SALEM, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Agriculture has appealed a ruling handed down in Ohio’s most recent raw milk battle.
At the end of 2006, Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan Hein said the ODA didn’t have enough evidence to revoke Carol Schmitmeyer’s Grade A milk producer license. In September, the department had accused Schmitmeyer of selling raw milk, an illegal act in Ohio, and revoked her producer license.
In his ruling, Hein said the ODA didn’t handle the case properly. He found the department failed to give Schmitmeyer a reasonable amount of time to correct the alleged violations and he cited arbitrary enforcement of rules as a reason for overturning the ODA’s decision.
No sales. Schmitmeyer, who makes a living on her 100-head dairy farm in Darke County, said she didn’t sell raw milk to anyone. Rather, she was providing the product through herd share agreements. Her customers paid a $50 membership fee to own a portion of the herd, plus a weekly $6 boarding fee.
Ohio law allows those who own dairy cattle to drink the raw milk produced by those animals.
In October, a judge issued a temporary permit that allowed Schmitmeyer to continue operating as a Grade A producer on the grounds that she stop distributing raw milk to herd share customers.
The department filed its appeal with the Darke County Court of Common Pleas Jan. 26.
“Our director considered it and that’s the determination they came to,” said LeeAnne Mizer, ODA spokesperson.
Schmitmeyer would’ve been allowed to resume her herd share agreements at the end of January if the department had not appealed.
Freedom. For Schmitmeyer, the fight is about consumers’ freedom to choose what to drink.
“That’s always been the issue for it all,” she said.
But the matter is becoming a difficult burden to bear, financially and emotionally.
“It doesn’t matter which way they (ODA) go around, we’ll still lose in the end,” Schmitmeyer said. “The judge ruled in our favor, so we should be able to do it (use herd share agreements), but we can’t.”
Investigation. The investigation into Schmitmeyer’s dairy operation began in January 2006 when two people who drank raw milk from the farm became sick with campylobacterosis, an illness characterized by diarrhea, cramps and fever.
Schmitmeyer said her milk never tested positive for the bacteria.
In addition to the alleged raw milk sales, the ODA also said Schmitmeyer processed milk without a processor’s license and sold milk that wasn’t properly labeled.
Ohio dairy farmers can sell milk directly to consumers if they are licensed and inspected milk processor and if they meet requirements like labeling and pasteurization.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)