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SD Ag Dept Maligns Small Brookings Dairy; No Apology for False Listeria Report

On January 21, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture reported finding listeria in a raw milk sample from Jerseydale Farms of Brookings. The Department shut down the small dairy and issued this business-harming warning:

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture advises consumers that bottled raw milk recently purchased from this business may contain harmful bacteria that can lead to listeria infection.

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and individuals with weakened immune systems. Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. A person with listeriosis may have fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions can occur [South Dakota Department of Agriculture, press release, 2014.01.21].

The Department of Agriculture appears to have been so eager to use its new, anti-small-dairy rules that it wrongly condemned this Brookings business:

Two weeks ago, the Department of Agriculture confirmed those concerns were legitimate, as they improperly used their new authority to shut down a producer for the wrong species of listeria. “They messed up and listed only Listeria species on the original report, when they were supposed to be looking for Listeria monocytogenes, which is what the rules required,” says Trever Gilkerson, of Jerseydale Farms. “It turned out to be Listeria innocua, a harmless bacteria that actually attacks Listeria monocytogenes” [Dakota Rural Action, press release, Farm to Consumer News, 2014.01.31].

One would think that, having falsely maligned a South Dakota business, Ag Seretary Lucas Lentsch and Governor Dennis Daugaard himself would hurry to the press to restore Jerseydale Farms' good name and encourage consumers to resume purchasing this safe and profitable product. One would think they would at least send Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, the way they did to save Beef Products Inc. across the border from bad pink slime press, to amplify his milky mustache by chugging a bottle of Jerseydale's finest (the visual would make great marketing). As far as I know, the state has yet to publish any correction or apology.

Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) has offered Senate Bill 126 to pull back the Department of Agriculture's overzealous persecution of small dairies and allow consumers more freedom to choose raw milk. Happily, among the numerous sponsors is Senator Curd. The executive branch may not like small dairies or food choice, but the Legislature may step in and give Jerseydale and our other small dairies some relief.

Speaking of small dairies, the state's agriculture policy has brought the number of dairies in South Dakota to record lows. The Department of Agriculture's FY 2013 annual report shows that the number of Grade A dairies in South Dakota has decreased from 766 in 2000 to 235 in 2013. The number of Grade B dairies has decreased from 329 in 2000 to 37 in 2013.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.02.01

    Here is an example of cronyism from t-bag 'murrica's favorite ex half gov. of Alaska. Pouring money into a bottomless pit through unqualified gov't appointees to help out friends. At least Dosak and Alaska aren't Obama's Chicago. Face palm.

  2. rollin potter 2014.02.01

    Oh yes, I remember a few years back Wells Fargo dumped a manager of there chamberlain branch because he was such a jackass with some of there ag borrowers, and where did he end up? In pierre as a small dairy inspector!!!!! He made it so miserable on some of them they quite the dairy business!!!!!

  3. Jaka 2014.02.01

    Thanks, Mike from Iowa, for the link to Alaska's mess under "Twitchy Butt Palin's" garbled mess of governorship....... Such a read, so reminiscent/cognizant of "money politics" in today's (even SD's) world... !!! a good read for sure.

  4. bret clanton 2014.02.01

    This angers me to no end. Why is this state so hell-bent on destroying small family farms while encouraging mega-dairies with foreign investors is beyond me. Secretary Lentsch maybe you better work on that( I grew up on a small family dairy) speech a little bit because I for one am not buying it....

  5. Les 2014.02.01

    Lentsch is a great GOP Ag Sec. No big Gov. Just big biz.
    He got the brilliance of the gasoline drinking Ag Dept Darwyn Kurtenbach hell bent on redeeming themselves from any small farm connection if there ever was any behind him as they trample consumers and small producers.

    See any similarity between Lentsch and Bones as they follow orders like a pig after slop? I'd say its time to start a class action with consumers and producers taking this corruption to the woodshed.

  6. Joan 2014.02.01

    Don't hold your breath waiting for the Ag Dept. to apologize. I'm not sure what motivates these guys. They will tell you it's public safety. I think there's something else at work. It's too bad Trever had to bear the brunt of their misguided attempts to safeguard our food supply, but it's about time this issue gets the national attention that will hopefully bring about some policy changes. Lucas Lentsch needs to speak up if the Dept. wants to preserve any credibility.

  7. Rep. Stace Nelson 2014.02.01

    I grew up on fresh milk. Happy to be a co-sponsor on this bill. What happened to these folks is unacceptable and a perfect example of SD emulating an overreaching federal govt.

    I only pray these bureaucrats don't figure out where fresh eggs come from..

  8. Jenny 2014.02.01

    Are you happy about sponsoring the anti-gay bill, Stace, of which is making national attention, and GLBT groups are in the midst of planning boycotts of SD?

  9. Bree S. 2014.02.01

    I like how liberals think its some kind of humanitarian tragedy that gay couples have to have two health care policies, but destroying the livelihood of hardworking Americans with litigious financial attacks over a difference of opinion is perfectly acceptable.

  10. John Tsitrian 2014.02.01

    Happy to see you here, Mr. Nelson. I'm the Marine you shook hands with at the School of Mines last November. I'm hoping you'll get a chance to read my blog post over on the right under the Constant Commoner. It regards a businessman's view of the commotion over same-sex marriage.

  11. Bob Klein 2014.02.01

    Last I heard, Jim Gilkerson, Jerseydale Farms, was Brookings County GOP chair. Not that that is important, just interesting

  12. Jenny 2014.02.01

    Coming to Stace's rescue huh, Bree?. I'd like to hear from the marine himself why he feels the need to sponsor such a hate bill when all it does is just divide and alienate Americans. I used to admire Stace, but after sponsosing this hate bill, not so much. I also want to know how him he would explain this bill to a gay soldier.

  13. Jenny 2014.02.01

    Now to all you SD legislators who are sponsors of SB 128, especially Stace Nelson, I ask that you watch this clip of MN Rep Kriesel who became a MN hero after going against party lines to vote NO against the MN constitutional amendment banning gay marriage a few years back. In this clip he talks about how discrimination is not what he went to fight for in Iraq.
    Kriesel was( I think) only one of two MN Republicans to vote against it. A very poignant speech, Kriesel says he he can't tell parents of a dead soldier the justification of voting for a gay marriage ban.
    I know SD already outlaws gay marriage, but how many more hate bills does there have to be? It's going to hurt South Dakota tourism, this bill is making the MN news circuits.

  14. Jenny 2014.02.01

    By the way, Rep Kriesel is a veteran that fought in Iraq.

  15. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.01


    It is futile to engage Stace on the topic of SB128 here, from personal experience I know he doesn't like to go off topic unless he chooses.

    It would be great if he would join the conversation on Cory's SB128, but he won't.

  16. Les 2014.02.01

    This is about milk Jenny. If you're lactating, you could get by with a little post partum excuse.

  17. John Tsitrian 2014.02.01

    I think Mr. Nelson is dodging us, Roger.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.01

    I too grew up on a farm. We were not a dairy, but we got milk for our own use from #1, a good old black cow.

    Larry's last comment was a link to the NFO, National Farmers Organization. My parents joined in the NFO's early days, the 1960s. Farmers were fed up with the Farm Bureau, which had become a branch of Big Ag. The Farmers Union was perceived as too inactive.

    NFO was closer to an active labor union. They led what were called "holding actions." They did not sell their products, holding out for better prices.

    The NFO received a great deal of publicity for dumping milk. Prices for bulk milk did not cover the price of production, so dairy farmers brought their milk to a certain location. Milk was in 10 gallon metal cans and the cans were in the bed of the pickup. The press had been notified of the 'action,' and was there. Farmers dumped the milk in a ditch while cameras snapped.

    My parents were very active in NFO. I believe they saw it as an opportunity, one of very few, to be treated fairly. I'm always saddened when I recollect their efforts. They, along with thousands of other farmers in the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Midwestern states to the east, put their hearts into a risky endeavor that flew in the face of the farmer myth of the independent yeoman. They wanted to set prices for their products like manufacturers do.

    NFO farmers saw the dangers of corporate vertical integration in the agricultural industry. That's what we have now. It's resulted in monoliths like Cargill, ADM, Monsanto, etc. That's why small dairies like Jerseydale Farms face such obstacles.

    John Tsitrian probably knows about NFO too. I'm open to corrections John. I was an early teen. I recall these things from my parents perspective.

  19. Les 2014.02.02

    I don't see any contradictions to your words Deb. In the mid 70's I believe, things were not going well for the NFO. I was not agreeable to what they were doing or accomplishing and sent them notice of non renewal or whatever was in their terms of obligation on my part. They sent me a nasty note or two before sending a strong arm pair to deal with me. I was twenty something and let them know the consequences of threatening me on my own property. They were in their last gasps, struggling for survival. I don't doubt NFO had their success through hype and little action other than stirring an angry tired crowd.

  20. John Tsitrian 2014.02.02

    Deb, I'm not sure if NFO even exists anymore, but it had its day a couple of generations ago. I think besides milk-dumping they also did public slaughtering of their own pigs rather than send them to market at a loss. I'd say they had some success at raising the public's consciousness about commodity prices being chronically below production costs. My sense is that as consolidation took over ag operations since then, independent family farmers don't dominate the industry anymore, so an essentially protest-minded organization just wouldn't have the numbers of members to create much of a stir. I know by the Census Bureau's definition that the rural population of the Dakotas has been cut by about half since 1950. Pretty sure that's been the pattern throughout the grain belt and the prairies.

  21. Gail 2014.02.02

    If we could just follow all the money involved in bringing in the huge dairies, with all the foreign investors and the EB 5 program, we may find out why the powers-that-be want them- - - $40,000 here, $40,000 there, $40,000 everywhere. Along with "here pig, pig, pig".

  22. Gena Parkhurst 2014.02.02

    First the Habeck's Black Hills Dairy in fall of 2012, now Jerseydale Farms shut down improperly...the SD Dept of Ag statutorily has the power to "encourage, protect, and promote, in every practical manner" agriculture including dairying and cheesemaking. According to SDCL 38-1-18 that is the law...implementation of that law is very different when it comes to raw milk family farms. Please attend the hearing for Sen. Jensen's raw milk bill SB 126 this Friday, Feb 7th at 10am CT in the Capitol building, room 412. Or send an email to the Governor, your legislators, and the members of the Senate Health & Human Svcs Committee: PLEASE email the Senate Health and Human Services Committee members below and tell them to PASS SB 126 - they’ll vote on it first:
    Senator Krebs:; Senator Hunhoff,; Senator Bradford,; Senator Curd,; Senator Soholt,; and Senator Rampelberg, See for updates.

  23. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.02

    NFO still exists. Now they are known as National Farmers. I didn't see the letters NFO anywhere on the site. There is also no mention of milk dumping, though a milk holding action is mentioned.


    This is the website:

  24. Charlie Johnson 2014.02.03

    NFO is alive and doing quite well especially in the area of dairy marketing in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin. They are also active in marketing of organic grains through NFOrganics. Our organic farm in Lake County , South Dakota uses NFOrganics as a marketing agent to move all grain inventory.

  25. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.03

    Good to hear. NFO gave farmers in our neighborhood a sense of some control in their economic lives. They were empowered and strengthened as they stood up against corporate power.

    I'm very glad for that experience.

  26. Bree S. 2014.02.03

    When people were near starvation during the Great Depression, cattle and pigs were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands and dumped in mass graves.

  27. Rick 2014.02.03

    How do you know that, Ms. S?

  28. interested party 2014.02.03

    Read through WNAX daily: it's where South Dakota's death by ag is a mantra.

  29. interested party 2014.02.03

    Tri-State Neighbor is another place where earth hatred takes tabloid form.

  30. interested party 2014.02.03

    The Watertown PO is a toilet, so is the Daily Leader.

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.03

    Bree, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were Grudz in a dress, just trying to get us off topic.

    It might work: The slaughter to which you refer was an erroneous government intrusion into the marketplace, resembling South Dakota's entry into the diary marketplace, acting on behalf of capitalist interests to the detriment of consumers. The remedy was to create the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, which acted on more socialist principles of distributing food to the needy through various means, including the first movement toward a federal school lunch program. The Drought Relief Service also countered the harms of capitalism with government action, buying drought-weakened cattle at higher prices to help struggling farmers, killing the unfit livestock, and processing those worth processing for food.

    Now what was our point, Bree? Were we looking for some analogy between early New Deal error and South Dakota's slaughter of small dairies who, allowed to operate without the burden of state-subsidized competition with mega-dairies, could provide local milk to thousands of South Dakotans?

  32. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.03

    Oh, when our one milk cow wasn't fresh, we went to the neighbors. Mom took a couple glass gallon jars. They were filled directly from the big tank in the neighbors milk house. We paid for it, a very reasonable rate. The milk jars went into the frig. The cream rose to the top and was skillfully skimmed off. We drank the milk and had fabulous whipped cream, or churned butter.

    Raw milk, the Wonder Food.

  33. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.03

    I'm wondering about this Republican duality. (Thundering, deep, authoritative, resonant male voice!) Government should stay out of business! Unless it's to create an advantage for the businesses that offer the biggest kickback or please the Public Servants' owners.

    Is that it?

  34. grudznick 2014.02.03

    Mrs. S would never let me borrow one of her dresses because I would sweat out the armpits bad and they'd hang baggy on my bony frame.

  35. joelie hicks 2014.02.03

    We get all those at papers. Look at the ads, follow the money. They really are not informational, they are shills for seed companies and implements.

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