If a Wisconsin raw-milk seller is convicted of the misdemeanor charges against him, it could have a “chilling effect” on dairy buying clubs or cow-share schemes, according to a commentary on the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website.

Vernon Hershberger of Loganville, WI, who leases his cows to a “food buyers club,” has been charged with operating a retail food establishment without a license, operating a dairy farm as a milk producer without a license, operating a dairy plant without a license and violating a holding order of his dairy products issued by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Hershberger maintains that he does not need a state dairy license because he sells unpasteurized milk and raw-milk products to about 100 buyers through a private club, not to the general public. The DATCP contends that the Wisconsin Food and Dairy Code covers any farm selling milk and milk products, and that Hershberger must abide by the code.

“If Hershberger is convicted of the charges against him, it could have a chilling effect on consumer access to raw milk for those who don’t own and board their own cows,” wrote attorney Pete Kennedy in the commentary.

Kennedy pointed out that last year, a Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled that a farm in Elkhorn, WI also needed to comply with state dairy regulations.

In that case, Judge Patrick J. Fiedler said the families who reported they were boarding their cows for a fee and then getting the milk were, in fact, running a dairy farm.

“They do not simply own a cow that they board at a farm. Instead, plaintiffs operate a dairy farm. If plaintiffs want to continue to operate their dairy farm then they must do so in a way that complies with the laws of Wisconsin,” Fiedler wrote in his ruling.

In 2010, legislation that would have allowed Wisconsin dairy farmers to sell unpasteurized milk directly to consumers was vetoed by then Gov. Jim Doyle, who cited public health concerns. A bill now under consideration would allow a dairy farmer with a license and a grade A permit to register with DATCP to sell unpasteurized milk and milk products. 

Vernon Hershberger’s next hearing on his case is scheduled tomorrow (Friday) at the Sauk County Courthouse, and will be preceded by a support rally.

Raw milk advocates have recently had several setbacks to their cause for unregulated sales. In addition to a four-state outbreak of at least 80 Campylobacter infections traced to raw milk sold by a Pennsylvania dairy, the federal government obtained a permanent injunction against a different Pennsylvania raw milk producer who was delivering milk across state lines.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that the rate of disease outbreaks linked to raw milk was 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk.    

  • Jackie Schmidts

    This is good news, I’m glad to see the law being upheld. Raw milk can be dangerous and does make people sick. Raw milk should not be allowed to be sold to the general public.
    Everytime someone gets sick from drinking raw milk, it erodes consumer confidence in the dairy industry. Take a look at conventional milk sales, they are in the dumper. We do not need negative publicity associated with drinking milk and eating dairy products, it hurts everyone!
    Put this guy in jail.

  • Bob

    We own our cows and in light of Jackie Schmidts comment, I suggest she check her information. Raw milk isn’t a source of dangerous bacteria. Poor handling and contamination are the factors of dangerous bacteria and associated illness therefrom. Diligent handling of any food will insure safe food. Find out how many family cow owners have ever become sick from their raw milk and products derived from it. Feed a calf processed/pasteurized milk (instead of its natural food) and it will die. Contamination, not the raw milk, is the problem. “Put this guy in jail” is a statement that ignores the actual situation of food born illness. Consuming GMO systemic “pesticides” and contaminated water would be a better direction for the health of millions. “Hurts everyone” might be better aligned with with more vicious food issues. Finally, processed milk isn’t even close in digestible nutrients. The calf pretty much makes that case. We’ll keep our cows, thank you.

  • Gabriel

    Producers of raw milk want government to regulate their product. They know that pasturized milk meets a higher standard than raw milk because it is regulated. This is the precise reason why raw paturized milk has fewer disease outbreaks. The problem with raw milk is not that the milk is raw. The problem is that raw milk is often mishandled because raw milk producers operate outside of a uniform standard. So they have more outbreaks and ruin the raw milk indtustry’s reputation, and is why raw milk producers are screaming for regulation.
    If bureaucrats were to enter the 21st century and see the actual studies on the benefits of raw milk and the pitfalls of pasturized milk they’d quickly encompass raw milk within their regulatory structure and permit its sale to the general public.
    For an example of a successful raw milk regulatory structure just look to California. Raw milk is available in any health food store in that state. California has no outbreaks of diseases carried by raw milk because the producers are held to the strict standards of pasturized milk.
    California has a century long history of successful raw milk distribution. It’s time for all other states to catch up with America’s healthiest state!

  • Carl
  • Homebirthing-breastfeeding-rawmilkdrinking-momma

    In reply to Carl:
    If you want to convince people the sky is falling refer them to chicken little’s website.
    If you want to convince people raw milk is bad refer them to the FDA’s website.
    If you want the actual truth concerning raw milk ask the farmers and those who drink it.
    Don’t believe everything the government and it’s departments feed you!
    Educate yourself! READ! Use your mind for what God intended it to be used for. There’s two sides to every story!!!
    BUT ultimately the heart of the matter and the question you should be asking yourself is…Do I want the government or the FDA thinking for me and telling me what I can or cannot drink?
    FREEDOM isn’t FREE! Men died for your freedom! Apathy is not an option in a free society!
    It is easy to reference a website that holds your view point

  • It’s interesting to me that there are so many comments with so few citations.
    Although I disagree with the FDA, I have to hand it to Carl. The FDA does cite it’s sources. What it doesn’t do is hold an objective viewpoint.
    Gabriel, sorry to squash your sentiments (partly b/c I agree with you) but I live in California and am a certified Nutritional Therapist in this state. Raw milk IS regulated here, and is available in MOST stores, some of them being the run of the mill chain markets, not specialty stores. There are recalls (from the FDA surveys, not statistics) and the quality of the milk sold in the store is absolutely lacking compared to that of the milk (yes, raw) that I obtain from my friend’s farm. After regulatory panels were run on the last recall of raw milk, it showed no signs of bacterial contaminant, nor any other contaminants.
    Basically it comes down to this: After obtaining degrees in medical anthropology and nutritional therapy I know that unpasteurized unhomogenized milk is healing and nourishing to MOST humans. And, I can find sources to back that (recently from a debate held at a little place called the Harvard Law School). I can also find sources that absolutely negate that opinion (like the FDA).
    But, I don’t want the law to determine what I eat and drink. Whether you want pasteurized milk or raw milk, there should be room in the law for CHOICE.

  • Mark

    More big brother. More panic by caused by the dairy industry to prevent people from being self sufficient. They are concerned only about profits and the government is only pandering to special interest money.
    I want raw milk to make cheese and butter but no, I am not deemed ‘smart’ enough to do that? Why? They sell me raw pork, eggs, and fowl when they are pretty much guaranteed to make me very ill and could very well kill me but for some reason that’s OK. What’s the difference? Funny how anyone is still alive seeing as raw milk has been consumed for thousands of years before the government stepped in.