In the Raw

Contraband milk


In April police hauled off Mark Nolt in handcuffs for being a dairy deviant. Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court cited the Mennonite farmer for contempt after he ignored a 2007 injunction prohibiting him from selling raw milk and cheese.

The peddling of unorthodox dairy products is legal in Pennsylvania, but it requires a permit. Nolt let his license expire in a gesture of protest, telling the Cumberland County Sentinel that "the Constitution clearly spells out we have the right [to] do private business."

The arresting officers were joined by several representatives of the state Department of Agriculture. The assembled forces swarmed onto the farm, loaded several trucks with contraband milk and cheese, and left with an inventory worth thousands of dollars. In addition to the loss of his stock, Nolt faces a $1,000 fine for each violation of Pennsylvania's dairy regime.

On May 5, customers and neighbors rallied at the Nolt farm to support the right to bear farmer's cheese. His supporters are mulling ways to change the law.

NEXT: Barrwatch: Season of the Witch

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  1. OK good to know. It will be interesting if it goes somewhere. Most likely raw milk boy is just going to get stomped under the jackboot heal of the state. Sounds like it’d be a good case for the merry band of litigators.

  2. This guy’s got guts. We need more people like him in this country — especially in nanny states such as Penn.

  3. They can have my cheese when they pry it out of my cold, dead, cheesy fingers

  4. He’s lucky they didn’t shoot his cows.

  5. Indeed, d. Standing on the tracks in front of the locomotive of state is stupid if you don’t realize the consequences in advance, but a brave self-sacrifice if (like this guy) you know exactly what you’re in for.

    The fact that something as trivial as regulating the availability of raw milk (!!) has become such an issue is a clear sign that the state is more concerned about appearing weak than about actually protecting people, because only people who are looking hard and doing their research will be able to find raw milk in the first place.

    When thinking about why government does something, remember only one rule: follow the money.

  6. Please sir! My calf has lost its mother! He refuses that pastuerized stuff and is just getting weaker and weaker!

  7. Sounds like a job for Jury nullification.


  8. My sister is a Mennonite in TN who faces a similar problem. A few of their fellow church-goers raise their own dairy cattle, but are unable to make a profit off of it because the state of TN forbids the sale of raw, unpasturized milk for human consumption. My sister and her family would like to be able to purchase the milk as it is cheaper, healthier and better tasting, but as the law forbids it, they have decided to forgo supporting their community members to obey the government. The rules have become so rediculous that I believe it is possible to sell the raw milk with a permit and a sticker on the jug that says “Not for Human Consumption”. Obviously, the states are concerned about our own inability to regulate the food we intake. (insert sarcasm here)Just look at the tomato/jalapeno crisis… if only we’d had regulations prohibiting the sale of raw tomatoes and jalapenos, no one would have gotten sick!

  9. Sounds like a job for Jury nullification.

    Won’t work. Contrary to the religion that has sprung up to promote it, jury nullification isn’t the silver bullet to slay an unjust law. You might be able to use it to get this one guy off, but the law WILL STILL BE THERE! Other people will continue to be prosecuted under this ridiculous law.

    In order to use JN to remove a bad law, it needs to be applied to EVERY case involving the bad law. That’s not going to happen. The 19th century emancipation movement couldn’t manage it, and the far far smaller FIJA movement isn’t going to make it happen in today’s apathetic climate. But imagine if you could, imagine if every juror was informed enough? In such a climate we wouldn’t need jury nullification because we would be voting out the nitwits writing those nitwit laws!

    The sad fact is that a society in which jury nullification works is a society that doesn’t need it.

  10. jury nullification isn’t the silver bullet to slay an unjust law.

    Furthermore, I’ve never been called for jury duty. Not that I’d likely make it past the voir dire even if I did. All that aside, the point of a case like this isn’t to have it decided at trial. The point is to take the case to an appellate court where a precedent can be set overturning the law.

  11. Well I think the farmer should be able to grow poppies and sell heroin to consenting adults, so you can figger out my opinion on a guy selling unpateurized whole milk represented as unpateurized whole milk.

  12. Last Saturday, I went to a little neighborhood grocery near my place which specializes in exotic foods, cheese included. I had a hankering for a certain imported cheese which I had discovered there last year, and which appears sporadically, and sells out quickly. The cheese is called “Gour Noir” and is from some place in France.

    The woman behind the counter told me they were no longer going to carry this cheese. I asked why, thinking she would say it was because the dollar was so weak, it was no longer economical to import it.

    A collapsing dollar is not the reason. Instead, Gour Noir is no longer available, because the FDA prohibits its sale. Apparently, it is made from raw goat milk, and is not made in accordance with FDA approved methods.

    I feel so . . . . safe, now, knowing I am being protected from deadly cheese that has been eaten in Europe for decades, if not centuries, by countless people.

    One can never be too careful, when it comes to potentially deadly cheese.

    Land of the free and home of the brave…yeah, right. Not as free and brave as the French, I guess.

    Next thing, I won’t be able to eat Fugu at my local sushi bar any more.

  13. I’m confused. Is Nolt’s rationale for letting his license expire that the licenses are per se unconstitutional, or is he claiming a religious exemption? When he says “we,” does he mean Americans, or Mennonites and other members of sects whose beliefs may lead them to, e.g., refuse oaths, military service, etc.? He would have a stronger, though no less consequential, case on the latter grounds.

    Also, what does one have to do to get one of these permits in PA?

  14. Mmm, raw milk. Full of mucus and blood and pathogens, delicious.

  15. I was all excited about the prospect of KMW writing something about the local-foodshed movement that went beyond snark. Then it turns out there just isn’t much article here. (I realize print-mag space limitations are real.) Maybe next time?

  16. Mmm, raw milk. Full of mucus and blood and pathogens, delicious.

    First day with the new planet?

  17. Bovine Tuberculosis is usually transmitted to humans via infected milk, although it can also spread via aerosol droplets. Actual infections in humans are rare, mostly due to pasteurisation killing any bacteria in infected milk; as well, cattle are randomly tested for the disease and immediately destroyed if infected. However, in areas of the developing world where pasteurisation is not routine, Bovine Tuberculosis is a relatively common cause of human tuberculosis.

  18. Are we sure that the terrorists haven’t won? This is really starting to look like a police state to me. This is a farmer with milk and cheese, yet they treat him like a Columbian drug lord. That’s some fine police work, Lou….

  19. If nothing else, let him make the cheese!

    What is it in PA, 60 days aging? Once it’s past that point, it is effectively preserved.

    I don’t drink much milk, but I’d eat the cheese.

    I eat a few pounds of raw milk cheese a year (mostly from Europe). Someone else said “follow the money.” Yup, we know who the USDA is protecting.

  20. He’s lucky they didn’t shoot his cows.

    Seriously. We all know that anyone with a Banned Substance on the premises must be flash-banged and have their door kicked down to prevent magical disposal of the substance.

    Tainted cheese . . .

    Alert the Urkobold!

  21. I don’t know what the permit regulations are like, but I can see a pretty compelling public interest in keeping raw milk that hasn’t been tested for bovine TB off of the market. After all, those willing to take the risk by drinking it themselves can transmit the disease to other humans, as has happened for centuries. It very well may be true that this regulation is more burdensome on raw foodists than it is protective of everyone else, but it just doesn’t have the same arbitrary capriciousness of, say, licenses for interior decorators.

  22. The charges were brought on Nolt through the PA Health Department not Agri. The license is free. Nolt also sold yogurts and other products that would not be allowed by permit. PA with its Gov “Fast Eddie” Rendell and his out of control Health Dept are deep in the back pockets of the “healthist” and Big Pharma. Ed and his cronies have redirected tobacco(MSA funds) and overcharges from health insurance cos to their special interst projects for Big Pharma related projects. No surprise here just imagine what Big Pharma would lose if main stream farmers sarted farming naturally. Zero tolerance has to be enforced.

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