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"Raw milk" trial begins next week

BARABOO, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)   Hundreds of raw milk supporters from throughout the country are expected to converge on Baraboo next week for the trial of a dairy farmer charged with illegally selling unpasteurized milk. Barring a last-minute plea deal, Vernon Hershberger of Loganville will face a week-long trial on four misdemeanor charges filed in late 2011. They’re for not having licenses for milk production, dairy plants, and a retail eatery – plus violating an order to hold food after a raid on his farm.

The state says raw milk is banned by law, and that’s why Hershberger is charged. The defendant says there’s no licensing requirement in existence for raw milk, and therefore it should be okay for him to sell it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says national raw milk supporters have rented Baraboo’s Al Ringling Theater. They plan to monitor the court case, and hold a rally that features 2004 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. Raw milk supporters insist that their product is safe, and it contains numerous health benefits. State officials say raw milk contains bacteria that can cause food-borne diseases – and they say that even a small outbreak would threaten Wisconsin’s world-famous dairy industry.

A final pre-trial hearing in the Hershberger case is set for Friday in Sauk County. Jury selection is set for next Monday. The trial is scheduled to run for a week.