SALEM, Ohio – A Darke County dairy producer lost her Grade A milk producer license Sept. 28 after allegedly violating Ohio’s dairy laws.
According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the producer, Carol Schmitmeyer, failed to comply with the law by processing milk without a processor’s license, selling raw milk and selling milk that wasn’t properly labeled.
Herd shares. Schmitmeyer had been providing raw milk through herd share agreements with customers who paid a $50 membership fee to own a portion of the herd, plus a weekly $6 boarding fee. Although raw milk sales are illegal in Ohio, there is no law that prevents those who own dairy cattle from drinking the milk.
The ODA said the $6 boarding fee was actually the price of a gallon of raw milk.
Ohio dairy laws do allow farmers to sell milk directly to consumers if they are a licensed and inspected milk processor. They also have to meeting labeling, pasteurization and other requirements.
The hearing officer who heard the Schmitmeyer case called the herd share agreement “nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to shield (her) from liability for her illegal sales of raw milk.”
The other side. But Schmitmeyer said that’s not true. She said herd shares are legal in Ohio and the agreements were written by an attorney to make sure the process complied with the law.
“Never was there an intent to break the law,” she said. “We went through every means possible to make sure we were upholding the law.”
Schmitmeyer did not attend the Sept. 8 and Sept. 14 hearings, but was represented by counsel.
LeeAnne Mizer, ODA spokesperson, said herd shares aren’t defined in Ohio law and the concept isn’t clear cut.
Schmitmeyer, who had been using the herd share agreements for about one year, has been under investigation since January after two people who drank raw milk from her farm became ill with campylobacterosis, a sickness characterized by diarrhea, cramps and fever.
Test results. The dairy producer said her milk never tested positive for the bacteria and revoking her license is nothing more than a ruse to make consumers feel protected by the ODA.
She said the department revoked her license to set an example and “scare off any other farmers who do herd shares.”
Schmitmeyer and her husband, Paul, make a living on their 100-head dairy farm and plan to appeal the ODA’s decision to the Darke County Court of Common Pleas.
“Yes, we are going to appeal or we will lose the farm and the home we love because we cannot financially continue without a Grade A license,” Schmitmeyer said.
Procedure. The Ohio Department of Agriculture yanked the license after an independent hearing officer recommended the action. Standard procedure in cases such as this require both sides of the case to be heard by an independent hearing officer, who then makes a recommendation to ODA Director Fred Dailey.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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