On June 13th, Morningland Dairy will be in court again despite the fact that the final disposition of their $250,000 cheese inventory is, as yet, undecided.
Earlier this spring, Howell County Circuit Court Judge David Dunlap found for the State in the first trial and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is appealing his decision to a higher court.
At the trial in Howell County in January, Morningland Dairy of the Ozarks LLC noticed the judge, the Missouri Milk Board and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office that they had closed the LLC and would no longer operate in the public venue. Instead Morningland Dairy would operate entirely in the private sector through a private association operating under the 1st and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution.
After the trial, Morningland began the process of buying cheese from similar licensed suppliers and repackaging and selling this cheese to their private association buyers. They purchased a separate refrigeration cooler for the new cheese to ensure segregation from the cheese held under embargo by the Missouri Milk Board since August 26th, 2010.
The Inspectors Get to Inspect –Just not Everything
On April 13th, Don Falls and Roger Neill of the Missouri Milk Board showed up at the Morningland Dairy plant intending to conduct an inspection of the facility. The Plant Manager Jedadiah York, and the eldest Dixon son were there and called Joseph Dixon to inform him of the Milk Board’s presence. Joseph Dixon states that he spoke with Don Falls, and said “You can inspect the cooler which still holds the Milk Board embargo tag and the cheese in that cooler, but you are not to inspect or go anywhere else in the plant as it is not under your jurisdiction.”
Joseph also says that he did give Don Falls a little piece of his mind, which, from a human standpoint, is completely understandable. Joe says, “Don Falls stated in court that the amount of cheese in the embargo cooler was his count. He didn’t count the cheese. He just took the FDA count and said it was his. He also stated that the cheese samples sent to Microbe Inotech were his samples, but they were not. So I called him a liar and also told him he couldn’t count as the FDA count he claimed as his own is way off from our count.” Since Joseph has effectively lost his business, had to leave his family and go to work out of state, lost all of his savings, lost nearly a full year of production and a year and a half of sales, one can understand having some animosity to the regulator in charge of the action.
Three charges are being levied against Morningland on Monday June 13th. They are Failure to Allow Inspection, Failure to Implement Required Practices and Unlawful Sale of Embargoed Cheese Product. One dangerous thing about these charges is that this seems to draw the Dixon’s private association into the State suit against Morningland Dairy of the Ozarks LLC. The only thing left of the thirty year old company Morningland Dairy of the Ozarks LLC is the cheese under embargo in the cooler.
Joseph says, “Apparently even though he was allowed to inspect the cooler with the embargoed cheese in it, and said that it looked like it was all there to our son and Plant Manager, Don Falls yet again changed his mind and his story after talking to his superiors. Or maybe he just got mad because I called him a liar.”
Styrofoam is Evidence of a Crime
At question in the allegations now being charged against Morningland is whether or not there are any clear jurisdictional boundaries that the State or Federal government cannot cross. If cutting and repackaging cheese is now manufacturing cheese then several families could not go together on a forty pound block of cheese and divide it up amongst themselves without being licensed and inspected.
The “evidence” that Morningland is selling the embargoed cheese is that a member of the private association who runs Clover’s in Columbia Missouri, sold cheese with a Morningland label to Don Falls and Roger Neill. (Batman and Robin of the Missouri Milk Board?) Also cited in the court filing is that there were bits of styrofoam on the packing room floor which leads to the cooler that is under arrest by the Milk Board.
While the packages of cheese might seem damning, one must remember that Morningland LLC closed down and agreed to not sell any of the embargoed cheese until the legal proceedings were complete. As stated earlier, they also informed the Court, Milk Board and Attorney General’s Office that they had formed a private association. Considering these things, do styrofoam pieces plus packages of cheese really add up to selling embargoed cheese? What about the inventory? Is anyone going to check that?
The really funny thing about the inventory is that in the court records there are three different inventory counts offered. Don Falls says 29,000 pounds, Denise Dixon says closer to 39,000 pounds and the judge cites 20,000 pounds. Does anyone really know? If all the cheese is destroyed, will it matter how much there really is? If it were your livelihood, I would think it would matter to you.
Life Goes On….Kind of
Denise Dixon is going to be the only principal in court on Monday the 13th. She will be flying back from Ohio where she and her younger children are currently staying taking care of her elderly parents. Joseph is working in Alabama and cannot take time off work to be present at the proceeding.
If the State ultimately fails to destroy the cheese that represents the wealth of this family, they have succeeded in destroying the family’s forward progress and robbing them of their peace. All over cheese that in thirty years never had a complaint of illness or upset associated with it. ==end==
===You can read all about Morningland Dairy’s plight and download most of the legal documents at The UnCheese Party. You can also donate to help the Dixon’s keep their farm and cheese plant so they can hopefully begin making cheese themselves once this court battle is complete.