The Wisconsin raw-milk kerfuffle

There’s been chatter about Dane County (Wisconsin) Judge Patrick J. Fiedler’s recent decision in cases 09-CV-6313 and 10-CV-3884. Details are sadly lacking, but it appears that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection ( went after dairy Nourished By Nature LLC for selling unpasteurized milk; Nourished By Nature offered the defense that it isn’t a dairy, it’s a herdshare, so it doesn’t have to pasteurize its milk.

Um. Herdshare?

It’s a legal dodge whereby a dairy sells shares in its herd of cows, then contracts with shareholders to board the cows & deliver their milk (unpasteurized) to the shareholders. Since it’s not a dairy, it doesn’t have to obey the laws & regulations that apply to dairies.

The DATCP didn’t buy it, and – apparently – neither did Judge Fiedler:

Finally, it is clear from their motion to clarify that the Plaintiffs still fail to recognize that they are not merely attempting to enforce their “right” to own a cow and board it at a farm. Instead, Plaintiffs operate a dairy farm. (Emphasis added.) As this court already said in its decision and order, if Plaintiffs want to continue to operate their dairy farm then they must do so in a way that complies with the laws of Wisconsin.

The articles I’ve read are full of sound & fury about the government’s infringement of citizens’ fundamental property rights, which completely misses the point. Calling it a herdshare doesn’t make it any less a dairy, and doesn’t grant exemption from the law.

(Reading court decisions has been a hobby of mine for the last few years. One thing I’ve learned is that a judge’s opinion isĀ very carefully & precisely written. It’s unfortunate that journalists so often mangle the opinion’s meticulous reasoning and narrow conclusions when writing about it; but outrage sells more newspapers than understanding.)

2 thoughts on “The Wisconsin raw-milk kerfuffle

  1. Pat Post author

    I found a copy online of Judge Fiedler’s original order, which I summarize as follows:

    1. Wisconsin law forbids sale of raw milk to the public.
    2. Wisconsin law allows people with a legitimate financial interest in a milk producer’s license to receive raw milk for their personal use.
    3. Herdshare agreements with a dairy farm do not qualify as a legitimate financial interest. They are, in fact, a sham intended to circumvent #1.

    (I note with amusement that one of the plaintiffs in this case doesn’t even have a milk producer’s license – it expired in 2008.)

    So there never was any constitutional issue here – just some nitwits who think the law doesn’t apply to them. Sorry, nitwits.

  2. Pat Post author

    I found a web site today offering legal advice for dairy farmers contemplating a herdshare setup: how to get around that pesky no-sales-of-raw-milk restriction while not looking like you’re getting around it.

    Why do people try so hard to infect themselves with campylobacter jejuni?

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