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In this 2010 file photo, organic dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger stands on his farm near Loganville that was shut down for operating without a license. In response, he turned his “members-only” farm into a herd-lease operation, a move he believes is allowed under state law.

Another skirmish in the raw milk war played out in rural Sauk County Thursday morning as deputies and state inspectors arrived at the Hershberger farm in Loganville, where the dairy farmer has set up a buyer's club to distribute raw milk products.

"They wanted to inspect the store to look for evidence of broken tape," said Vernon Hershberger.

The tape and markings sealed coolers of unpasteurized dairy products during an earlier inspection. State law says that selling raw milk to consumers is illegal although incidental sales have been allowed in the past.

Lee Sensenbrenner, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said "(Inspectors) went Tuesday to request that any potential sales cease for the time being, and then they went (Thursday) to see if the hold-order had been violated, or the tags saying ‘don't sell these products' had been ignored."

Hershberger denied the inspectors access to the locked store and authorities were discussing their options. Sensenbrenner said the outcome of the inspection would be turned over to prosecutors.

Hershberger insists his distribution method is legal. State law allows farm owners, their family members and employees to drink raw milk.

"We do have a buyers' club," he said."We are not selling anything. The club leases everything on the property, so basically the club members are coming to get their own products."

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"They pay me a fee for taking care of the animals, which are leased to them, to get their milk and stuff ready for them," he said.

Sensenbrenner said "there are legal disputes around that issue, and that is something that is active right now. The state's position is that a buyers' club doesn't give you the ability to ignore state law. The way (DATCP) puts it, even with buyers' clubs, you still have to meet the minimum standards of food safety."

State inspectors visited the farm last week because Hershberger did not have a dairy license or a retail food license to sell his products in a store located next to his home.

The raw milk issue was hotly debated this past session in the Legislature, which passed a measure that would allow certain raw milk sales. The measure was vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle for, he said, reasons of public health.

 

 

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