ALARMING: SWAT Raids Ohio Farm Co-op!?!

19Dec08

Isn’t this overkill? Cops pointing guns at children and parents for a US “misdemeanor” offence? What’s going on?

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Note: This picture is used only for graphic effect to illustrate a point – it is not an actual image from the scene.

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Alarming: SWAT Team Raids Ohio Co-op

Fri Dec 5, 2008 6:51 am (PST)
http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/swat-team.htm

On Monday, December 1, a SWAT team with
semi-automatic rifles entered the private home of
the Stowers family in LaGrange, Ohio, herded the
family onto the couches in the living room, and
kept guns trained on parents, children, infants
and toddlers, from approximately 11 AM to 8 PM.
The team was aggressive and belligerent. The
children were quite traumatized. At some point,
the “bad cop” SWAT team was relieved by another
team, a “good cop” team that tried to befriend
the family. The Stowers family has run a very
large, well-known food cooperative called Manna
Storehouse on the western side of the greater Cleveland area for many
years.

There were agents from the Department of
Agriculture present, one of them identified as
Bill Lesho. The search warrant is reportedly
supicious-looking. Agents began rifling through
all of the family’s possessions, a task that
lasted hours and resulted in a complete upheaval
of every private area in the home. Many items
were taken that were not listed on the search
warrant. The family was not permitted a phone
call, and they were not told what crime they were
being charged with. They were not read their
rights. Over ten thousand dollars worth of food
was taken, including the family’s personal stock
of food for the coming year. All of their
computers, and all of their cell phones we
re
taken, as well as phone and contact records. The
food cooperative was virtually shut down. There
was no rational explanation, nor justification,
for this extreme violation of Constitutional rights.

Presumably Manna Storehouse might eventually be
charged with running a retail establishment
without a license. Why then the Gestapo-type
interrogation for a 3rd degree misdemeanor
charge? This incident has raised the ominous
specter of a restrictive new era in State
regulation and enforcement over the nation’s private food supply.

This same type of abusive search and seizure was
reported by those innocents who fell victim to
oppressive federal drug laws passed in the 1990s.
The present circumstance raises the obvious
question: is there some rabid new interpretation
of an existing drug law that considers food a
controlled substance worthy of a nasty SWAT
operation? Or worse, is there a previously
unrecognized provision(s) pertaining to food in
the Homeland Security measures? Some have
suggested that it was merely an out-of-control,
hot-to-trot ODA agent, and, if so, this would be
a best-case scenario. Anything else might spell
the beginning of the end for the freedom to eat
unregulated and unmonitored food.

One blogger familiar with the Ohio situation has reported that:

Interestingly, I believe they [Manna Storehouse]
said a month or so ago, an undercover ODA
official came to their little store and claimed
to have a sick father wanting to join the=2
0co-op.
Both the owner and her daughter-in-law had a
horrible feeling about the man, and decided not
to allow him into the co-op and notified him by
certified mail. He came back to the co-op
demanding to be part of it. They refused and gave
him names of other businesses and health food
stores closer to his home. Not coincidentally,
this man was there yesterday as part of the raid
.”

The same blog also noted that the Ohio Department
of Agriculture has been chastised by the courts
in several previous instances for its aggression,
including trying to entrap an Amish man in a raw
milk “sale,” which backfired when it became known
that the Amish believe in a literal
interpretation of “give to him that asketh thee,
and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew
5:42)

The issue appears to be the discovery of a bit of
non-institutional beef in an Oberlin College food
service freezer a year ago that was tracked down
by a county sanitation official to Manna
Storehouse. Oberlin College’s student food coop
is widely known for its strident ideological
stance about eating organic foods. It seems that
the Oberlin student food cooperative had joined
the Manna Storehouse food cooperative in order to
buy organic foods in bulk from the national
organic food distributor United, which services
buying clubs across the nation. The sanitation
official, James Boddy, evidently contacted the
Ohio Department of Agriculture. After the first

contact by state ODA officials, Manna Storehouse
reportedly wrote them a letter requesting
assistance and guidelines for complying with the
law. This letter was never answered. Rather, the
ODA agent tried several times to infiltrate the
coop, as described above. When his attempts failed, the SWAT team
showed up!

Food cooperatives and buying clubs have been an
active part of the American landscape for over a
generation. In the 1970s, with the rise of the
organic food industry (a direct outgrowth of the
hippie back-to-nature movement) food coops
started up all over the country. These were
groups of people who freely associated for the
purpose of combining their buying power so that
they could order organic food items in bulk and
case lots. Anyone who was part of these coops in
the early era will remember the messy breakdown
of 35 pounds of peanut butter and 5 gallon drums of honey!

These buying clubs have persisted and flourished
over the years due to their ability to purchase
high quality organic foods at reduced prices in
bulk quantities. Most cooperatives have
participated greatly in the local agrarian
economies, supporting neighborhood organic
farmers with purchases of produce, eggs,
chickens, etc. The groups also purchase food from
a number of different local, regional and
national distributors, many of them family-based
businesses who truck the food themselves. Some of
these food cooperatives have become large enough
to set up mini-storef
ront operations where
members can drop in and purchase items leftover
from case lot sales. Manna Storehouse had
established itself in such a manner, using a
small enclosed breezeway attached to their home.
It was a folksy place with old wooden floors
where coop members stopped by to chat and snack on bags of organic
corn chips.

The state of Ohio boasts the second largest Amish
population in the country. Many of the Amish live
on acreages where they raise their own food, not
unlike Manna Storehouse, and sell off the extras
to neighbors and church members. There is a sense
of foreboding that this state crackdown on a
longstanding, reputable food cooperative
operation could adversely impact the peaceful
agrarian way of life not only for the Amish, but
homeschoolers and those families living off the
land on rural acreages. It raises the disturbing
possibility that it could become a crime to raise
your own food, buy eggs from the farmer down the
road, or butcher your own chickens for family and
friends – bustling activities that routinely take place in backwater
America.

The freedom to purchase food directly form the
source is increasingly under attack. For those
who have food allergies and chemical
intolerances, or who are on special medical
diets, this is becoming a serious health issue.
Will Americans retain the right to purchase food
that is uncontaminated by pesticides, herbicides,
allergens, additives, dyes, preservatives, MSG,
GM
Os, radiation, etc.? The melamine scare from
China underscores the increasingly inferior and
suspect quality of modern processed institutional
foods. One blog, commenting on the bizarre and
troubling Manna Storehouse situation, observed that:

“No one is saying exactly why. At the same time
the FDA says it it safe to eat the 40% of tainted
beef found in Costco’s and Sam’s all over the
nation. These farm raids are very common now.
Every farmer needs to fully eqiped [sic] for the
possibility of it happening to them. The Farmer
To Consumer Legal Defense Fund was created just
for this purpose. The USDA just released their
plans to put a law into action that will put all
small farmers out of business. Animals for the
sale of meat or milk will only be allowed in
commercial farms, even the organic ones.”

December 3, 2008 7:09 PM

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5 Responses to “ALARMING: SWAT Raids Ohio Farm Co-op!?!”

  1. 1 Vlad

    In the interest of “fair and balanced” reporting, here’s a link to the law enforcement’s take on the matter. Also included are the links to source documents that gave rise to the situation.

  2. The latest summary and stories on this Raid are posted at The Journal of Whole Food and Nutrition at http://wholefoodusa.wordpress.com/category/family-farm-enforcement-report/

    • Sorry for the late response, Augie! thanks for the extra clarification! It will definitely be helpful to all the wonderful yet concerned travelers who come across here.

  3. Additional resources that I’ve come across on this topic:

    Armed jack boots confiscate family’s personal food supply. Is this a prelude to government created depression, or even famine?
    http://targetfreedom.typepad.com/targetfreedom/2008/12/jack-boots-confiscate-food.html

    http://wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=84594

    SWAT raid on food co-op called ‘entrapment’
    Lawyer says family badgered by agent to ‘sell’ eggs

    By Bob Unruh © 2008 WorldNetDaily

    A state agent from the Ohio Department of Agriculture pressured a family whose members run a food cooperative for friends and neighbors to “sell” him a dozen eggs, sparking accusations of entrapment from a lawyer defending the family.
    The case brought by state and local authorities against a co-op run by John and Jacqueline Stowers in LaGrange, Ohio, came to a head on Dec. 1 when police officers used SWAT-style tactics to burst into the home, hold family members including children at gunpoint and confiscate the family’s personal food supply.
    —-inserted addendum——-

    Ill Fares The Land: The Famine Planned For America by Dan P. Van Gorder~Tom Anderson

    ——
    Two organizations, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the Buckeye Institute’s legal arm, the Center for Constitutional Law, are working to defend the family.

    Jacqueline and John Stowers
    In an audio podcast posted online, Maurice Thompson of the Buckeye Institute said the family has run the Manna Storehouse, focusing mainly on organic supplies, for several years near Cleveland.
    The confrontation began developing several years ago when local health officials demanded the family hold a retail food license in order to run their co-op. Thompson said the family wrote a letter questioning that requirement and asking for evidence that would suggest they were operating a food store and how their private co-op was similar to a WalMart.
    The Stowers family members simply “take orders from (co-op) members … then divide up the food,” Thompson explained.
    “The health inspector didn’t like the tone of the letter,” Thompson said, and the result was that law enforcement officials planned, staged and carried out the Dec. 1 SWAT-style raid on the family’s home.
    Thompson said he discussed the developments of the case with the health inspector personally.
    “He didn’t think the tone of that letter was appropriate,” Thompson said. ” I’ve seen the letter. There’s not anything there that’s belligerent.”
    “Government officials have egos as well. The problem is when government officials have egos, they use the power of government against us,” he said.
    —-inserted addendum——-
    America’s Engineered Decline by William Norman Grigg

    ———
    Thompson explained the genesis of the raid was a series of visits to the family by an undercover agent for the state agriculture agency.
    “He showed up (at the Stowers’ residence) unannounced one day,” Thompson explained, and “pretended” to be interested in purchasing food.
    The family explained the co-op was private and they couldn’t provide service to the stranger.
    The agent then returned another day, stayed for two hours, and explained how he thought his sick mother would be helped by eggs from range-fed chickens to which the Stowers had access.
    The family responded that they didn’t sell food and couldn’t help. When he refused to leave, the family gave him a dozen eggs to hasten his departure, Thompson explained.
    Despite protests from the family, the agent left some money on a counter and departed.
    On the basis of that transaction, the Stowers were accused of engaging in the retail sale of food, Thompson said.
    “You hear people scream entrapment,” he said. “But in this instance…”
    He said the state agency came from “nowhere” and then worked to get the family involved “in something that might require a license.”
    Even that remained in dispute, because of a long list of exceptions in the state law, some of which may apply in this case, he said.
    The organizations have filed a complaint on behalf of the family naming the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Lorain County General Health District and the state’s attorney general as defendants. A spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture told WND today she was unable to comment, and officials with the local health agency did not answer WND calls to three different office numbers.
    —-inserted addendum——-
    How to Prepare for the Coming Crash by Robert L. Preston

    The Administrator of Ohio Dept. of Agriculture is Robert Boggs:

    administration@agri.ohio.gov
    ——–
    A prosecutor assigned to the case previously declined to respond to WND’s request for a comment.
    Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund said the case was government “overreaching” and was designed more to intimidate and “frighten people into believing that they cannot provide food for themselves.”
    “This is an example where, once again, the government is trying to deny people their inalienable, fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice,” said Gary Cox, general counsel for the FTCLDF. “The purpose of our complaint is to correct that wrong.”
    In a video posted both on YouTube and on the Buckeye Institute’s website, the couple explained how they just wanted to provide a resource for both farmers and consumers.
    Watch the video that is embedded on the web page for this article.
    “We had a sheriff’s department group of about 11-12, I don’t know, 13 men come into our home. It was violent, it was belligerent, they didn’t identify themselves,” Jacqueline Stowers said.
    She and 10 children were forcibly herded into a room and held there for at least six hours, she said.
    “In the meantime we had people with guns inside and outside,” she said.
    —-inserted addendum——-
    (First they take your guns. Then they take your food.)

    Global Gun Grab by William Norman Grigg

    ————
    Thompson said officers confiscated the family’s personal computers, cell phones and food supplies, even though the Manna Storehouse food supplies were in another building.
    Officials with the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit, said several of its members had been participating in the co-op, but now their food supplies are disrupted.
    —-inserted addendum——-
    Watch this video:

    The Future of Food – It’s not looking good
    http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/380.html
    ———
    The raid on Manna was not the first such case of authorities invading a home over issues involving the operations of food co-ops and direct producer-to-consumer arrangements. WND reported several months ago when authorities in Pennsylvania demanded $4,000 in fines from a farmer who provided raw milk to friends and neighbors.
    That case also was highlighted by a SWAT team-like raid on Mark Nolt’s farm, when government agents confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of his products as well as pieces of machinery he used for his milk handling and sales.
    Online bloggers raged over the situation involving the Stowers.
    “Agents began rifling through all of the family’s possessions, a task that lasted hours and resulted in a complete upheaval of every private area in the home. Many items were taken that were not listed on the search warrant. The family was not permitted a phone call, and they were not told what crime they were being charged with. They were not read their rights. Over ten thousand dollars worth of food was taken, including the family’s personal stock of food for the coming year,” said one.
    The complaint notes Manna Storehouse deals with wheat, flour, sugar, grass-fed beef, lamb, turkey and eggs from free range chickens, mostly coming from local farmers. The raid was based on an affidavit from Ohio Department of Agriculture agent William Lesho that “makes numerous conclusory and unsubstantiated claims,” the complaint
    ——-end—–
    Financial Terrorism : Hijacking America Under the Threat of Bankruptcy by John F. McManus

    What some research turned up after an email to the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture regarding the raid on the food-cooperative:

    BioSecurity Division
    Ohio Department of Agriculture
    Agro Bio-Security Office
    8895 E. Main St
    Reynoldsburg,OH 43068
    Phone: (614) 728-6240
    Email: odahomelandsecurity@agri.ohio.gov

    Does Homeland Security now control our food supplies???


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