Throughout this nation it is becoming commonplace for state and federal governments to raid food buying clubs, private food co-ops, family farms and even micro farms. The reason these raids are taking place is that the FDA has determined that we are not smart enough to decide what we want to eat. They are making sure that we have a hard time getting food that is actually good for us and fulfilling their public health mission. This is the first in a three article series profiling two cases in the state of Missouri to illustrate what will be terrifically commonplace once Senate Bill 510, (The Food Safety Modernization Act-third article) is in place.
In Missouri we have families, and a food freedom movement, that are being persecuted, and I use that term intentionally, with accusation aforethought. The first family I am going to profile is the Bechard’s of Conway, Missouri. They are facing prosecution by Attorney General Koster for violating the following State statute and were also taken to court -and convicted- by Green County Health Department for “operating a food establishment without a permit”. Basically, they are being taken to court for trying to make a living from their lawful product. Their crime? Providing people with fresh milk that tested out to be perfectly fine and had no complaints or reports of illness associated with it at all.
The Bechard’s have a small farm, where they raise sheep, poultry and cattle and sell their products directly to consumers. They milk six cows and are not a “graded” facility. They deliver milk to their customers at a pre-arranged pick up point in the parking lot of Mama Jeans Natural Foods in Springfield, Missouri. In April of 2009, their eldest daughters were delivering the milk and were approached by someone wanting to buy a half-gallon of milk. Since they had it, they sold it to the man. Two weeks later, the same thing occurred. These two on the spot sales were to employees of the Green County Health Department.
The Health Department tested the milk. What they found was that there was no problem with the milk at all. The first half-gallon was kept overnight possibly on a kitchen counter and did have a high somatic cell count. The second batch was taken to the lab within an hour and had a very low somatic cell count attesting to the Bechard’s cleanliness. These two sales landed the Bechard’s in court.
Let’s look at the state charge first. Here is the pertinent Missouri law on milk :
State milk inspection required on all graded fluid milk or milk products–pasteurization required, exception.
196.935. No person shall sell, offer for sale, expose for sale, transport, or deliver any graded fluid milk or graded fluid milk products in this state unless the milk or milk products are graded and produced, transported, processed, manufactured, distributed, labeled and sold under state milk inspection and the same has also been produced or pasteurized as required by a regulation authorized by section 196.939 and under proper permits issued thereunder. Only pasteurized graded fluid milk and fluid milk products as defined in subdivision (3) of section 196.931 shall be sold to the final consumer, or to restaurants, soda fountains, grocery stores, or similar establishments;except an individual may purchase and have delivered to him for his own use raw milk or cream from a farm.
Evidently, Missouri Attorney General Koster doesn’t understand either the term “graded” or the meaning of the word “except”, and is opting for redefining that word by putting a family’s livelihood on the line and moving forward with prosecution of Armand Bechard for selling his milk to individuals who want the product. Koster’s argument for pursuing a case against the Bechard’s is that he has gone back and read through the floor arguments from 1972 when the law was enacted in Missouri and believes that the legislators didn’t mean what they actually wrote into law. Koster has also consulted with the bureaucracy that is “in charge” of milk in Missouri, “The Milk Board”. Incidentally, the new chair of the Milk Board is also on the Green County Health Department and is driving the charges against the Bechard’s.
For years, the Milk Board has periodically threatened providers of fresh milk with fines and penalties if they continue to sell their product. Usually, the threats come after the Milk Board has made telephone calls to providers of milk listed on a Weston A. Price website called Real Milk. We are listed on that site, and from three weeks to two months prior to actions from the Milk Board instructing people to “cease and desist” or be fined for selling milk, we receive calls for milk from several hours away asking if we have milk for sale; and then I know something is about to happen. This is exactly what happened before the “sting” on the Bechard family occurred.