When provincial agricultural officials in Ontario raided raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt’s farm this past October, they were accompanied by local police. The raid turned into a standoff that ended only when a deal was reached that allowed some samples and computers to be removed, but dropped equipment seizures.
After going through raids and trials for 22 years, Schmidt brings more experience than most to such confrontations. The October raid, however, has resulted in Schmidt and four other Ontario being charged with one count each of obstructing a peace officer.
A warrant for the arrest of George Bothwell of Meaford remains outstanding and the West Grey police public plea for anyone who knows his whereabouts has not helped locate him. Schmidt, Robert Pinnell of Durham, John Schnurr of South Bruce Peninsula, and Enos Martin of Chesley are scheduled to appear in Ontario Court of Justice on Aug 17 for trial.
In addition to the criminal case, Schmidt is defending against civil proceedings in Ontario Superior Court in Newmarket that seek to shutdown both his raw milk distribution and his herd-share operation. Members would be prohibited from encouraging others to drink raw milk.
When Schmidt went to court for that one in March, he had about 300 supporters with him. The court on that day only did some scheduling and set aside some technical issues.
Schmidt was charged in 2006 with multiple counts of both selling and distributing unpasteurized milk and cheese from an unlicensed milk plant and for not following a 1994 order from a public health inspector.
Those charges were eventually dismissed in 2010, but government prosecutors appealed. Schmidt was convicted in 2011 for 13 violations of the Health Promotion Act. He was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $ 9,150.
An Ontario high court judge found cow-share distribution of raw milk does not equate to ownership, which Schmidt claimed satisfied legal requirements. He changed to a farm-share arrangement for shareholders to obtain raw milk.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)