Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense FundThe Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) was launched, Independence Day, July 4, 2007. The FTCLDF is a non-profit organization recognized under the Internal Revenue Code as a Section 501(c)(4) organization.A (c)(4) organization is classified as a “social welfare” organization.
The FTCLDF protects the rights of farmers and consumers to engage in direct commerce; it protects the rights of farmers to sell the products of the farm and the rights of consumers to access the foods of their choice from the source of their choice. FTCLDF is a true grassroots organization and receives no government funding and little or no corporate funding.
It’s main sources of revenue are membership fees, individual donations and grants for public interest litigation from its sister organization, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation a 501 (c )(3).
MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIES AND FEES
Annual memberships are $125 for farmers, $50 for consumers; and for affiliates such as buyers clubs and cooperatives, the annual fee is $250 for the first fifty members and $5 for each additional member.
For those whose religious or philosophical objection to becoming members in an organization that engages in litigation, FTCLDF offers renewable Non-Member Consulting Agreements at the same rates.
Membership costs and benefits are very reasonable especially when compared to the typical cost of a single phone call with an attorney.
BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP
- unlimited consultation with attorneys on matters within its mission statement;
- any contractual documents it provides, e.g., herdshare contracts, buyers club agreements, etc.;
- unlimited consultation with FTCLDF board member and dairy farmer, Tim Wightman, on matters related to farm operations;
- toll-free emergency hotline to speak with an attorney if there is a surprise visit or inspection from a government agency;
- the possibility of legal representation on matters that are within FTCLDF’s mission statement at no additional cost.
THE BIG PICTURE
FTCLDF levels the playing field, making it more difficult for the government to win wars of attrition that drag farmers through administrative and judicial hearings; membership enables members to spend their resources on farming instead of lawyers.
In addition to litigation, FTCLDF’s work includes advising on state legislation, working at the administrative level on matters before federal and state governments, and day-to-day member services. Member services have included work on the following: zoning, complaints from neighbor(s), on-farm poultry processing, disputes with farmers market managers, and slaughterhouse regulations.
Emergency member services are available 24/7 through a paging system. This benefit has been a legal lifeline to farmers, buying clubs and even consumers at the middle of a government enforcement action.
Some of the cases FTCLDF is litigating in 2011 include: challenging FDA’s ban on raw milk for human consumption in interstate commerce; defending Morningland Dairy in its efforts to prevent the Missouri State Milk Board from destroying 50,000 pounds of embargoed cheese when there have been no reports of illness against the dairy; and representing defending Minnesota consumer Rae Lynn Sandvig who had a criminal search warrant executed against her home. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is contemplating bringing criminal charges or administrative sanctions against Sandvig; her offense? letting her home be used as a distribution point for a raw milk farmer.