.S. Justice Department has declined to comment about.

“I think its great that the local sheriff is supporting the local farmers,” Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund’ s Gary Cox said.

Rogers will join Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt, and Richard Mack, founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and a Texas congressional candidate, on stage tonight for the only public part of the convention.

The Food Rights Coalition, one of several food sovereignty and food and farm freedom groups in California that have cropped up in recent months, urged its followers to recruit their county sheriffs to attend the Las Vegas convention.

“We recommend a personal visit to his office, and/or an email invitation. This event will prominently feature food and farm rights. (Former) Sheriff Mack, through his County Sheriff Project, is reaffirming the Oath of Office taken by every Sheriff, citizens’ personal freedoms and the importance of the office of Sheriff to defend those freedoms.

“The Sheriffs will be shown the Farmageddon movie trailer, and hear a talk by WAPF chapter leader, Kristin Canty about the farm food freedom issue. Raw milk activists will be in the exhibit hall with a Raw Milk Freedom Riders booth, and do raw milk tastings to share news about the struggle for access to this nutritious food.”

Organizers were expecting 200 sheriffs to be in attendance, with each helped to attend with a $1,000 stipend.  The agenda items for the closed meetings that would appear to have something to do with food safety and regulators are:

– Tenth Amendment and State Sovereignty

– Sheriff’s Success Stories

– Joint Declaration notifying specific federal agencies about specific violations that the county sheriff will no longer tolerate in their counties

Back home, however, the issue could be more difficult. The five-member El Dorado Board of Supervisors did not approve the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. 

While they sympathized with Chelseth, her two dairy cows, and the 16 other families involved in her cow-share operation, the El Dorado supervisors did not want to run afoul of the California state constitution.

For her part, Chelseth says enforcement actions by the state on her 10-acre farm and on five other goat and cow-share operations in California is why there is now a food freedom movement in the state.

Food freedom bills in Utah and New Hampshire have been introduced with provisions calling for jailing state and federal officials who act contrary to provisions shielding food produced for local consumption from federal regulation.

  • Police don’t have the right to determine which laws they will and won’t enforce. It’s up to them to do their jobs.
    I would say that people need to get more intelligent about how they select their local law enforcement. If they pick and choose what laws they enforce when it comes to food safety, they’ll pick and choose what laws they enforce in other areas of life, too.
    As for the NH and Utah bills–all these do is expose these states to ridicule.

  • Give all of these sheriffs a glass of raw milk to drink after they have heard about the possibilities of e-coli, listeria, etc and see if they all drink up.

  • These sheriff’s have every right–and responsibility–to refuse to assist the Federal government in harassment of these farmers. These sheriff’s are true patriots who understand the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
    If some people don’t want to drink raw milk, then nobody is forcing them. But laws should not prohibit others who desire this product from acquiring it. People need to be more self-determined and educated instead of relying on the government to make sure every aspect of their lives is completely risk-free.
    I am proud of these sheriffs for doing their job, which is to protect the citizens of their counties from enemies foreign and domestic. And the FDA and USDA are the enemies of the small farmer.

  • Panetone

    Several local grocery stores here sell imported French cheese made from RAW milk yet the lawmakers persecute local dairies.
    Strange days indeed.

  • marct

    There is more e.coli in PASTEURIZED milk than raw! Check the tests by the gov’t. 70% of commercial milk cant pass because of so heavily contaminated! All pasteurizing does is kill the bacteria it does NOT REMOVE IT!!! You have DEAD bacteria FLOATING around in your pasteurized milk! Pastuerizing ‘cooks’ the milk along with the bacteria. It is no different than a boiling a bunch of roaches in your milk and saying it is now fine to drink because they are no longer alive in your milk. They are still there! SORRY for the exclaimations, it really bothers me how the gov’t has mislead and uneducated the people. We have to take a step back and use a little common sense.
    Raw milk producers CARE about their product and handle it so it does NOT become contaminated. Do you know HOW the milk gets e.coli? It doesn’t come that way out of the cow – it comes from unclean milking. Farmers that sell raw milk make sure their cows teats are CLEAN as well as containers they collect in. The only reason for the need for pasteurizing was due to the mass production, cows stand in their feces and are a MESS. The pasteurizing kills off the bacteria by cooking it, again it does NOT REMOVE IT.
    There are good bacteria in milk- why do you think babies nurse? It is the BEST food for their bodies-there are enzymes and good bacteria(like in yogurt) that is in Raw milk, once it is cooked the GOOD and the bad gets destroyed. although the particles remain, there is no good benefit of them.
    Besides- what do you think cheese is made from? The GOOD bacteria in RAW MILK (Thanks panetone for comment)
    anyway – agree they shouldn’t ‘pick and choose’ YET – they need to uphold the constitution and not violate it- which would include them taking a stand against unconstitutional laws. I applaud them for that.

  • laurie

    So where is the money coming from for this event? They’re paying each sheriff $1,000 to attend. I always follow the money–who’s behind this thin? and don’t think it’s milk drinkers or small-scale raw milk farmers.