Late Friday, a state judge gave Pennsylvania farmer Amos Miller an easy exit ramp to his dispute with the Agriculture Department.

Judge Thomas Sponaugle’s March 1 order says that all Miller must do to resolve his legal troubles is apply for a state raw milk permit and commit to the testing and documentation routinely practiced by the 114 raw milk dairies that already legally operate in Pennsylvania.

In offering that carrot, the judge also kept the court’s stick in place. Miller cannot sell unpasteurized, raw milk or any raw milk products he produces to the public. He can produce for his immediate family.

The court order also clarifies that the legal dispute concerns state licensing, not raw milk or raw milk products legally produced in the state. “Nothing in this order is to detract from the sincerely held beliefs of individuals who believe in the benefits of raw milk products,” according to the order.

The judge said the Court “cannot ignore this Commonwealth’s regulations requiring a permit to sell raw milk; to do otherwise is to improperly usurp the authority and responsibility of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.”

Once the Judge gets notification of Miller applying for a state raw milk permit, he said he will immediately move to reconsider whether to modify or terminate the order banning his sales.

However, until Miller approaches the permit counter, his employees, agents, or successors are enjoined from marketing or selling raw milk products to the public.

On Thursday, a couple hundred “Food Freedom” advocates rallied outside the Lancaster Courthouse, including local Amish men in their straw hats with black bands. At the same time, the court took testimony from both sides of the dispute.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry, for the state Department of Agriculture, sued Amos and Rebecca Miller and their farms and related businesses in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas in January to shut Miller down with a permanent state injunction. 

The civil action by the attorney general came in a 357-page complaint with exhibits on Jan. 23 after years of attempts by state and federal officials to bring the Miller into compliance with fundamental food safety law. The filing outlined violations of Pennsylvania’s Milk Sanitation Law, Food Safety Act, Retail Food Facility Safety Act, Unfair Trade Practices, and Consumer Protection Law. 

The lawsuit, now before the Court, also followed a search of Miller’s farm on Jan. 4 involving an investigation of a multistate outbreak of food borne illnesses.

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