UPDATE: Wisconsin raw milk farmer loses appeal

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UPDATED Thursday, July 17, 2014 --- 10:53 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin dairy farmer convicted of a misdemeanor related to the sale of raw milk has lost his appeal.

The 4th District Appeals Court on Thursday agreed with a ruling by the Sauk County Circuit Court against Loganville dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger.

He was found guilty last year of one count of violating a holding order placed on products at his farm after a 2010 raid by state regulators.

Hershberger was found not guilty of charges alleging he sold retail food, produced milk and operated a dairy plant without proper state licenses.

The appeals court says the lower court properly prohibited Hershberger from introducing evidence and testimony he said would show there was no basis for issuing the holding order.

Hershberger was fined $1,000.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 2, 2013 --- 11:36 a.m.

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) -- A Virginia farmer rights group has filed an appeal on behalf of a Wisconsin dairy farmer convicted of misdemeanor related to the sale of raw milk.

Vernon Hershberger was found guilty in May of one count of violating a holding order placed on products at his Loganville farm after a 2010 raid.

Hershberger was found not guilty of charges alleging he sold retail food, produced milk and operated a dairy plant without proper state licenses.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed the appeal Tuesday night.

During his trial a redacted hold order was submitted to the jury for review. On its website, the farmer rights group says attorneys believe the jury would have cleared Hershberger of all charges had they seen the full hold order.

A judge fined Hershberger $1,000.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 26, 2013 --- 9:30 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Four jurors in a case involving a Wisconsin farmer who sold raw milk say they asked the judge to be lenient when he sentenced the farmer for violating a holding order placed on his products.

A Wisconsin State Journal report (http://bit.ly/1cmbgtR) says the jurors feel they passed judgment against organic farmer Vernon Hershberger without being given all the evidence.

They found Hershberger not guilty on charges that he produced milk and operated a dairy plant without a license, and illegally sold food in a retail establishment. But they found him guilty of violating the holding order because he admitted to doing so.

But 51-year-old Michele Bollfrass-Hopp of Merrimac says jurors weren't allowed to judge whether the holding order was valid.

Sauk County Judge Guy Reynolds fined Hershberger $1,500.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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Updated: Saturday, May 25, 2013 --- 9:00 p.m.

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin dairy farmer has been acquitted on three of four counts in a trial related to the sale of raw milk.

The Journal-Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/12TmwMb ) that dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger was found guilty on one charge of violating a holding order placed on products at his farm after a 2010 raid. Hershberger could get up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The jury returned their verdict early Saturday morning after four hours of deliberation.

They found the 41-year-old Hershberger not guilty of charges that he sold retail food, produced milk and operated a dairy plant without proper state licenses.

His supporters have said he was targeted because he sold raw milk through a private buying club with several hundred members.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press
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Updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 -- 10:55 p.m.

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) -- Prosecutors are trying to show a jury that a Wisconsin raw milk farmer showed blatant disregard for state licensing laws.

On the second day of trial, attorneys with the state Department of Justice continued Tuesday to drill into evidence collected during a raid on Vernon Hershberger's Loganville farm in June 2010.

The Baraboo News Republic reports inspectors who took part in the raid identified pictures of food and equipment taken inside a pantry that resembled a small grocery store.

The state contends Hershberger sold retail food, produced milk and operated a dairy plant without proper state licenses. Advocates for raw milk accuse regulators of targeting Hershberger.

Hershberger contends his farm did not operate as a retailer, because those who consumed its products were part of a private club.

Copyright Associated Press 2013

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UPDATED Monday, May 20, 2013 --- 3:25 p.m.

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) -- A jury has been selected to hear the licensing trial of a Wisconsin dairy farmer who supporters say is being targeted for selling raw milk.

Attorneys for Loganville farmer Vernon Hershberger and the Wisconsin Department of Justice spent Monday morning questioning prospective jurors before agreeing on the 12-member panel.

Advocates believe their freedom to choose to drink raw milk is on trial. But state officials say the only issue is licensing.

Hershberger is charged with distributing milk from his Grazin' Acres dairy farm without a milk producer's license, operating a retail food establishment and dairy plant without licenses, and violating a hold order placed on his dairy products after a raid on his farm.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the judge hopes the trial will be completed by Friday.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, May 14, 2013 --- 10:10 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Raw milk advocates say they expect hundreds of supporters to turn out next week for the trial of a Wisconsin farmer charged with several licensing violations.

Vernon Hershberger, of Loganville, has been charged with operating a dairy farm, dairy plant and retail food establishment without appropriate licenses. Hershberger contends he has been targeted for selling unpasteurized milk, which is illegal in Wisconsin in most cases.

But state officials say raw milk isn't the issue -- even farmers selling pasteurized milk need the right licenses.

Hershberger's supporters have rented a theater across from the courthouse in Baraboo to monitor the trial and hold a rally.

Supporter Gayle Loiselle, of Dousman, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Hershberger's case is important because he's fighting back when many other farmers would not.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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POSTED: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 --- 5:30 p.m.

A Loganville Dairy farmer was in court today after ignoring the state's orders to shut down his operation.

Dozens of his supporters showed up on the courthouse steps to show they're behind him.

This is all about raw milk. The state says Vernon Hershberger can't sell it but he's doing it anyway and now it could land him in jail.

One after another the supporters speak, and make something very clear. If Vernon Hershberger goes down he's not going down alone.

Hershberger says, "It's overwhelming to see the support that is here."

Hershberger is met by the show of support on his way into the Sauk County Courthouse.

Many of his supporters do drink raw milk but he says he even has people in his corner who don't.

Dana Schultz and her husband Phil drove more than two hours, from the Milwaukee area, to be here.

Dana says, "The government should not be telling us what we should put in our bodies."

In June of 2010 the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection raided Hershberger's farm, sealing his coolers and tanks and ordering him to stop selling.

They said it's illegal to sell raw milk, and Hershberger shouldn't be selling anything without a dairy license.

But we were at Hershberger's farm the next day when he broke the seals and began selling again.

According to a criminal complaint, investigators saw our report, went back to the farm and found evidence Hershberger had ignored them.

So Hershberger says he's not surprised to find himself in court today.

In court, Assistant Attorney General Eric Defort said, "He repeatedly continued that process as an example."

Despite facing fines and jail time, being booked into jail and released and told again to stop selling Hershberger maintains what he's doing is not wrong .

He says, "We do not sell to the general public but we do not even sell to members. We only distribute to members who voluntarily put money into the farm to keep the farm going because they actually own part of the cow part of the dairy herd."

Hershberger adds, "I definitely do have worries but what I really want, no matter what happens here today and in the future, I'd like to get a message out to people that truth is truth and from biblical times until now truth has always come out on top."

A pretrial conference has been scheduled and Hershberger is due back in court next month.

He's facing four charges, the most severe punishable by up to 10-thousand dollars in fines or up to one year in jail.

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UPDATED Thursday, December 8, 2011 --- 9:15 a.m.

From the office of the Attorney General:

MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that on December 6, 2011, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, acting as special prosecutor for Sauk County, filed a summons and criminal complaint in Sauk County Circuit Court accusing Vernon D. Hershberger, a Loganville, Sauk County resident, with four counts that relate to the sale of food without a license, as well as producing and processing dairy products without a license and violating a holding order.

According to the criminal complaint, Hershberger was informed in 2007 that the sale of refrigerated or frozen food without a retail food establishment license violated the law but continued to operate a retail food establishment without a license. The criminal complaint further alleged that Hershberger was informed that his milk producer license was going to be considered abandoned if he did not resume shipping milk to a licensed dairy plant. As alleged in the complaint, his license was thereafter revoked. Despite the warning, Hershberger operated as a milk producer without a license. Further, the complaint alleges that Hershberger was operating a dairy plant without a license. Finally, the complaint alleges that a holding order was served on Hershberger which prohibited the sale or movement of specific food products set forth in that holding order. The complaint alleges that Hershberger violated this order by removing food products that were subject to the holding order.

A criminal complaint is a document that alleges that a crime was committed by a person or a corporation. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The matter is tentatively scheduled for an initial appearance on January 4, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Assistant Attorneys General Eric D. Défort and Phillip D. Ferris represent the State of Wisconsin as special prosecutors for the County of Sauk.

A copy of the criminal complaint is available at the following link:

http://www.doj.state.wi.us/news/files/criminal-complaint-hershberger-vernon-20111207.pdf

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POSTED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 --- 6:45 p.m.

One day after his farm is raided and authorities tell him to shut things down a local farmer is still selling raw milk.

He says it's his right and he's risking the penalties.

Vernon Hershberger doesn't know what will happen next and he's very aware he could be in some big trouble.

Nevertheless he's ignoring state orders and reopening his Loganville business.

Today customers were once again lining up to get raw milk and other dairy products from Hershberger's farm despite the fact that yesterday morning the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection got a warrant to search his farm and sealed several coolers, ordering him to stop selling raw milk and close his store.

Hershberger says, "We believe this is our right to do this and we have a lot of families that feel that way. There are a lot of families that will go without food that they need to have for their families if we shut down."

DATCP Administrator Steven Ingham says, "We're not in the business of shutting down farmers and ruining people's lives but we are a public health agency and the public expects us to look after food."

Hershberger also argues that he is only open to members who pay annual fees, not the general public, so he doesn't need a dairy license.

One thing that is important to note is even if Governor Doyle had signed a raw milk bill into law last month Hershberger would have still been breaking the law because he doesn't have that dairy license.

It will be up to the Sauk County District Attorney to determine if any charges are filed.