March 15, 2006
MILLERSBURG – A Holmes County dairy farmer may get his milk producer’s license back after having it revoked for a $2 sale of raw milk in an unlabeled container.
Arlie Stutzman said representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture showed up at his farm Tuesday morning with paperwork he must fill out to have his license reinstated. His license, which allowed him to sell milk to cheese manufacturers, was revoked by the ODA on Feb. 8 because he sold milk in an unlabeled container to an undercover investigator.
Stutzman said he was surprised when the ODA showed up, but noted it might have been a little too late. He rented nine of his 36 cows to another dairy farmer last week to produce some income.
“There was no sense in feeding cows and throwing the milk away,” he said.
Melanie Wilt, communication director for the ODA, confirmed the department was allowing Stutzman to apply to have his license reinstated.
“He would have to go through the process of applying to have his license reinstated just like every other dairy producer,” Wilt said. “When we take steps to revoke someone’s license, they can make the corrections they need to get into compliance with Ohio law.”
Wilt denied, however, the ODA had been pressured by state legislators into giving Stutzman his license back.
On Monday, Sen. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, and Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, both said they had questions as to how the ODA went about investigating Stutzman.
Gibbs even said the way Stutzman was set up by an undercover investigator was disgusting.
Gibbs said he spoke with Fred Dailey, director of the ODA, on Monday and was assured Stutzman’s license would be reinstated.
“I think he agrees with me that the department screwed up,” Gibbs said, “and he said that as long as he can meet the other requirements, his license would be reinstated.”
Wilt stood up for the department’s decision to revoke Stutzman’s license in the first place, though. She said the ODA had simply followed normal procedures in Stutzman’s case.
“It is routine to conduct undercover purchases of unlabeled food products,” she said.
Wilt also noted Stutzman has a history of having high bacteria counts in his milk. The ODA reported seven violations in bacteria counts in milk produced by Stutzman over the last six years. Reports revealed a 1.7 million bacteria count in Grade A fluid milk in one instance; a count of 100,000 is allowed. And last June, a bacteria count of 1.07 million was found in manufactured milk, which is used in cheese production; more than twice the legal limit.
Stutzman said he is not entirely sure what he is going to do now that he can reapply for his license. He said he will probably do so, but wants to make sure he can participate in his herd-share agreement first. Stutzman said he believes he was targeted by the ODA because of his participation in a program where he sold shares of his herd to about two dozen families, thereby giving them access to the raw milk produced.
“If they promise to let us do our herd sharing, I will go on with what we have left,” Stutzman said. “We think that should be allowed. Ohio doesn’t have a law that doesn’t let us do our herd-share.”
Wilt said the ODA is looking into the legality of herd-share agreements.