MN farmer can keep selling raw milk products – for now, judge rules

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A northern Minnesota farmer can continue selling unprocessed milk to his customers despite the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) objections, a judge has ruled.

Cook County District Court Judge Michael Cuzzo's ruling, dated June 3, says David Berglund of Lake View Natural Dairy in Grand Marais is not in contempt of the MDA and he doesn't have to pay any of the $500-per-day fines the state wanted to impose on him for not allowing state inspectors on his farm.

The case

This all started in 2013 when the MDA learned Berglund was selling raw milk and other raw products to customers who visit the dairy farm. The MDA then requested they be able to inspect it.

But Berglund, citing a century-old section of the Minnesota Constitution that says a person can sell “products” from their farm without a license, refused to allow the state to inspect his property, even after a court-ordered inspection and the state's attempt to collect a $500 fine every day Berglund didn't allow inspectors on his property.

That's when Berglund took the fight to court this past March, in which Cuzzo recently issued his ruling.

What's next

"That's all gone now, the fines and the inspections, and we are moving toward a decision that's based on the constitutional rights," Zenas Baer, Berglund's attorney, told the Duluth News Tribune.

Next, both sides will get to present evidence before a judge at a to-be-scheduled hearing. A final decision by the judge on the issue could be months away, Baer told the newspaper.

And the fight might not be over then.

Greg Gentz is a former Minneapolis police officer and Cook County Sheriff’s deputy – and also a customer and outspoken supporter of the farm. He wrote on his blog, Support Lake View Natural Dairy, it's likely the case will make its way through multiple levels of court before a decision is made.

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

Why not allow an inspection?

Berglund can’t simply comply and allow an inspection, Gentz says. 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, he wrote on the blog.

These state regulations would likely put Berglund's family-run farm out of business, Gentz says.

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