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Wisconsin Judge Rules Against Freedom of Food Choice

The following article was submitted by Robert Rowe a regular guest blogger here at Prepping Blog, the article is titled “Wisconsin Judge Rules Against Freedom of Food Choice”

Blue Background, with a arched white banner that says "forward", there is a brown beaver under the banner, and then there is a gold shield with a plow, pickaxe and shovel, hammer, and sea anchor, followed by a cornocopia and stack of triagnles, there are two men on each side of the gold shield, one is in a western type dress with white pants and a blue coat, and a hank of rope in his hand, and the other is a man with a traditional miner's helmet, with a red shirt, and pick axe, cropped out of the photo are the words "WISCONSIN" above the shield logo and 1848 below the shield logo.

The State Flag of Wisconsin

Wisconsin- Judge Patrick Fiedler made this ruling in a case brought against the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by citizens who believed their rights were being violated by that organization.  A group of families had decided to opt in on the purchase of dairy cattle.  Some of the cattle were purchased collectively at fair market value and boarded on a single property. Other cows were owned outright by individuals.  They were not selling their milk to anyone, they were not distributing their milk to anyone other than those who owned the cows either collectively or individually.  They were, however, consuming the raw milk from their own animals.

According to Judge Fiedler, the fact that the people owned their own cows is irrelevant. He states in his ruling: “It is clear from their motion to clarify that the plaintiffs still fail to recognize that they are not merely attempting to enforce their ‘right’ to own a cow and board it at a farm. Instead, plaintiffs operate a dairy farm.”

The judge sides with the state in his belief that if multiple people who own cows and decide that for economic or other reasons to board their cattle in a single location under private contract constitutes the running of a dairy farm; presumably, as a cooperative.  This in spite of the fact that some of the people in this case do not drink milk from the cows of other families who board their animals at the location.

Judge Fiedler maintains that people do not have a Constitutional Right to own their own cow, consume the products of that cow, board that cow wherever they deem is best for that cow or produce and consume the foods of their choice by stating, “This court is unwilling to declare that there is a fundamental right to consume the food of one’s choice without first being presented with significantly more developed arguments on both sides of the issue.”

“It’s a case of fundamental rights,” said Elizabeth Gamsky Rich, an attorney representing the group of farmers. “The plaintiffs are maintaining they have a right to own a cow; they have a right to consume the milk from that cow and that these are fundamental Constitutional rights.”

In an interview with this AASN journalist, Ms. Rich posits that the Right to Privacy, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court in a number of cases, in addition to the First Amendment Right to freely express one’s self through lifestyle, are being violated by the state’s dairy and other agricultural laws.

“The Constitution trumps the statutes,” she said. “We have a fundamental right to own a cow. We have a fundamental right to consume the milk from our cow. We have a fundamental right to board that cow at somebody else’s farm pursuant to a private contract that should be free from government interference.”

Additionally, Rich is confused by the judge’s opinion that there was insufficiently developed argument supporting the plaintiff’s position. “We cited over 70 cases which set precedent in this matter.”

“The right of the people to opt out of the agri-business model of food production and consumption is what we were arguing.  Apparently, the judge disagreed with that position,” she stated.

In a public statement, Steve Ingam, PhD, administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s division of food safety states, “We have a law that prohibits the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk.  These farmers have tried to set up a way to get around the law and create a way that they think they own the cow and are consuming the cow’s milk legally.”  According to Wisconsin State law, if one own even one cow, goat or sheep they own a dairy and are subject to the dairy laws of the state.

Dr. Ingam scoffed at Rich’s interpretation of the judge’s ruling.  “He wasn’t really ruling on that argument,” he said. “He was ruling originally on whether we had properly interpreted the laws and regulations in Wisconsin.”

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture was contacted for comment on this issue but declined  as this case is currently actively under appeal.  However, they did provide a list of the Wisconsin statutes which they believe apply in this case.  Those statutes do indicate that a person or people may invest in a legally licensed dairy farm but NOT for the purpose of obtaining raw unpasteurized milk.  The statute reads:

No agreement, for ownership in the entity which holds the milk producer license, is valid for the purposes of a share of the dairy farm or cows, tied to taking raw milk under the “incidental sale exception” under s. 97.24(2), Wis. Stats., and s. ATCP, 60.235, Wis. Adm. Code.

The incidental sale exception of the law allows for a visitor to the dairy to purchase or consume unpasteurized milk as long as it is not a regular occurrence.

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