The latest battle in the raw milk wars broke out today in south-central Pennsylvania. A group of ten state police and agents from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) descended on the 100-acre Nature’s Sunlight Farm in Newville, and confiscated about $25,000 worth of raw milk products, along with packaging and equipment.

Though Pennsylvania is supposedly one of the more liberal states with regard to raw milk distribution, allowing farmers with permits to sell it not only from their farms and in farmers markets, but also in retail establishments, farmers say the state has become increasingly hostile to producers over the last few months. Might it have something to do with tough warnings issued by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on March 1?

This case could turn more messy before it gets better, since the owner of Nature’s Sunlight Farm, Mark Nolt, is under threat of arrest by August 22 unless he complies with the state’s demands. I spoke with Mark early this evening, shortly after the agents departed, and he explained to me that the state’s primary demand is that he renew his raw milk permit. He’s not ready to do so, for several reasons, and now seems in the process of being turned into a state whipping boy.

After eight years of holding such a permit, Mark last August made the decision not to renew it. He objected because, while the permit allowed him to sell raw milk, it also required that his other milk products-cream, butter, and cheese-all be pasteurized.

“That’s not what people want,” he says. “They want all the raw stuff.”

But there was more to his decision than providing for his approximately 200 raw milk customers. It was also a legal matter. “I have done a lot of research. I could not find a law that says I must get a permit The rules and regulations that are in place have not been approved by the legislature The only way they can enforce their regulations is by having people volunteer to agree.”

Mark argues further that the regulations, even if they were legal, wouldn’t apply to him because he is selling directly to consumers, via private contracts that are outside the purview of the state. “They’re trying to make a privilege out of a right I have. Our constitution gives us the right to private contracts.”

“I wrote the PDA and asked them to tell me the law requiring I get a raw milk permit. They never got back to me. By not getting back, they were tacitly agreeing.”

But the PDA did convince the courts, in numerous hearings this summer, that it was in the right, and recently obtained an injunction prohibiting the farm from selling raw milk. When Mark continued to sell, the court ruled him in contempt, leading to today’s raid.

He says he’s not alone in either refusing to go along with the state’s raw milk permit regulations or in being harassed. “Farmer after farmer is being harassed,” some of whom have permits and some of whom don’t, he says. “If I take a permit, they would have a dozen others (lacking permits) in court.” Pete Kennedy, a lawyer for the Weston A. Price Foundation, says at least eight Pennsylvania farmers who sell raw milk have received warning letters from the state for selling without a permit.

So Mark, who has ten children, understands that the state is using him as an example to scare the others into complying, and he seems prepared for what may come. “I stand on the truth. It’s not a fight I picked I know that someone has to stand up for the truth. Tyrants will rule if no one stands up for the truth I may have to suffer for a while, if that is what God wants.”

Mark also has a theory as to why states around the country have become so aggressive in going after raw milk producers. “Industry is starting to feel it. In the last seven years, this movement has mushroomed. If they don’t get control of it now, they’ll never get control.”

And in the meantime, he’s going to continue milking his 25 cows, and providing his customers with the raw milk products they want and need for as long as he can.

P.S. I telephoned the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at about 6:15 this evening, as soon as I heard about Mark Naylor’s situation, for comment, but officials had all left for the weekend. I left a message.