(RepublicanJournal.org) – A Virginia farmer who ran an innovative co-op herd of cattle has been raided by state officials — and forced to stop selling his meat. It started out with an inspection that crossed a line; now the state has seized his produce and charged him with a range of offenses. It looks like a pattern of official raids on old-fashioned farmers is emerging.
Samuel B. Fisher is about as far from a modern industrialized farmer as you can get. The cattle he raises on his Cumberland County, Virginia, farm don’t get shipped off to a huge processing plant to be slaughtered, butchered, and packed by migrant laborers working in unsanitary conditions. Instead, he butchers them right there on his farm. He isn’t selling the meat to national distributors; his local customers buy a share of his herd, making them co-owners.
It turns out the government doesn’t like this. On June 14, an inspector from the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) paid an unannounced visit and asked to search the farm. Fisher refused, but the next day the inspector came back, with a sheriff’s deputy and a search warrant. After spending three hours searching the farm, he put Fisher’s walk-in freezer in “administrative detention,” meaning he couldn’t take any meat out of it — even to feed his family.
The inspector’s complaint is that Fisher’s meat wasn’t being processed in a USDA-approved facility so isn’t fit for consumption (although USDA meat processing standards are among the lowest in the developed world). Technically that covers meat sold to the public — although Fisher has explained his communally-owned herd to officials — but in fact there’s no law that prevents him from processing meat on the farm for his own consumption.
When Fisher ignored the detention order and sold his “mislabeled, uninspected, and possibly adulterated” meat anyway, he was rapidly dragged to court. On July 18, a Cumberland County judge gave the state permission to seize his meat. Weeks later he was fined for “unlawfully possessing, selling, and/or transporting animals.”
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