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Amish farmer targeted by FDA raids shuts down raw milk business

An Amish man who was targeted by federal officials for selling raw milk across state lines – and whose cause was championed by GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul – has shut down his dairy farm.

Dan Allgyer closed his rural Pennsylvania business after a federal judge sided with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and ruled that he violated federal law. U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel on Feb. 3 ordered Allgyer to stop selling unpasteurized milk across state lines, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Allgyer operated Rainbow Acres Farm, a small dairy farm in Kinzers, in Lancaster County, Pa., that packaged raw milk and sold it to a group of suburban Washington, D.C., consumers called Grassfed On The Hill.  FDA agents infiltrated the buyers’ group by posing as customers and placing orders for delivery across state lines. Federal agents then raided Allgyer’s farm in April 2010. The government filed a civil complaint last year against Allgyer.

“Instead of ceasing his illegal operations, Mr. Allgyer attempted to evade federal regulations that prohibit the interstate sale of raw milk by creating a private membership organization that he used to enter into cow-sharing agreements with his customers,” the Justice Department said.

In the Feb. 3 order granting summary judgment in the government’s favor, the court found that the cow-sharing agreements were “merely a subterfuge” and ordered Allgyer and his associates to stop distributing unpasteurized milk for human consumption in interstate commerce, according to the Justice Department.    

Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The FDA says unpasteurized milk can contain a variety of harmful bacteria, including listeria, E.coli, salmonella and campylobacter.

“The FDA has determined that drinking raw milk can cause significant harm,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a statement. “Working with our federal partners, we will bring enforcement actions like this one to ensure that the American food supply is safe and consumers are not exposed to such risks."

Advocates of raw milk claim the milk is safe and say the government should butt out of individual food choices.

In a statement to its customers, Karine Bouis-Towe of Grassfed On The Hill said: “Dan and Rachel Allgyer have determined that they will discontinue service to our group and close down the farm. Dan has served many of us for more than six years and he is very saddened to have to make this decision but the stress and strain that his family has been under for the past few years due to the case and now the decision has given them no other choice.”

In a telephone interview, Bouis-Towe told msnbc.com: “We are making arrangements to continue to serve our customers. We’re not giving up as a buying club in supporting the consumers’ demands.”

Liz Reitzig, a mother who is an organizer of Grass Fed On The Hill, told The Washington Times the government lawyers ought to "be ashamed."

"Many families are dependent on the milk for health reasons or nutritional needs, so a lot of people will be desperately trying to find another source now," she said, according to the newspaper.

Paul, a Texas congressman who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, and many of his libertarian-minded followers have championed Allgyer’s cause, condemning the FDA's aggressive enforcement actions against raw milk producers as government tyranny.

Paul referred to the Allgyer case last May when he introduced a bill in the House to allow the shipment and distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products for human consumption across state lines.

In a statement introducing the legislation, Paul said: “He was not tricking people into buying it, he was not forcing people to purchase it, and there had been no complaints about his product. These were completely voluntary transactions, but ones that our nanny-state federal government did not approve of, and so they shut down his business.”

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