Organic Consumers Association

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A Local Minnesota Dairy Farm Is Locked in a Costly Legal Battle With the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Over Its Right to Sell Raw Milk

January 11, 2017
Organic Consumers Association
by Melinda Suelflow

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two black dairy cows laying in the grass

Lake View Natural Dairy, Grand Marais, MN

A local Minnesota dairy farm is locked in a costly legal battle with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) over its right to sell raw milk and other dairy products directly to consumers. 

Lake View Natural Dairy in Grand Marais, Minn., is just an hour north of OCA’s home office. The farm, which was settled in the 1880s by owner David Berglund’s ancestors, sells unpasteurized dairy products to friends, family and neighbors.

Since 2013, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been threatening to shut down Lake View Natural Dairy farm, unless Berglund agrees to let the state inspect his farm. 

But Berglund says that under the state constitution, the farm can sell its products directly to consumers who come to the farm, without the threat of state inspection and regulation. The Minnesota Constitution guarantees that, “Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license thereof."

And Berglund is saavy enough to understand that inspection is simply a vehicle to enforce regulation. In Minnesota, there are no regulations on the books for raw milk other than a brief statute that says raw milk can be “occasionally secured or purchased for personal use by any consumer at the place or farm where the milk is produced.”

To be clear, Lake View Natural Dairy runs a very sanitary and clean operation. And because consumers have to come to the farm to purchase products directly, the farm’s customers know this.

Berglund’s very real concern is that allowing the MDA to inspect his farm will lead to an unlawful attempt by the MDA to impost statutes meant for pasteurized milk production on the dairy’s production of raw milk. This would require Lake View Natural Dairy to pasteurize its milk, something neither the farmers, nor customers, want. Plus the costs of pasteurization equipment and a bottling plant would quickly put this small family farm out of business.

On November 16, Lake View’s case was heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in St. Paul. Earlier this year, the local district court upheld the state’s inspection order, and Berglund appealed it. If the Court of Appeals affirms the district court’s decision, Berglund and Lake View Dairy will appeal that decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Because there is a patchwork of state laws regarding the sale of raw milk and raw milk products across the country, Lake View’s case could set a national precedent. Minnesota is the only state that guarantees a farmer the right to “peddle” his or her products on the farm. 

Implicit in this constitutional right of farmers to directly “peddle” their products to consumers is our right as consumers to purchase foods directly from farmers, without government interference.

Recent studies have debunked the myth that raw milk is a high-risk food. In fact, the numerous health benefits of raw over pasteurized dairy products are becoming more widely recognized, and consumer demand for these products is increasing.

Why is the MDA so intent on shutting down Lake View Dairy? It likely has something to do with the fact that the Big Dairy lobby sees small dairy farms, especially those selling raw milk, as a threat to their business. 

Personally, as a consumer who purchases raw milk from Lake View Natural Dairy, I am appalled at the aggressive nature of the MDA’s threats against David Berglund. In its attempt to force Berglund to submit to a farm inspection, MDA threatened Berglund with jail time and exorbitant daily fines and inspection costs.  As a tax-paying citizen, I am also appalled at the thousands of tax payer dollars being spent by the MDA to deny my right to purchase healthy foods directly from a local farmer.

Luckily for me and all of the rest of Lake View’s customers, David Berglund and his family are  willing to stand up to the MDA and defend their rights and our rights. Let’s stand with them.

As a small family farm, Lake View Natural Dairy needs our help to fund its legal battle. You can make a tax-deductible donation to help support the farm and cover the family’s legal costs here

More information on Lake View’s case here

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