Go With the Regs or Go to Jail
The Miller’s Organic Farm Case: Part 1
Why write about a disturbing misfortune when to all appearances nothing can be done?
In the Amish village of Bird-in-Hand in a remote area of Pennsylvania, Miller’s Organic Farm has been in business for a century. Today, it supplies organic foods—grass-fed beef, raw milk and eggs, dairy from grass-fed water buffalo, and all types of produce—to a private food club of 4,000 members who pay top dollar for high-quality whole food.
Members want food from a farmer who doesn’t process his meat and dairy products at U.S. Department of Agriculture facilities. Aaron Miller, the owner, chooses to defend his preparation of food as the way God intended it. He himself has run the farm for a quarter of a century with no electricity, no fertilizer, and no gasoline. Observers are impressed with crop yields he achieves by the oldest and 100 percent organic methods.
The farm’s website says: “…we are proud to be entirely chemical, cruelty, and GMO-free. The animals are born and raised without antibiotics or hormones, and they spend their entire lives naturally and stress-free out on pasture. All the farm’s food is traceable, pure, and grown on nutrient-dense soil, under traditional time-honored methods.”
Sounds to me like the consolidated dream about a dozen environmentalist organizations: opposing animal cruelty, GMO, and use of chemical fertilizers—not to mention eliminating fossil fuels (no gas, no electricity).
Last summer, armed federal agents sent by the USDA demanded that Miller cease operations and prepared to hit him with more than $300,000 in fines. That would shut Amos Miller down.
They demanded that he stop selling meat until he comes under federal agencies that regulate it. Miller responds that such regulation “hurts the nutrition of the food…you wash it in these things, you’re given these vaccines, and the cows get all types of medicine, I don’t do any of that…your regulatory process will actually hurt the quality of my food and that’s what I’m being paid top dollar for…”
Federal agents camped at the farm to take inventory of his meat, dairy, and other food to make sure he is not selling anything and not increasing his production.
Miller took the case to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania, which ruled in favor of the USDA. The USDA dictated the following text required to be posted on the farm’s website:
“To the Members of Miller’s Organic Farm:
Please be advised…Miller’s Organic Farm violated the Court’s Injunction Order and Consent Decree. Accordingly, we will not provide fresh or newly slaughtered amenable meat, meat food products, poultry, and poultry products for sale or purchase unless and until Miller’s Organic Farm liquidates its existing…frozen meat and poultry inventory and complies with other requirements of this Order and other orders of the Court…
“…We are working diligently with the government to find some long-term solutions…”
But what “long-term” (or even short-term) solution? Miller’s farm is in violation of what might be called “bedrock” USDA regulations. The court order listing violations is an outline of the USDA’s Food and Inspection Service regimen. Farmer Miller’s own judgment of how to produce the highest quality food is a flat-out rejection of regulation. A decision of the court suggests the government’s position on Miller’s methods.
On July 21, 2021, Federal Judge Edward G. Smith signed a 39-page order imposing sanctions on Miller and the farm, including a $250,000 fine and other penalties “to effect defendants’ future compliance, by making them aware of the seriousness of their violations and the consequences of future violations…”
The farm was ordered to pay the fine within 30 days or face further penalties “including imprisonment of Amos Miller.”
The farm is ordered not to slaughter any animals in violation of the order or face a $25,000 a day penalty. Miller is ordered to cease and desist all meat and poultry retail operations, except to get rid of inventory.
In summer, 2022, Amos Miller, continuing his six-year legal battle with the USDA (represented by the U.S, Justice Department), filed papers with the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania. Miller also has taken some of the decision-making to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, including an appeal to change attorneys (which has been denied).
Walter Donway is an author and writer with more than a dozen books available on Amazon and an editor of the e-zine Savvy Street. He was program officer or director at two leading New York City foundations in the healthcare field: The Commonwealth Fund and the Dana Foundation. He has published almost two dozen articles in the Blockchain Healthcare Review.