The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has filed a civil action against Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-in-Hand, PA.
It is not the first time that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has enlisted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to get Miller to comply with some of the federal government’s basic food safety laws and regulations.
The last time the DOJ went up against the “ethical Amish farmer,” government attorneys wanted the court to enforce an administrative subpoena issued by FSIS for Miller’s meat and poultry records that were needed to assess product safety, the need for federal inspection and compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and other laws.
In the new complaint, the government contends Miller’s business “is neither small-scale nor primarily local.” The DOJ reports Miller’s sales records for just three months of 2016 included $85,062 for 9,015 pounds of red meat and $39,050 for 5,085 pounds of poultry that were sold to customers nationwide.
Miller, who has not yet responded to the government’s new complaint, is depicted on a GoFundMe page as the “ethical Amish farmer,” who is “struggling financially” and in need of $15,000 to purchase a new milk bottling machine. The campaign has raised close to $22,000.
The fundraising pitch says the new bottling machine is required to get raw milk permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. It also says the new bottling machine will permit Miller to take on new raw milk customers.
“Miller’s Biodiversity Farm has been under intense scrutiny by government agencies, as have many farmers who sell raw dairy,” says the GoFundMe page. “Although these government interactions have the goal of protecting consumers, they have cost the farmer dearly. He has lost almost $100,000 in sales while also incurring many unplanned expenses and extra work.”
In a 15-page declaration by FSIS Compliance Investigator Paul Flanagan of the agency’s Office of Investigation, Enforcement, and Audit (OIEA), the government discloses what it now knows as facts regarding Miller’s business.
Miller’s Organic Farm, also known as Amos Miller Organic Farm, is at 648 Millcreek School Road in Bird-in-Hand, PA. The site is located in Lancaster County, PA. The operation is an unincorporated association registered in Pennsylvania and describes itself as a “private membership association” on its commercial website. Miller’s Organic Farm is a business schedule filed as part of Amos Miller’s personal tax return.
Amos Miller is responsible for and has authority over all meat and poultry operations at Miller’s Organic Farm. Through the farm’s on-site retail store, Miller’s sells meat, poultry, meat food products, and poultry products to both in-store and out-of-store customers via telephone, email, and one Miller’s website.
Miller ships telephone-ordered, email-ordered, and internet-ordered meat, poultry, meat food products, and poultry food products both directly to consumers and to multiple pickup locations throughout the United States.
“Miller’s is thus slaughtering, processing, storing, offering for sale, selling, offering for transportation and transporting throughout the United States meat, poultry, meat food products, and poultry products that require federal inspection under FMIA and PPIA,” Flanagan said in his sworn statement.
Flanagan acknowledges other establishments, including those that appear to be Amish-owned or Mennonite-owned, may also be doing business outside the federal inspection system. He says FSIS representatives first learned about Miller’s farm in early 2016 and were subsequently denied access to the facility.
It was after being denied access that the FSIS administrator issued an administrative subpoena, but Miller continued to deny Flanagan and his associates access. Miller then introduced the FSIS investigators to his membership association. The Pennsylvania man contends the association of customers is protected by the Constitution.
Flanagan said Miller, on several occasions, offered access to his farm’s facilities and records, but only if the FSIS compliance investigator would sign a statement saying he does not represent any “state or federal agency whose purpose is to regulate and approve products.”
While the court did order Miller to honor that 2016 FSIS subpoena, he continued to defy the food safety inspectors access. But, the FSIS team did collect evidence. Flanagan told Miller that based on his observations and review, the FSIS team could show his meat and poultry products were not federally inspected and sales were being made beyond Pennsylvania. Federal law prohibits the transportation or sale of raw, unpasteurized milk across state lines.
To correct the FMIA and PPIA violations would require taking livestock to a federal establishment to be slaughtered, processed and packaged with USDA marks of inspection, or gaining federal establishment status for his farm.
The investigative findings were the basis of a formal warning letter sent to Miller over his FMIA and PPIA violations.
The membership association is among the details FSIS is bringing to the table in this complaint, but it does not appear to be all that significant.
“I have investigated scores of Pennsylvania meat and poultry establishments during my FSIS tenure,” Flanagan told the court. “In my experience, Miller’s is the only establishment (private membership association or not) that have similarly persisted in: a) not recognizing FSIS’ authority to review meat and poultry facilities and documents; b) resisting FSIS’ exercise of its authority to review those facilities and documents; and c) ignoring, despite oral an
FSIS may have a Miller problem, but it does not have an Amish problem. Belmont Meats in Paradise, PA, is the latest Amish-owned business that won USDA inspection status on Feb. 27.
The civil action filed by William M. McSwain, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, awaits Miller’s response. Gregory B. David and Gerald B. Sullivan are the assistant U.S. attorneys who will represent the government in court. They will be assisted by USDA attorneys Sheila H. Novak and Tracey Manoff.
A permanent injunction to prohibit Miller from violating the federal inspection laws is sought in the court action.
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