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A battle over raw milk in MN could have a lasting impact on personal liberties

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The owner of a northern Minnesota dairy farm that sells raw milk and other raw dairy products straight to customers has refused to allow the state to inspect his property – and now he's going to court to fight for his rights as a farmer.

David Berglund, the owner of Lake View Natural Dairy in Grand Marais, will defend his case against the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in Cook County District Court Monday, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

He's fighting for his right to sell products without interference from the government. But it's not as straight forward as it sounds. Here's a breakdown of the case.

Are his products technically 'products?'

Zenas Baer, the farm's attorney who spoke with Northland's NewsCenter and the Duluth News Tribune, says he's not sure why the the MDA is taking action against Berglund.

But it could have something to do with the food (cream, butter, yogurt) the farm sells, and whether they qualify as "products."

Berglund cites a century-old section of the Minnesota Constitution which says a person can sell "products" from their farm without a license, Duluth News Tribune says. (There are also previous court cases that have allowed similar activities.)

But: "Once you process a farm product, according to the Department of Agriculture, it is no longer a product of the farm and therefore no longer constitutionally protected," Baer told Northland's NewsCenter.

Losing could be costly

If Berglund loses in court, the small family farm could face a $500-a-day fine until he allows an inspection, reports note.

But Berglund can't simply comply and allow an inspection, Greg Gentz, a former Minneapolis police officer and Cook County Sheriff's deputy, who is also a customer and outspoken supporter of the farm, wrote on his blog, Support Lake View Natural Dairy.

An inspection would likely lead to state regulations, which would mean buying expensive pasteurization equipment and pasteurizing the milk – ultimately turning Berglund's raw, unpasteurized milk into a different product, Gentz wrote on the blog.

"The state can't legislate away constitutional protection," Gentz told the Duluth News Tribune. "The people who are customers of the farm know the risk (of raw milk) stated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It's my choice to do business with them."

Berglund's case has attracted the attention of farmers and food producers nationwide, and Baer told reporters that no matter the result of the case, it will have lasting implications because it will further define personal liberties.

Berglund nor the MDA have commented to the media about the case.

Raw milk – beneficial or harmful?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says unpasteurized milk doesn’t provide any “significant” health advantages compared to pasteurized milk, but does offer more health risks, because it’s more likely to contain harmful bacteria and pathogens.

The department says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, American Academy of Pediatrics and more health institutions have warned consumers of the health risks.

Proponents of raw milk – such as the Real Milk campaign – argue the product is perfectly safe if produced under clean, sanitary conditions, and say raw milk contains “built-in protective systems” that destroy bad bacteria.

Farm-to-Consumer says the sale of raw milk is banned in 17 states, and restricted in some sort in 22 other states.

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