Falls Church, VA, July 2, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The absolute right to private, unregulated, direct trade with a local raw milk producer is being fully tested in the heart of "America's Dairyland". The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund plans to appeal the jury verdict of farmer Vernon Hershberger in the recent case, State of Wisconsin (Plaintiff) vs. Vernon Hershberger (Defendant). The appeal will be presented in Wisconsin appellate court district IV. Likely, the case will be reviewed by a 3 judge panel.
Hershberger was found guilty on only one of four criminal counts, the violation of a hold order.
Hershberger owns and operates a privately held dairy farm, Grazin' Acres, in Loganville, Wisconsin. Over 200 investors in his farm enable Hershberger to operate a non-retail farm store for member investors only.
At issue in this case, was whether or not Hershberger needed retail license, dairy plant license, and milk producers license from the state to operate such a business. A jury of his peers found that Vernon was not breaking licensing laws, exonerating him of the three counts of operating without licenses.
The jury was also charged with determining whether or not a hold order was issued, and whether or not Hershberger had violated the order. The hold order was placed on Hershberger's dairy cases in the farm store in by the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) on June 2, 2010.
During his trial, a heavily redacted hold order was submitted to the jury for review. In court, Hershberger had admitted he opened the state seal on his dairy refrigerators to allow his members access to their property.
"For Vernon, this was an act of civil disobedience. He believed the state was exceeding its authority, and that, as owners, his members had every right to the dairy products from their own cows," explains Elizabeth Rich, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund attorney.
A team of attorneys hired by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is filing the appeal. Elizabeth Rich, Glenn Reynolds, Amy Salberg took the original case to court on May 20-24, 2012, and will stay on the case. They have 20 days from the June 13th sentencing to file their appeal, the deadline is July 3.
The law in the state of Wisconsin allows owners of cows to drink their cow's milk without licenses.
"Had the jury understood the totality of the circumstances, they wouldn't have convicted him of violating the holding order. Vernon's conviction was not consistent with the jury's finding that members of Grazin' Acres were owners of the dairy farm, this is why we are appealing," says Rich.
Attorneys handling the case also believe the jury would have cleared the owner of Grazin' Acres of all charges had they seen the full hold order. The redacted portion of the order said the food was "misbranded or adulterated." Attorneys believe Hershberger would have presented a convincing argument that the food was neither adulterated, nor misbranded.
For the one count Hershberger was found guilty of, the potential fine was in excess of $10,000. The judge showed leniency. Hershberger was given a sentence of no jail, no probation, just a $1000 fine, plus mandatory court assessments. The total damages of $1513.00 were paid by the members of Vernon's farm immediately after the sentencing.
Since the acquittals and fine resolved the criminal case, Vernon Hershberger and his Grazin' Acres members can continue to operate unimpeded.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).
CONTACT: Kimberly Hartke, Publicist 703-860-2711 firstname.lastname@example.org
Source:Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund