We Will Not Comply - Two NAIS Resistors Lead the Way
by Deborah Stockton
Michigan cattleman Greg Niewendorp and Pennsylvania dairy farmer Mark Nolt have taken courageous leadership positions by refusing to comply with state attempts at invasive incursions into their farming practices. In February of this year, Niewendorp sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) explaining in detail why he would not participate in their dangerous experimental TB herd testing and eradication program. Several months ago Nolt chose to not renew his raw milk selling permit with the state of Pennsylvania, as he continued to sell raw milk and raw milk products directly from his farm to his customers. By extension, and also, they refuse to participate in the NAIS.
Behind both of these state programs (herd eradication and milk permitting) lurks the spectre of NAIS, with its requirement of “premises registration” first on its list of demands. A close look at the word “premises” shows that the first definition, in reference to real estate, is: “The part of a deed or lease that states the parties involved, the property in conveyance, and other pertinent facts.” One must wonder at the choice of “premises” over “property” or other term where ownership is unambiguous. By complying with “premises” registration, one implicitly acknowledges a property in conveyance. When discussing NAIS, the question of property ownership is central. Not only the land itself, but the animals living on that land. NAIS shifts the role of the farmer, or animal owner, to that of keeper. Similar to the way that industrial chicken house “farmers” are not owners, but managers. It is, after all, being referred to as “livestock premises ID.” However, Niewendorp says, “We have discovered remedies for removing our land and our livestock from premises ID. We are investigating several avenues for removing this oppression from our livestock and our land.”
When Niewendorp submitted his letter to the MDA in February, they immediately placed his farm in quarantine. In May, the MDA referred to his situation as a stalemate. All was quiet until August 21st, when an attempt was made to break the stalemate. Two Michigan state policemen as law enforcement and a regulation agent of the MDA came illegally onto Niewendorp’s property, past his detailed No Trespassing sign and with a state vet lying in wait around the corner down the road, to try and coerce him to test his herd. After escorting them to the property line, Niewendorp spoke with them for several minutes, conversing about respect with regard to personal and professional conduct. Once they left, Niewendorp contacted the local sheriff, who should have been informed and who is the proper and legitimate authority on local enforcement issues, and related to him the morning’s happening. Seven days later, in a 4-way phone conversation with the TB-testing program public relations spokersperson Bridgt Patrick, Michigan state vet Stephen Halstead, and Pat Lockard, liaison to the Governor’s office, Niewendorp informed them that his constitutional rights are violated and that he chooses to face his accuser in the open.
Later in a conversation at the feed store with a fellow cattleman, Niewendorp learned that his case might have been “turned over to the USDA and the Federal Marshals.” I investigated and called the MDA to speak to the vet who allegedly said this, but was told he had been advised not to speak to me. The local sheriff, after hearing Niewendorp’s concerns about possible federal enforcement action, sent a letter to a number of government agencies, including the MDA, Michigan State Police, the USDA, FBI, and the Federal Marshal service, informing them that any enforcement action involving going onto Niewendorp’s property would have to be through him, as the local enforcement agent of the law.
Niewendorp is now openly criticizing the Michigan Animal Industry Act of 1988, the so-called basis for the TB eradication program and for NAIS and livestock premises ID. (Farm Bureau has worked very closely with the MDA, as they do in every other state, to implement this NAIS and premises ID program). Niewendorp said, “Isn’t it interesting that the Animal Industry Act is the vehicle through which this is being accomplished, as it has been on the books for last 18 years and nobody has ever previously challenged it. Having one’s rights violated can give a person the right to criticize because we feel we have something better to offer. It is also my intent to show that the statement that milk is a carrier of TB is a bald-faced lie. The pasteurization laws from the 1930s have to be overturned to allow the sale of Real Milk through private contract.”
Mark Nolt’s actions are based on the position that the private contract sale of his raw milk and raw milk products to his close circle of customers is between him and the individual to whom he is selling. Nolt has also experienced trespass and violation of his constitutional rights. Some months after Nolt chose not to renew his permit, his property was raided by federal and state agents, and $25,000 worth of milk, milk products and dairy equipment was taken. Following the raid, On August 10, a group of Mark’s customers and supporters organized a protest rally to draw attention to his situation. The raid garnered media attention, including a detailed and not unsympathetic editorial in the weekly Lancaster Farming, “the leading Northeast and Mid-Atlantic farm newspaper.” Following is Mark Nolt’s reply to the editorial:
“The August 25 article in this paper on “PA Crackdown on Non-Permit Raw Milk Sales” detailed what happened on our farm on August 10.Mark Nolt and Greg Niewendorp’s property perimeters are the boundaries of freedom for all of us. They are leading the way to the life we all want. Let us unite our will with theirs, together working for what we believe, for the desire of our hearts.
“People ask: Is he trying to change the law? The permit is free, right? Why doesn’t he just get a permit?
“The following is my reply:
“As the article states, ours is a small family farm. We offer all our meat, dairy and eggs directly from the farm to a loyal customer base.
“The article quoted Bill Chirdon, Director of Food Safety at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) saying ‘selling raw milk requires a big commitment and sanitation is so important.’ I agree. As a private farmer providing food for the people who put our farm raised food on their table, I am very aware of the importance of food safety. Our customers are also very concerned about the nutritional quality, the freshness and purity of their food.
“Our food is not sold in public stores or through public distributors.
“Is it against the law to sell farm raised food directly to the people who eat that food?
“In my research I found no lawful requirement for me to obtain a permit from the PDA. I found many
laws that protect my liberty in both the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Bill of Rights – U.S. Constitution. These liberties and rights were recognized as divine God given rights having been established at the time of Creation. Only knowingly and willingly can we waive the use of these rights (such as by taking a permit, license or by contract). When I revoked my last permit with the PDA, I inquired whether they were aware of any waiver or document that still bound me to their public regulations. They have tacitly confirmed that there is no waiver of my rights.
“The August 25 article also quotes doctors with the Department of Health stating that Salmonella
poisoning was linked to raw milk from a York County farmer who has had his raw milk permit revoked by the PDA. They have accused him of having caused 29 cases of Salmonella poisoning. Like our farm, they have seen absolutely no evidence to verify that anyone has become sick from their milk. (Our farm has been accused by the Health Dept. of causing 5 cases of foodborne illness with no evidence to verify the accusation). I am aware of many other raw milk permitted PA farmers who have been accused of having pathogenic bacteria in their milk who haven’t caused any illnesses. The York county farm has been shut down for nearly 6 months. What is the real cost of a permit?? My desire is that the truth can be known.
“Even though my rights are clearly spelled out and protected by the constitutions, it is not my intention to be stubborn, just to preserve these rights to earn a livelihood and do the work of my choice. Rather than be forced to take a permit, I could give up dairying. I could seek another avenue to support my family. But neither is it my desire to cheat my neighbors, my community, nor my fellow farmers.
“Many people yearn to make a living on a small farm. Many folks desire healthy food obtained directly from the farmer. Many people come to us for a food recommended to them by their doctors or by a doctor’s prescription. It behooves us all to fill this responsibility. It is for this cause that I stand. I encourage your readers to support this cause as well.”
Deborah Stockton is the Editor of VICFA Voice, the monthly newsletter of the Virginia Independent Consumers
and Farmers Association, and writes from Charlottesville, VA. www.VICFA.net email: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 19, 2007
We Will Not Comply - Two NAIS Resistors Lead the Way