As a late September court date draws near for Amos Miller and his Miller’s Organic Farm, discussions continue between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Justice with the Upper Leacock farmer over his longstanding court case over meat processing and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
At the same time, support for the Amish farmer has extended through large donations from people around the country and some of the biggest names in media, including Glenn Beck, drawing light to his case.
Miller said a conference call took place Friday with government representatives, including Scott Safian, director of enforcement and litigation for the USDA, and Gerald Sullivan, the assistant U.S. attorney for the DOJ, regarding the creation of a plan to be able to sell beef, pork and chicken through the farm cooperative and the handling of more than $300,000 in outstanding fines.
“They wanted us to make a proposal to see if they could accept it,” Miller said. “I think they want to go partway.”
Wisconsin-based agriculture lawyer Elizabeth Rich, who has served as an advisor for Miller on the case for several years and was also on the Friday conference call, said Miller has three options that will allow him to once again sell several different types of meat to his more than 4,000 customers.
The first option, Rich said, is that Miller can build his own USDA-compliant meat processing facility, which she said “could be done.”
A second option, Rich said, is for Miller to send his meat to another USDA facility for processing. The third option, she said, is for the farmer to create a custom exempt slaughter operation, which involves other regulatory requirements for sanitation, humane slaughter of animals and selling of the product.
“I think the big picture issue right now is what can Amos do to stay in business,” Rich said.
Rich said several of the issues involved in the case date back to a November 2019 injunction order and an April 2020 consent decree signed by Miller that “make some promises and some arrangements” with the USDA, including stopping slaughtering operations until he could demonstrate he was in Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) compliance with federal and state laws.
Miller was later found out of compliance by the FSIS for continuing to sell meats through his website, with the court levying $305,065 in fines.
Rich said the fine is made up of two components. The first component, which is around $105,000, includes reimbursements to the FSIS for expenses, payments to George Lapsley, a food safety advisor assigned to the case and a payment to Miller’s Dallas-based attorney Steven Lafuente. Miller has requested Lafuente be removed as his lawyer in the case, but Judge Edward G. Smith refused to withdraw Lafuente.
“I think [the court] felt it was fair, since it was forcing [Lafuente] to stay on the case, that he would get some compensation,” Rich said.
The remaining $200,000 in fines involves sanctions from the court for not following the injunction order and consent decree, Rich said, which can be reduced by the court. She said the reduction in sanctions is possible “if Amos could demonstrate to the court that he’s making a good faith effort to comply with the law.”
Rich said she has been advising Miller for more than a decade, first starting with him when she worked for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization for protecting rights of independent farmers to market their products directly to consumers.
“Our goal was to try to put something together that would allow him to do something very similar to what he’s been doing with his private buying club members,” Rich said. “And I believe that can be done through a properly drafted custom-exempt plan.”
Media Attention and Fundraising
Just days after the case was covered on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, currently the largest cable news program in the U.S., popular conservative media commentator Glenn Beck highlighted the story on his podcast.
Beck said he previously lived in Pennsylvania and encountered the Amish community, calling them “some of the most remarkable people I have ever met.” He also said it was concerning that a private food club can be regulated by the government when its members voluntarily choose to be a part of it, calling some of the government moves against food choices as “extraordinarily dangerous for people like you and Amos.”
“The citizen is paramount,” Beck said on his show. “The individual is paramount – not the collective.”
Besides support from Carlson and Beck, Pennsylvania-based social media company Gab promoted Miller and the farm through its daily newsletter sent to subscribers. Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba also posted Miller’s story to his personal account, garnering thousands of likes and replies.
“Christian Nationalism is not merely a political movement, in fact it is primarily a spiritual and cultural one,” Gab said in its newsletter. “This farmer is an example for us all. He built his own operation and works the land to provide for his family as God intended. This is what true Christian Nationalism looks like.”
Since Miller’s story and case started garnering national attention, donations have poured into the farm.
In a GiveSendGo fundraising account created earlier this month, more than $133,000 has been donated as of Tuesday morning. Before the Tucker Carlson story on Aug. 21, the total was around $1,200 in the campaign.
Anke Meyn, a Florida resident who has helped Miller out for more than a decade with his online business, created the GiveSendGo account. Meyn was also on the Friday conference call with the USDA and DOJ but was not allowed to participate in discussions.
Meyn said she has been amazed by the support shown by the public towards Miller and his case.
“They can’t believe what’s happening here,” Meyn said. “But this is an attack on our food freedom.”
Staff writer Michael Yoder can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @YoderReports on Twitter.
[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.]
Michael Yoder is an award-winning journalist who has been honored with several Keystone Press Awards for his investigative pieces. He has been crafting stories for daily, weekly, and monthly publications for more than two decades in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. He has interviewed everyone from Academy Award-winners and Rock & Roll Hall of Famers to presidential hopefuls and members of Congress. Michael was born and raised in Lancaster County and joined The Lancaster Patriot in 2022.