Jenny Samuelson wasn't on the delivery truck carrying 248 gallons of raw milk, 100 dozen organic eggs and other local meat and dairy products. If she herself was making the rounds to co-op members in Michigan, she said what occurred last week never would have happened in the first place.
Milk that was supposed to be delivered to My Family Co-Op members in Michigan last week was dumped instead after state inspectors found the co-op did not have a food license, something the owner says she didn't need. (Image source: High Hills Dairy/Facebook)
According to Samuelson, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development stopped her brother, who was making the deliveries, and seized all of the products in a licensing dispute. Though the meat and some other products were returned to Samuelson this week, provided she would not sell them, she was forced to dump all the milk costing about $3,600 by her estimates, break the 1,200 eggs and dispose of the other dairy products.
"It was actually the consumers products that they dumped," Samuelson, the owner of My Family Co-Op, told TheBlaze Thursday. "It was perfectly good milk too."
"It’s sad we've got to fight for our rights just to get good food," she added.
Thousands of eggs were broken as well, not to mention other dairy products like cream and cheese thrown away. (Image source: High Hill Dairy/Facebook)
The crux of the issue was that the state said Samuelson needed a license to distribute food in the way that she was.
Jennifer Holton, a spokeswoman for MDARD, told TheBlaze that three of its inspectors stopped and reviewed the truck on July 15, finding that it sold food without a license and noting that some of the products were not in accordance with state law.
"Selling food without a license is in violation of our state's food law," Holton said, pointing out that it would, however, be legal for customers to deal directly with the farmer.
"Safety of our all of our food products is our No. 1 priority," Holton continued, adding that most of the items on the truck were not labeled and that the eggs were not cleaned or graded, which she said is also required by the state's food law.
As part of its protocol for these violations, Holton said the food items were seized and over the weekend an agreement was reached with Samuelson. In accordance with that agreement, on Monday, most of the food items were disposed of.
"We really work hard every day to make sure companies have the proper licensing and safety protocol in place," Holton said. "When any product has a potential to impact public health, we have a due diligence to place those products under seizure."
Holton said all the information regarding licensing is posted on the MDARD website and added that when people call the help line, they are put directly in contact with a live person who can walk them through the process.
Samuelson though countered that "legally … under our constitutional rights we can have a two-party contract from a person to me."
Samuelson explained that prior to this incident, her co-op contracted with the members and participating farms. Samuelson essentially was a middleman.
"It was like you hiring your neighbor to go pick up your milk for you," she said. "The difference is I was doing it for 600 people. The contract was legally with me; I dealt with the people directly and the farmers."
Listen to the discussion about the regulations that was had while the group was dumping the milk earlier this week in this video posted to Facebook:
After the licensing problem and seizure last week, Samuelson reorganized her contract structure. For example, those who lease cows for raw milk now do so directly with the farm, instead of through her, and the farm contracts with Samuelson to deliver its products.
Though Samuelson said she felt the co-op was legally operating before, she said she didn't want to fight it with the state because "we wouldn’t get anywhere."
"It’s ridiculous what they did," she said. "[The state] tried to shut down my business, basically. I try to keep small farms alive. I know what farming is about and that's why I make sure they get what they deserve."
While Samuelson doesn't plan on fighting the state on this issue, because she felt it was more important to start delivering products again, she said "my consumers are going to fight them."
Paraphrasing a perspective she says has been voiced by Mark Baker, a farmer in Michigan who also has had run-ins with the state for his "feral pigs," Samuelson said "the problem is Michigan milk doesn't want me here."
"While my sales are going up, their sales are dropping," she said.
(H/T: The Organic Prepper)