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Cook County farmer won't be held in contempt of court

A Grand Marais dairy farmer who refused to allow state inspections of his farm will not be held in contempt of court, Judge Michael Cuzzo ruled Monday in State District Court.

The courthouse in Grand Marais was full and an overflow crowd watched from the Cook County commissioners' room as Cuzzo made his ruling in favor of David Berglund, owner of Lake View Natural Dairy.

"He's relieved and overwhelmed by the amount of public support," said Zenas Baer, Berglund's attorney. "They all support Berglund in his effort to provide wholesome, nutritious food as a private transaction between consumer and producer."

Berglund has maintained that his right to sell raw milk and other raw-milk products directly to customers is protected by a more-than-100-year-old passage in the state constitution that allows a person to peddle products of their farm without a license.

A state prosecutor sought to have Berglund fined $500 per day until he complied with the inspection order.

Cuzzo stayed the order to inspect, taking under advisement a second ruling that would reconcile Berglund's constitutional-right claim and the state's request for inspection.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is not commenting on the case, but appears to be concerned with Berglund's products that require some measure of processing — butter, yogurt and cream. All processed milk products in Minnesota must use pasteurized milk. The state allows for raw milk to be sold directly from farm to consumers.

Cuzzo has 90 days to make his ruling on whether or not an inspection will be allowed. Baer was quick to note the consumers' rights aspect in the upcoming ruling.

"From what I hear it is a decision that has national implications and is being watched quite closely by a considerable number of groups on a national basis," Baer said. "It's not only the farmer's right, it also includes the consumer's right to be the second half of the transaction. You can't sell and peddle anything unless you have a willing consumer on the other side of the transaction."

Berglund has been selling raw milk and other raw-milk products for 12 years from his dairy farm on Cook County Road 56, off the Gunflint Trail northeast of Grand Marais. It was Berglund's exploration into selling his milk to a processor in 2014 that first triggered the Department of Agriculture to want to inspect the farm. Berglund ultimately decided not to sell his milk that way, maintaining his direct-to-customer approach.