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State seeks to revoke raw milk farmer’s bail

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin officials have asked a Sauk County judge to send a dairy farmer whose prosecution became a rallying point for raw milk advocates to jail for breaking conditions of his bail.

The state filed a motion Friday to revoke farmer Vernon Hershberger’s bail. The motion cites a Capital Times report quoting Hershberger as saying he continued to sell raw milk and other farm products after the state ordered him to stop.

Terms of Hershberger’s bail specify he not sell or process dairy products without a license, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Last month a jury acquitted Hershberger, 41, of Loganville on three charges of producing, processing and selling milk without proper state licenses. But he was found guilty of one count of violating a holding order on products on his farm after a 2010 raid by agents from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger gets lunch for himself and his family during a break at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo on May 20. Hershberger was on trial across the street at the Sauk County Courthouse, accused of illegally selling raw milk. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, M.P. King)

That meant Hershberger had to continue to operate under bail conditions set in January 2012 by Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Guy Reynolds that included an order not to sell any food or milk from his store. The state asked Reynolds to hear the motion Monday.

“It is a concern that any defendant would engage in and openly admit to actions which clearly disregard the court-ordered conditions of release (on bail),” Assistant Wisconsin Attorneys General Eric Defort and Phillip Ferris wrote.

Hershberger’s attorney, Glenn Reynolds, called the motion disappointing because the bail terms Hershberger is accused of violating are the same activities that led to the charges of which he was acquitted.

“It seems vindictive in my view,” he said. “He goes to trial and wins and now they want to put him in jail? What is the point of this sort of motion?”

Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck declined to comment.

The Capital Times story Wednesday quoted Hershberger as saying he never stopped selling raw milk and other products to his buyers’ club despite a state order on June 2, 2010.

“I can tell you the truth now. We never shut down,” Hershberger said in the article. “We continued to feed our community. That’s the way it continued all along.”

With few exceptions, Wisconsin farmers can’t sell unpasteurized milk directly to consumers because it may contain pathogens that could make people sick. But raw milk advocates believe unprocessed milk contains bacteria that boost the immune system.

Hershberger’s supporters have said he was targeted because he sold the raw milk through a private buyers’ club with several hundred members.

Hershberger could get up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine when he is sentenced.

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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