Self-described food rights activists from around the U.S. will be rallying all week across from the Sauk County Courthouse to support dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger. Hershberger is charged with distributing milk and operating a retail food establishment and dairy plant without proper licenses. He is also charged with violating a hold order from the state after it conducted a raw milk raid.
“If Vernon is found guilty, this is going to be a mechanism that other states use to prosecute other farmers,” said Liz Reitzig, co-founder of Farm Food Freedom Coalition, who made the trip from Maryland.
Hershberger supporters believe farmers should have a right to sell raw milk to consumers; they claim the substance has numerous health benefits which are removed during the pasteurization process.
Meanwhile, a coalition of dairy trade groups and medical organizations claim otherwise. “Doctors, public health leaders and microbiology professionals recognize the substantial risk for serious infectious diseases to occur with the consumption of unpasteurized milk,” according to a statement from the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition.
Attempts to legalize the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin have had success in the legislature. In 2010, then-Governor Jim Doyle vetoed such a bill after its passage by lawmakers. State Senator Glenn Grothman has said he wants to introduce raw milk bill this session.