(NaturalNews) After repeated visits to his farm throughout 2009 and 2010 that resulted in an unprovoked quarantine, state and county officials in Wisconsin have charged Amish farmer Vernon Hershberger with violating state retail food laws by distributing raw milk to cow owners. Hershberger was recently released from illegal captivity on $500 bond, but will soon face the court system again for criminal charges that could result in a two-and-a-half year prison sentence and more than $13,000 in fines if he is convicted.
The Rock River Times (RRT) reports that Hershberger told Sauk County, Wisc., judge James Evenson on Jan. 11, 2012, at his initial hearing that he has done nothing wrong by providing raw milk to members of his buying club. Previously providing raw milk incidentally to customers from his farm was also in accordance with state laws, even though these laws have since become more restrictive.
"There is no proof of validity to the complaint so far," Hershberger is quoted as saying to Judge Evenson, while dozens of his supporters stood outside the courthouse drinking raw milk from jugs in protest of illegal and excessive treatment of the farmer.
Hershberger is so confident of his innocence in the case that he reportedly came to the hearing without an attorney. However, an attorney has reportedly offered to represent Hershberger for free, and even file a follow-up lawsuit against the state on behalf of the farmer and seven plaintiffs, which are still being sought.
State of Wisconsin illegally interfered with private distribution of owners' own food, committed racketeering fraud
"Vernon Hershberger is privately contracted with Right to Choose Healthy Food (RTCHF) members to board, and produce health-giving organic food from member animals for consumption," wrote Hershberger's co-op in response to the charges.
"The State of Wisconsin tried to close his farm in 2010 and recently filed multiple charges against him for operating a retail store and dairy without licenses and defying WDA (Wisconsin Dairy Association) orders to not distribute members products to them. This is not only a violation of our civil rights, it is a moral assault on our health and well-being."
Rather than consider the facts, though, Judge Evenson proceeded to book Hershberger on $500 bond and order that he be detained. Hershberger has since been bailed out, but will now still have to face the courts on Feb. 13, 2012. His pre-trial conference with prosecutors is set for Jan. 30, 2012.
The state claims that its issue with Hershberger involves his not having the proper permits, and failing to abide by the heath department's restrictions on his farm's production back in 2010. But there exist no permits in Wisconsin for selling or otherwise distributing raw milk, and the state needlessly interfered with private distribution of the owners own food, which is considered racketeering.
"Since no food is sold or distributed to the public and is only distributed to members who own the food, there is no crime," added the co-op's response. "The only affront is that Wisconsin does not get its licensing fees and food-control that forces money from small farmers that the state does not earn or deserve. That constitutes state racketeering. Since all RTCHF members are part owners of the farm assets, every member's address is the farm's address."
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