Amos Miller, the Amish agri-businessman from Bird-In-Hand, PA, is likely to again be required to reimburse USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for investigation costs.
The only question is the amount he likely owes, either $55,065 or $46,899. In a supplemental declaration filed with the Eastern U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania, an FSIS official offers two different ways for determining reimbursable costs that Miller owes.
Scott Safian, director of enforcement operations for the FSIS Office of Investigations, Enforcement, and Audit, showed the court reimbursements based on actual salaries and another using a flat $45 per hour rate.
The higher reimbursement, $55,065, uses actual salaries, while the lower amount, $46,899, is based on a $45 per hour flat rate. Safian said a flat rate for reimbursement came up in 2019 when the original injunctive order was considered.
The reimbursement filings by Safian come as unfinished business involving Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm remains before the federal court.
Topping that unfinished business is a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) request for another permanent injunction with further contempt sanctions against Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm.
In summer 2021, federal Judge Edward G. Smith imposed a $250,000 fine for contempt of court on Miller. The payment was due in 30 days. It has not been paid.
Miller’s attorney, Steven LaFuente of Dallas, persuaded the judge that his client was coming into compliance with the court’s previous instructions. Consequently the judge said the $250,000 payment could wait.
Miller then fired LaFuente and associated with a sovereign-citizen group out of Washington State. New allegations, however, came to the attention of FSIS, pointing to shipments of uninspected meat and poultry Miller was sending to his purchasing units around the country.
At a hearing before Christmas 2021, Smith questioned Miller and the attorney he wanted to fire, Steven LaFuente. The judge denied LaFuente’s motion to withdraw from the case.
The hearing adjourned after hearing the assistant U.S. Attorney argue for a permanent injunction with sanctions. But Smith did not make any more decisions in 2021.
Two of Miller’s “food clubs” or agents have provided records to FSIS investigators. Many of those orders were for meat and poultry.
Sufian earlier told the court that “It is my understanding that many, if not all, of the processes necessary to produce these products ( i.e., cooking, smoking, curing ) would require federal inspection if produced by an outside source for Miller’s to resell, or (b)licensing by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services if produced by Miller’s.”
FSIS Compliance Investigator April E. Humbles filed an affidavit in support of the government’s motion for a permanent injunction against defendants that she said should include “Amos Miller and miller’s Organic Farm, and their agents, employees or assigns, including but not limited to Bird in Hand Meats, Bird in Hand Grass-Fed Meats and David Lantz (collectedly Miller’s).”
Humbles detailed her investigation of a North Carolina “drop-off” for Miller’s meat, poultry, meat food, and/or poultry products in commerce. . .” Her expertise is in conducting in-person “verification reviews” of meat and poultry facilities regulated by FSIS
FSIS found some Miller shipments that were marked as “Exempt,” but exempted meat and poultry products are prohibited from being distributed in interstate commerce, which Miller was doing, according to the documentation the investigators provided the court.
The new evidence appears to show Miller with continued violations involving the slaughter and sale of meat and poultry that conflict with earlier court orders. The government points to Miller’s most recent behavior as justification for re-activating the $250,000 fine and imposing a $25,000-a-day penalty for each day Miller illegally slaughtered animals for food.
Miller owns farms in at least two states and court documents show he and his wife are the sole owners of the food clubs used for national distribution. Earlier in 2021, Miller reimbursed FSIS for about $15,000 for earlier investigative costs.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)