The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is commissioned by the state legislature to promote the interests of Wisconsin agriculture. The DATCP’s mission statement describes their effort to “partner with all citizens of Wisconsin to grow the economy by promoting quality food, healthy plants and animals, sound use of land and water resources, and a fair marketplace.” However, as many of our Wisconsin members can attest, DATCP behavior is far from consistent with their virtuous mission statement. Instead, in several documented cases, the DATCP has used intimidation, threats of raids and seizures, and a command and control technique to enforce their regulations of farm producers and butchers in the state of Wisconsin.
In several cases the DATCP has demonstrated that their first action in “partnering” with the citizens of Wisconsin is shutting down the small agriculture businesses they are meant to regulate. A prime example of this heavy-handed approach is the handling of Smith Bros. Meat and Catering, a family-owned business in Wisconsin that offers butchering at their full service retail store. A dispute arose when a Smith Bros. customer placed an advertisement on Craigslist for the sale of meat that was processed at the Wisconsin facility. The DATCP got wind of the advertisement and requested additional records beyond what Smith Bros. is legally required to submit. Instead of subpoenaing the information, providing due process for the Smith Bros., the DATCP ordered for the business to be shut down.
The official behind the shutdown of Smith Bros. is Paul Pierce, the Director of Regulatory Services in the Bureau of Meat and Poultry Businesses for DATCP. Pierce is notorious in his harassment of small animal processing operations in Wisconsin. Since FTCLDF’s inception in 2007, we have received more complaints about Pierce than any other regulator. Instead of Pierce using his position to further promote the interests of small operators in Wisconsin, he applies an oppressive approach leaving many processors with years of costly legal battles and lost business.