Morningland Dairy Gets Ready to Go to Court—
December 6th, 2010
As we’ve been watching Senate Bill 510 for the past several weeks, going from hither to yon with much angst amongst the various food activist groups regarding the ability of the Tester Amendment to ‘help’ (or NOT) independent agriculture, other things have been going on. Morningland Dairy, for instance, has entered the next phase of their fight to be able to continue to make cheese that the FDA thinks “poses an acute and life threatening danger” because it is made from raw milk, and hasn’t had a single report of illness associated with the dairy in 30 years of production. (You can read more about it here)
Morningland is charged with three violations by the Missouri Attorney General’s office on behalf of the Missouri Milk Board. They are charged with, “Unlawful Sale of Dairy Products”, “Failure to Comply with a Destruction Order”, and “Unlawful Interference with Milk Board Duties”. The Missouri Milk Board claims that there is no procedure in place to appeal the decision of the Milk Board, and that belief is actually responsible for all three charges levied against Morningland Dairy, since they haven’t made or sold any of their cheese since the Milk Board first placed an embargo on their product on August 26th.
Last week the State of Missouri brought in their first expert for a deposition. This was John Frank, who reportedly was to demonstrate that Morningland Dairy’s cheese should all be condemned because it is a single line production facility. It’s my understanding that his deposition didn’t actually prove that to be the conclusion a reasonable person would arrive at when considering the evidence in the case.
Next, the State desires to depose the principals Of Morningland Dairy. Those being Joseph and Denise Dixon, co-owners and General Managers of Morningland Dairy, and Jedadiah York, the Plant Manger. Mr. York and Mrs. Dixon are readily available for deposition, but Morningland’s attorney, Gary Cox, of Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund wants to be present at their depositions to be able to assert proper procedure in defense of his clients. He is only able to be present for a few days in December and early January, and the Missouri Attorney General’s office isn’t pleased with such limited access to the objects of their affection….so they have requested that the counsel sponsoring Cox into Missouri take the position of defending Morningland in their depositions.
The Missouri Attorney General’s office is going to have a bit more difficulty in getting a deposition from Joseph Dixon in this suit. As if having to dump their milk for nearly six weeks wasn’t enough, the Missouri Milk Board has prohibited Morningland from resuming production to keep this family run farmstead cheese plant providing for the families dependent upon it for their livelihood. Mr. Dixon insisted that their counsel inform the Attorney General’s office that he was unavailable for deposition in the following manner:
“Unfortunately, Joe Dixon is not available for deposition. Since the state has put his family’s cheese making business out of business Joe has to work out of state to support his family. This week Joe is working in Maryland, next week he is working in Alabama and the week after that I understand he is working in Florida. To give you an idea of what the state has done to the Dixon family, Joe has to leave his family on the weekend, travel all night to get to his place of work, then work all week before returning home on the weekend. He then leaves home again, let’s say for Maryland, and drives all night to get to his place of work. Thus, Joe is not available for depositions unless you wish to travel to Maryland, Alabama or to Florida after first serving him with a subpoena. Moreover, Joe finds it perverse that he has to work to support his family and then the state collects taxes from him so that those tax dollars can be used by the state to harass he and his family and deprive them of a livelihood. Finally, any information you would need from Joe would be available from Denise.” (emphasis added-otherwise sic)
In the Deep South, there’s a colloquialism that is used to sum this kind of statement up…With the actions of the Congress and the agencies they empower, it sure looks like many more of us will have the opportunity to use this expression…”And that’s how the cow ate the cabbage!”