Imagine being watched by two undercover cops as you engage in an illicit deal in a deserted parking lot. The buyer hesitantly hands you some cash. You flash a look over your shoulder, just to make sure the coast is clear, then you hand over the contraband. Neither of you says a word. You just nod, acknowledging the deal is done, then you head back to your car and buckle up for the drive home.
But before you can even put the car into drive, a screeching formation of police cars, surrounds you, sirens wailing. Armed officers leap from their vehicles, guns drawn and sunglasses glaring. “Come out with your hands up!” they shout.
You slowly open the driver’s door of your car and inch out of your seat with both hands raised in surrender, cowering behind the open door. “What did I do, officer? What’s my crime?”
Their answer comes back loud and intimidating: “SELLING RAW MILK!”
Springfield Missouri: Where farmers are branded criminals
The above description is a dramatization of real events that happened recently in Springfield, Missouri, where the state has decided to spend considerable taxpayer resources running a sting operating against a family that was caught dealing — gulp! — raw milk in a parking lot.
Yes, both the Missouri Dept. of Health and the state Attorney General (Chris Koster) have decided that prosecuting a farm family for illegally “trafficking” raw milk should be at the top of their list of priorities. The family being targeted by state officials is the Bechard family, of Armand and Teddi Bechard, and their children Joseph, Hananiah, Kazia and Katie.
The name of the cow offering the milk is reportedly “Misty.”
As the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader paper reports, “Two undercover investigators with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department allegedly caught two of the couple’s daughters on two occasions selling a gallon of milk each from a Springfield parking lot. Charges followed in municipal court.”
In case you’re not yet sure what you’re reading here, note carefully that these daughters were not caught selling crack, meth or crank. They weren’t dealing second-hand pharmaceuticals to yuppie school kids. They weren’t selling e.coli-contaminated hamburger meat, cancer-causing diet sodas (made with aspartame) or canned soups laced with MSG. They weren’t even selling broiler chickens contaminated with salmonella — just as you can find in every grocery store in America. Nope, they were selling raw milk. You know, the bovine mother’s milk, unpasteurized, unprocessed, non-homogenized and wholly pure, natural and innocent. The stuff America was raised on. The stuff your parents fed you when you were a kid, if your family was lucky enough to have a cow.
In Missouri today, selling such a natural product is now apparently a criminal act. What’s next? A ban on farm-fresh eggs because the Dept. of Health doesn’t control their quality? The outlawing of raw broccoli because broccoli contains natural anti-cancer medicine?
Fortunately, the Bechard family is fighting back. As reported by the News-Leader:
“They will not sign a consent order to make the state’s complaint go away and they’re defending themselves against the city charges, too. They’ve gotten legal help from the The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization made up of farmers and consumers pooling resources to fight for the rights of family farmers trying to get unprocessed food to consumers who want it.”
A view from the Missouri-born Health Ranger
I grew up in Raytown, Missouri, just a few miles from Springfield. I spent more than a few summers on a farm near St. Louis, where we would milk the cows, gather fresh eggs from the chickens, and fish for catfish in the pond. I’m not exactly a farm boy, but I’m familiar enough with living off the land to know the difference between real food and processed food (a distinction the Missouri Dept. of Health still hasn’t gleaned…)