ELLSWORTH, Maine — Blue Hill dairy farmer Dan Brown has been ordered to pay $1,000 in fines and court fees for illegally selling unlabeled, unlicensed raw milk from his roadside farm stand.
During the penalty hearing on Friday, Justice Ann Murray denied Brown’s effort to convince her to rescind her May 2 decision against him, and granted the state’s request for penalties and court fees totaling $1,138, according to Brown’s attorney, Sandra Hylander Collier of Ellsworth.
Brown has always contended that his milk is safe — with or without a license — but Murray ruled in May that “the public health implications of permitting Brown to continue to sell milk without a license are substantial.”
Murray barred Brown from selling his milk without a license. Brown estimates that compliance with state licensure requirements would cost him more than $20,000 in infrastructure and facilities costs, and wants to be allowed to stay in business while the Law Court decides his appeal.
Murray took the motion “under advisement,” meaning she did not make a decision and is taking however much time she needs to do so.
Complicating the matter is the passage by the Maine Legislature of LD 1282, a bill that would deregulate the small-scale production of raw milk. Both chambers approved the bill last week, and it awaits Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.
Under the new law, Brown would be allowed to produce and sell up to 20 gallons of raw milk per day, so long as the milk was labeled properly and tested. Collier, the farmer’s attorney, said the possibility of a change in applicable law may be the reason Murray did not rule Friday.
“If the governor signs it, it may change her decision about whether to eliminate the injunction, or whether the injunction will be moot by the governor’s signature,” Collier said Monday.
Brown intends to appeal all the charges against him to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He has contended all along that there are material disagreements on the facts of his case, which should have precluded him from Murray’s summary judgment and allowed him a trial.
Brown argues that the state’s Department of Agriculture had formerly told him that his roadside, raw milk sales were legal as long as he didn’t sell wholesale or anywhere else off his property. That decision changed at some point, leading the department to sue Brown in 2011.
Collier said the government is not allowed to change the rules like that, especially after Brown relied on the rules as had been represented to him when he decided to invest in his farm.
Brown will have 21 days to file an appeal with the Law Court, starting the day Murray makes a decision on the injunction.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.