Two agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, two deputy federal marshals, and a Pennsylvania State trooper drove into an Amish farmyard one morning last week at 5:00 AM. The Lancaster County farmer, Dan Allgyer of Kinzers, was already out preparing to milk his cows when the cars arrived.
He challenged them and was told that they were there to inspect his milk operation. The next day Mr. Allgyer received a notice from Kirk Sooter, district director of the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services office in Philadelphia, warning him that the sale of raw, un-pasteurized milk for interstate commerce is strictly prohibited. If he doesn’t correct the situation, the results could be an injunction or seizure. “Failure to make prompt corrections could result in regulatory action without further notice,” the letter warned.
According to the news story about the incident, the agents had also visited the farm in February, warning Mr. Allgyer about the sale of raw milk. The issue is being championed by the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which seeks to improve direct relationships between farmers and consumers and promote the consumption of locally grown foods.
A spokesperson for the Association indicated that Mr. Allgyer’s work exemplifies the ideals that her group is trying to promote, of direct farm sales to consumers. Mr. Allgyer gave details to the association, which is disseminating the story. Allgyer evidently challenged the officers about the extremely early hour of the inspection and that their search warrant specified that it was valid at “reasonable times during ordinary business hours.” One of the agents defended their raid, saying that 5:00 AM was a normal operating time for a farm.
Allgyer’s family was still asleep when the agents drove in, but he soon aroused them. The agents, Allgyer reported, occupied themselves by “rooting around, like a couple of pigs, in the freezer and cooler area.” He complained that the visit by the agents delayed their breakfast, the morning milking, and the family’s daily devotions. His children asked his wife if their daddy was going to go to jail.
On one level, the story is about a conflict between a government agency enforcing regulations that, it believes, have been designed to protect the people and advocates of farmers who want to sell to local consumers. On a different level, the story is also about a traditional Amish farmer wanting to live a quiet life with his family and hoping to have good relations with his neighbors, but running afoul of regulatory agents who have no compunction about hassling him.