A state appeals court has upheld the conviction of a Sauk County dairy farmer who was charged with violating state laws by selling raw milk.
Vernon Hershberger of Loganville was convicted last year on a misdemeanor count of violating a state holding order, which directed him to stop selling unpasteurized milk from his farm. Hershberger argued that he was not subject to state rules against selling unpasteurized milk because his hundreds of buyers were in a private club that did not sell the product to the general public.
The holding order at the center of Hershberger’s appeal came from state agriculture inspectors in 2010, who raided his Sauk County farm and ordered him to stop selling his product. Prosecutors argued that he continued to violate the order though, which resulted in additional charges. While he was convicted of violating the holding order and fined $1,000, Hershbergrer was found not guilty on charges that he was selling food, producing milk, and operating a dairy plant without the proper state licenses.
Hershberger appealed the conviction, arguing that he was not allowed to present evidence at trial that would have helped his case and that an unedited copy of the holding order was kept out of evidence. The Fourth District Court of Appeals sided with the circuit court’s decision to keep Hershberger from making what amounted to a “collateral attack” on the factual basis for the holding order, keeping his conviction in place.
The case is just the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin. Advocates of the product have been pushing the state for years to legalize its sale, arguing raw milk is healthier and tastes better than pasteurized milk. Opponents, which include health groups and the Wisconsin Dairy Association, contend sales of the product could risk the spread of food-borne illnesses and ruin Wisconsin’s worldwide reputation as a dairy leader.