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Lake View Natural Dairy to appeal latest decision

Brian Larsen


The sign leading to Lake View Natural Dairy may have to come down some day if the state of Minnesota wins its case against the owners of the farm, David and Heidi Berglund. The farm sells unpasteurized/raw milk (among other consumer products) to customers who come to the farm to make purchases. The state argues these sales should be regulated and has tried to inspect the farm, which the Berglunds to date have refused to allow because they say the inspections violate their constitutional rights. 
Staff photo/Brian Larsen The sign leading to Lake View Natural Dairy may have to come down some day if the state of Minnesota wins its case against the owners of the farm, David and Heidi Berglund. The farm sells unpasteurized/raw milk (among other consumer products) to customers who come to the farm to make purchases. The state argues these sales should be regulated and has tried to inspect the farm, which the Berglunds to date have refused to allow because they say the inspections violate their constitutional rights. Staff photo/Brian Larsen A long-running dispute between a local farmer and the state of Minnesota is about to get longer.

On March 11, 2016, Sixth Judicial District Judge Michael Cuzzo ruled that David Berglund’s challenge of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA)'s right to inspect his farm, Lake View Natural Dairy, was not valid.

Judge Cuzzo found that the state’s October 14, 2014 administrative inspection order (AIO) was valid and enforceable under two different statutes, which Berglund and his attorney, Zenas Baer had challenged in District Court on October 13, 2015.

Concerning those constitutional arguments, in this latest decision, Judge Cuzzo stated, “Mr. Berglund’s claims that the Administrative Inspection Order violates his right to contract, right to privacy, right of association, right of due process, and right of equal protection are dismissed.”

David and Heidi Berglund plan to appeal this latest finding. The top priority of the appeal will center on the constitutional arguments (contract and association) offered in court. While Cuzzo’s decision dismissed the matter, it does not exclude it from being brought back at the appellate court hearing.

The Berglunds have 60 days to appeal the decision with the Minnesota Appellate Court. During this time they will be able to maintain their operation without threat of inspection.

State seeks authority to inspect

The MDA has been pursuing this case since January 2013 when they learned the Berglunds were operating Lake View Natural Dairy on Maple Hill in Grand Marais and suspected that the couple was selling unpasteurized/raw milk products to consumers.

The state contends that Lake View Natural Dairy must undergo inspection to ensure its products are fit for human consumption, but David Berglund has argued that his constitutional rights are being violated, citing a law enacted by the Minnesota Legislature in 1906 that allows a farmer to sell his farm products without a license.

Berglund refused to allow inspectors access to his property, arguing that the state was violating his constitutional rights.

Following several attempts to contact the Berglunds, MDA inspectors traveled to the farm on September 27, 2013, and took pictures of the exterior and interior buildings on the property, a product order sheet, and the products that were marked for sale in the store. Those products included unpasteurized whole milk, skim milk, chocolate milk, colostrum, cream, yogurt, and buttermilk. After taking the pictures the inspectors found David Berglund and requested a full inspection of the farm, which he again refused to allow.

What followed was a long back and forth between the state and the Berglunds. At the October 13, 2015 court hearing Zenas Baer argued the MDA lacked statutory authority to inspect the dairy and argued that inspection of the dairy was prohibited under article XIII, section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution. Baer also brought up numerous other constitutional challenges. Those included the right to contract, right of privacy, right of association, due process, and equal protection. Baer also said the state’s definition of a “dairy plant” was not defined by statute.

To the last point, Judge Cuzzo agreed with Baer. “The Court recognizes that the statute is somewhat vague. Especially given the lack of a statutory definition of “dairy farm,” it is difficult to determine whether the Dairy is appropriately classified as a dairy plant. However, the Court believes the Dairy is properly considered a “dairy farm” under the commonly understood meaning of the term, as it is a place where cows are kept for the production of milk products. …”

“The Court finds that the Dairy does not meet the definition of a ‘dairy plant,’ under Minn. Stat. 32.01, subd. 6, and that it is therefore not subject to inspection under Minn. Stat. 32.392.”

In conclusion Cuzzo said, “Article XIII, section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution allows for a family farm to sell products produced by that farm, free from licensing requirements. However, Cuzzo said a farmer who is exempt from licensing requirements is still subject to the MDA’s regulation of the production or sale of the farm products. These regulations include the statutory authority given to the MDA to inspect milk producers. The legislature has singled out the area of milk production for inspection, apparently due to peculiar risks involved in milk production.”

Customers continue to support local dairy

During the long legal battles, consumers have continued to voice support for the family-owned business that is open seven days a week, 24 hours of the day. Customers come to a small milk house and usually serve themselves and leave their money in a coffee can. People that buy the few products sold at the farm tend to be friends, acquaintances or family— or not too long after starting shopping there become friends. Customers state that no one confuses it with shopping at Lund’s & Byerly’s.

A March 2015 petition signed by dairy consumers states that customers “make a conscious choice to purchase the products from David Berglund rather than from a retail grocery store where the source of the food is unknown. We know David Berglund and the quality of the food products he sells and believe that we have a protected right by the Constitution to make a decision to purchase products from him.”

Supporters have also contributed to the Berglunds’ legal defense. Zenas Baer’s salary is paid in part by the Farm-to- Consumer Legal Defense Fund, as well as local donations. Visit the website wwwsupportlakeviewnaturaldairy.org for more information. For donation information, scroll to the March 5, 2015 entry Lake View Natural Dairy Fund Goes Live! which has information on how to donate to help with the family’s case.


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