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Dairy Farmer Acquitted on Three of Four Charges in Raw Milk Trial

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Healthy Raw Milk page.

Baraboo - Dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger was acquitted on three of four criminal charges early Saturday morning in a trial that drew national attention from supporters of the raw, unpasteurized milk movement.

Jurors in Sauk County Circuit Court deliberated about four hours, until nearly 1 a.m. Saturday, before returning a verdict of guilty on one charge of violating a holding order placed on products on the Hershberger farm following a raid there in the summer of 2010.

The 41-year-old farmer faces up to a year in jail and $10,000 in fines on that conviction. A sentencing date will be announced later, Judge Guy Reynolds said.

Hershberger was found innocent of three charges that included operating an unlicensed retail store that sold raw milk and other products; and operating a dairy farm and dairy processing facility without licenses.

Hershberger's supporters have said he was targeted for prosecution because he sold raw milk directly to consumers through a private buying club with several hundred members.

The trial's outcome will set a precedent, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization that has advocated for the legalization of raw-milk sales in Wisconsin and other states. "This is a victory for the food rights movement," said one of Hershberger's attorneys, Elizabeth Rich.

With few exceptions, Wisconsin farmers can't sell unpasteurized milk directly to consumers because it may contain pathogens that result in serious illness.

But many people believe that unprocessed milk, straight from the farm, contains bacteria that boost the immune system and have other beneficial properties.

Hershberger said he was pleased with the acquittals, and that now he can return to his farm in Loganville and continue to run his food store without a retail license because it's a members-only buying club.

"I can continue to feed my community," he said. 


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