|Photo courtesy of Lake View Natural Dairy|
The two most important roles that I hold in life are that of a husband and that of a father to two small girls. My daughters will inherit my legacy, the society we live in and the rules by which it is governed. I want to make that legacy as positive as possible. I wouldn’t label myself a raw milk advocate or a farm rights advocate, not that those things aren’t important. I am an advocate of rule of law, limits on the authority of our government and ultimately an advocate for my family. So, you might say, “Uh-oh, this guy doesn’t like government.” That would be far from the truth.
From 1999 to 2013, I was a cop. I spent 13 years employed with the Minneapolis Police Department and 2 years with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. During that time, I made over 1,000 arrests. I was a cop because I believed that people shouldn’t live in fear of victimization. I was a cop because I believed in defending those who may not be able to defend themselves. I was a cop because there were many aspects of the job that were fulfilling and enjoyable. I was a cop because I believed that it was my duty to stop people who, due to their strength or perceived power and short regard for the law, would continue to victimize those who were unlucky enough to cross their paths. I left policing 15 months ago to raise my daughters. It was a hard decision, but not difficult when compared to what I was leaving for.
During my 15 years as a law enforcement officer, one of my most important duties was to ensure people were following the laws of our state and holding them responsible if they did not. Duh, right? That’s what every cop would say. However, another duty that I held with equal value was that of protecting people’s individual rights. I would rather have lost an arrest than have violated an individual’s constitutional rights, however upsetting that could have been to me personally. These tightly held beliefs came from the understanding that our society and government only function when individuals are held responsible for their actions and state agents only act within their given limits of authority.
I’ve provided my personal background because I’m asking you to support something that’s important to me. A government’s respect of their own limits of authority is an important function of a democracy. This belief developed throughout my career and will be something I hold to a high standard for the rest of my life.
Living in Cook County, Minnesota, I was fortunate to learn of Lake View Natural Dairy over six years ago. I have been drinking their raw milk ever since. I wasn’t aware of the health benefits nor am I some big nutritional guru…I just like the taste better than pasteurized milk. The dairy farm has a nice little milk house with an honor system payment method. I even asked my local doctor about giving the milk to our kids, and she said the dairy products at the farm were just fine. The dairy farm is small and sells their products directly to the customer.
Throughout the years, I’ve had conversations with the owner, David Berglund. I learned that the farm was being pressured to submit to inspection by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Some people may say there is nothing wrong with a little inspection. However, such an inspection is a vehicle that is meant to lead to regulatory compliance (meaning control by an outside entity, the MDA), in this case pasteurization. I believe that the MDA is acting outside its limits of authority. I had many conversations while working as a deputy sheriff at the sheriff’s office with other law enforcement personnel about this issue. I often thought about what I would do if the MDA came to the farm while I was on duty. David had told the MDA agents not to return to his property. Would they be trespassing if they returned without court documentation?
Before I left the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the MDA had shown up at the farm (without any court orders), despite being told they should stay away (the sheriff’s office was not notified or involved). They entered and took pictures of the unoccupied milk house. Later, they located David and gave him a report telling him he was in violation of state regulations, and that he needed to pasteurize the milk that he produced. During my career, I would have considered those actions a possible trespass. Everyone should have the right to keep others from trespassing on their property after they are warned verbally or in writing to stay away (MN criminal Statute 609.605 sub.1(b)(7)). David filed a trespass report that was taken by Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk. In my opinion, the MDA should have respected the rule of law concerning trespass, even when it concerns someone that is resisting their perceived authority.
In mid 2014, Sheriff Mark Falk was contacted by the State and was asked to provide the assistance of the sheriff’s office concerning the MDA’s attempts to impose inspection/regulation upon the dairy. Sheriff Falk had a discussion with them about the protections Lake View Natural Dairy was given by our Minnesota Constitution. He further told them, “Good luck getting the deputy sheriffs to help because there are several deputies that do business there.” Sheriff Falk went on to tell them that as long as he was in office, they (the State) would not get any assistance from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office concerning this specific matter. Sheriff Falk has given me permission to include the above quote and his involvement concerning the case in this article.
Sheriff Falk retired soon after and the Chief Deputy of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office was appointed for the last six months of the term as the interim sheriff. In late 2014, the MDA again tried to visit the farm and was, by request of the MDA, escorted by the interim sheriff. The interim sheriff went to the farm and had the MDA inspectors wait while he spoke to David. After having a discussion with David, the interim sheriff declined to assist the MDA in a forced inspection of the farm, and the MDA representatives turned and left without any actions being taken. Our sheriff’s office is knowledgeable about this issue, and has acted in an exemplary manner in carrying out their mission to protect an individual’s rights and to defend the federal and state constitution. I am so proud to have worked with them.
The MDA has now petitioned the Cook County Court for a court hearing to find David Berglund in contempt of court for refusal to allow an inspection on his farm. Among other things, they are petitioning that David pay for the MDA’s expenses in their attempts to force inspection upon the farm as well as a fine of $500 for every day until he submits to an inspection. These expenses alone could very well be the end of Lake View Natural Dairy. Submitting to licensing (which the MN Supreme Court has already ruled a farm selling direct to consumer is protected from being forced to do [MN v. Hartmann, 2005]) inspection and regulation would require Lake View Natural Dairy to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth in pasteurizing and bottling equipment. To my understanding, they have no desire to do this nor do they have the funds to do so (even with state aid, i.e. tax dollars). Lake View Natural Dairy would have to close its business.
|Photo courtesy of Lake View Natural Dairy|
As some may believe, there is no simple solution to licensure, inspection or regulation concerning the MDA attempting to force these things on Lake View Natural Dairy. In this case, I believe that there is someone here that is perceived as weak, at least by a state agency. I believe there is someone here that deserves to be defended from another who would wish to do them wrong. Though no longer in law enforcement, I still believe that I have a duty. My duty is to my family and community, to stop something from happening just because a state agency believes they have the strength and perceived power to illegally force their will on a private citizen.
Lately, I’ve been speaking to people about why I believe that I have a protected right to purchase unpasteurized milk/raw milk from Lake View Natural Dairy. It’s a simple constitutional right. The MN State Constitution says, “No license required to peddle. Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefor (Article 13, Section 7).” This article was passed in 1906, when inspection and regulation did not exist in MN. In 1904, it came about because a farmer was found guilty of not having a “peddler’s license” for selling the products of his farm from a wagon in Minneapolis. The population voted overwhelmingly to restrict the state’s power to license the sale of farm products directly to the consumer.
In essence, the people voted to end state intrusion in the private association of farmers selling directly to consumers. But today the State, through the MDA, attempts to work around a citizen-supported, constitutional article by interfering in the private association of farms selling direct to consumers. I believe “right is right.” Simply put, this just ain’t right.
There are many other legal arguments why the State does not have the statutory authority to interfere with this association of direct farm-to-consumer sales. You can find links and articles about these arguments on my website, www.supportlakeviewnaturaldairy.org. Raw milk is not the same as it was in the 1930s. Recent science (see New Studies Confirm: Raw Milk a Low-Risk Food) has shown that raw milk should be listed as a “low-risk food,” not high-risk as many would have you think today. The State’s claim that raw milk poses a safety risk is simply not supported by objective modern standards. The absence of a significant safety risk further supports that the Article 13, Section 7 protection covers raw milk, and other raw dairy products such as butter and cheese when sold directly to consumers.
Don’t just take my word for it; do your own research and decide for yourself. Government’s responsibility is certainly not to regulate away the original intent and protection of an article of our state constitution. Remember, this issue is about more than raw milk, farm rights or David’s right to sell direct to consumers. It is about all of our individual rights and our rights to associate privately with each other. It is about our right to pursue life, liberty and happiness within the greatest and most exceptional country on this earth. Our government has the responsibility to protect these unalienable rights given to all men and women by our creators, not to interfere with them.
David Berglund is a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF). FTCLDF is providing funding for his legal defense.
David Berglund’s contempt of court hearing is scheduled for March 9th, at 9 a.m. at the Cook County Court House in Grand Marias, MN. Arrive early. For updates on the hearing and its location, go to: www.supportlakeviewnaturaldairy.org.
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