Raiding US farms to prevent non-corporate food distribution
Please follow this case to see how it turns out:
Ohio Dept. of Agriculture and Ohio SWAT raided an organic food co-op with guns drawn.
Corporate interests are doing whatever it takes to stop you and I from choosing not to buy from them.
The resulting lawsuit against Ohio basically makes two claims:
1) A violent, armed raid was unnecessary and illegal
2) (very important), That private farms may distribute food locally without government interference.
You can read the lawsuit here:
There will always be zealots like Dorothy Kloos and William Lesho. If the Big industry would love use the government to have local food community networks treated like drug dealers. If they succeed, the ramifications are obvious.
After reading the return of service on the warrant application here:
I think it is quite clear what happened. Three inspectors from the health department went to inspect what was clearly an unlicensed food establishment. The owner of the Manna Storehouse then threw them off of the property, and sent them a letter accusing them of committing a crime (including such language as "you have the right to remain silent"), and informing them that they were to keep off the property. Based on the tone of Jacqueline Stowers’ letter, we can assume that she is even less tactful in person. She refers to the other inspectors as "accomplices." And Mannstorehouse is not just a "Mom and Pop" business. They were probably dealing in some considerable volume.
[quote=Jacqueline Stowers] Since you have betrayed our trust by trying to cunningly coerce unlawful entry into our house and private property under the guise of an "inspection", we are now giving you LEGAL NOTICE that our Private Property is not to be entered or visited without permission by us in writing. We feel that you knew or should have known that an unlawful entry is a crime and we will not tolerate any more surprise unwanted visits. All further communications shall be in writing so that we can document all correspondences including any violation of our rights, any violations of the law, or even any violations of administrative procedures that you may commit. Any violation will result in litigation being instituted against you and your agency. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you and your agency in a court of law. [/quote]
Jacqueline Stowers made it very clear that she would not voluntarily allow people onto her property. This left the health authorities no option but to obtain a search warrant.
Health officers and health inspectors (being unarmed) need not, but nevertheless may, command the assistance of the police department when serving a search warrant. Incidentally, I myself have been employed as a health officer, and have served several search warrants on recalcitrant business owners, although never with the assistance of the police. In this case the health authority may have felt that police assistance could be necessary given the highly aggressive attitude of the owners.
Now, when you ask for police assistance, you get what you get. Police departments are sometimes staffed by people who enjoy bonking heads. In this case, they may have felt indignant because Mrs. Stowers had trampled the authority of a health officer (not a brother to them, but at least a cousin). The health inspectors themselves probably felt the same way, having been rough-handled by the owners. Thus, there was a collective sense of humiliation and official outrage, and they went down there, with police backup, to show the owners how things work. You don’t slight the authority of the health department.
So they burst in with the warrant and confiscated a bunch of stuff. The police team, being a police team, felt the urge to enter the house with their guns unholstered (although given the fundamentalist vitriol of these people, that may not have been at all unnecessary).
If the owners had simply allowed the health department to do its inspection, they would probably have merely been told to get a permit, nothing more. Instead they humiliated the inspectors, threw them off of their property, and incited a strong official reaction.
Unfortunate? Yes, very. Avoidable? Yes. Part of an inimical national conspiracy against non-corporate food? No. This is in Ohio where there are more mom-and-pop farm retailers than you can shake a stick at. Part of an insidious plot by the federal government to support agribusiness and deprive the people of the heartland of the ability to grow their own food? No, of course not. The federal government wasn’t even involved.
By the way, this dispute had evidently been going on for more than a year. According to the affidavit, the health department had called them the day before their inspectors were thrown off the property, telling them one final time that they needed a permit. I have a feeling that Stowers was less than agreeable to the idea. Somebody was going to lose this contest of wills, and it wasn’t the health department.
So, an unfortunate situation all around, involving a very unpleasant woman, and some very indignent local health officials. But a secret evil conspiracy? Not this time.
This just confirms my stupidity theorem:
Be reluctant to attribute to malace what you would sooner attribute to stupidity.
Just get the permit!