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SD Ag Dept Downplays Own Listeria Error, Resists Apology to Brookings Dairy

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture unnecessarily shut down Brookings-area dairy Jerseydale Farms two weeks ago. The Department of Agriculture still hasn't apologized. Read their terse little oopsie, which studiously avoids saying oopsie:

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture announces Jerseydale Farms of Brookings, South Dakota, has resumed distribution of bottled raw milk.

Jerseydale Farms’ permit was suspended on Jan. 21, 2014, due to a positive test for Listeria from a sample of bottled raw milk. A follow-up sample was collected; this second sample tested negative for Listeria.

Further testing of the original sample determined the species to be Listeria innocua. This species of Listeria is generally not considered pathogenic bacteria [South Dakota Department of Agriculture, press release, 2014.02.03].

Good grief: I issue bigger apologies when I spell stuff wrong.

Analyze the press release from a journalistic perspective, and you see our ag officials pressing their attack on small dairies and burying their own error. The first and second paragraphs maintain the impression that Jerseydale Farms did something wrong. THe third paragraph avoids saying the Department did anything wrong. It throws in "generally," a weasel word that leaves the door open for the possibility that Jerseydale Farms' original sample might have been dangerous.

"Generally" is not the word Professor Russ Daly from SDSU uses:

But scientists told the Capital Journal the Listeria species found in the Jerseydale Farms milk, Listeria innocua, is not the strain that poses health threats. “If you look at everything that has been published on Listera innocua, it is not a significant pathogen at all,” said Russ Daly, a state public health veterinarian at South Dakota State University. Daly said a different strain, Listeria monocytogenes, is responsible for “99.9 percent of Listeria infections” in humans [Joel Ebert, "Listeria Hysteria?," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.02.04].

The Department of Agriculture whimpers back that they had to report the Listeria finding, even though the lab hadn't finished its analysis of the sample. The Department felt that taking precautions for public safety was more important than waiting for the final scientific verdict.

Not waiting for the absolutely final scientific verdict to take action? Imagine if South Dakota officials took that approach to climate change: the state would be banning Keystone XL and subsidizing wind turbines for every town!

The state has unduly harmed a business through improper enforcement of onerous regulation. The state at least owes that business Jerseydale Farms, an apology.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.02.06

    Who paid to get the milk tested? In iowa,only the party that pays for the tests is allowed to publish,or not,the test results. If the lab finds pathogens dangerous to the public,it cannot,under stiff penalty of law,warn anyone. It is not a crime,however,for the facility that paid for the tests to not disclose the dangers. This was a law passed to protect factory farms from whistleblowers.

  2. Joan 2014.02.06

    This happened exactly as I thought it would. My hope is that the fallout will wake up the Dept. of Ag and get them on a more helpful path. The message should be clear by now -- the public wants freedom of choice.

  3. Joan 2014.02.06

    Mike, after reading the article you linked I'm not clear on your point. I could guess but it would best if you let us know yourself.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.06

    Mike, I hope the Ag Dept is covering the cost of these tests. They also ought to cover the costs of lost business for Jerseydale Farms.

    You make an interesting comparison to Iowa's situation. Iowa may be taking it too far: I have no problem with the state closing food producers who pose a real danger to public health. I'd like to know if a dairy or CAFO or meat-packing plant is producing contaminated food.

  5. Jim 2014.02.06

    I just tested the Ag dept. statement and found it to contain traces of bullshit.

  6. mike from iowa 2014.02.06

    Joan,the video goes with my original post. The lab that found the salmonella notified the producers of the problem,and as a matter of common sense and public safety should have notified the entire world. Because of confidentiality clauses,they could not,even when they knew the producers were still shipping contaminated product. I didn't edit real close on the first post. The last sentence was meant for a different post,more in line with Cory's. I am still working on it. Hope this helps.

  7. MBradshaw 2014.02.06

    Let's talk about what is really going on here. Secretary Lentsch needs to go. Why on Earth would the Governor put up with such a reckless embarrassment? Did they not understand the ramifications of such a shotgun move? I hope Jerseydale gets not only an apology, but a large court reward for loss of sales and severe damage to their reputation (this story went NATIONWIDE).

    If our Ag Dept doesn't know the difference between two very different strains of Listeria, that is a problem. Aren't they supposed to be the experts? You can't lump everything together if the one strain isn't even supposed to be tested for and is not harmful? Did the Ag Dept even have authority to test for Listeria innocua?

    This is what we get when we have a Secretary of Ag who is all about showboating and crisscrossing the state gloating himself instead of someone who honestly cares about the farmers themselves. I have voted Republican my whole life, but unless Daugaard wakes up and removes his Secretary of Ag, he won't get my vote.

  8. mike from iowa 2014.02.06

    iowa Guv Braindead signed the "ag gag" bill into law. It is illegal to videotape production methods. As for korporate farms manure spills,they get a slap on the wrist and the DNR,which is supposed to monitor and keep inland waterways clean have been given no money to do the job. The only clean-up efforts are voluntary citizens that schedule annual clean-up parties to remove trash. iowa has some of the dirtiest lakes and streams,thanks to korporate ag and a large farm related industry with deep pockets and lobbyists.

  9. Charlie Johnson 2014.02.06

    And they say "manure" doesn't run uphill. GDD and his agricultural approach to rural SD is a total failure.

  10. Kathy 2014.02.06

    Here is the text of the rule
    12:81:03:02. Sale of bottled raw milk for human consumption -- Sample collection. Bottled raw milk must, at a minimum, be tested monthly for bacteria, coliform bacteria, drug residue, and pathogenic bacteria (Salmonella, Listeria Monocytogenes, Campylobacter spp., and E. Coli 0157:H7) at an accredited laboratory approved by the department.

    Additionally, bottled raw milk may be tested for pesticides, added water and other adulterants, as deemed necessary by the department.

    The tests must be undertaken using the sampling methods in § 12:81:02:02 and must meet the standards in § 12:81:03:03. Any such sample must be collected from the consumer container.

    Source: 40 SDR 109, effective December 11, 2013.

    General Authority: SDCL 39-6-9(1)(5), 40-32-18(2).

    Law Implemented: SDCL 40-32-1, 40-32-23.

    It clearly says Listeria Monocytogenes. From what I understand this is not the same as Listeria innocua, so they should not have tested for that strain in the first place and they violated their own rule and should be sued.

    What is going on at the Ag Dept? Why would they make these new rules and then break them and then follow it up with such a poorly written press release not even acknowledging they broke the law by shutting down Jerseydale in the first place? I agree with comment above about the new Secretary obviously didn't take the time to read and understand his own rules or he just disregarded them. We farmers deserve better.

  11. MBradshaw 2014.02.06

    Lentsch is from Iowa and I think his handpicked Deputy came from Iowa too so why are we surprised? Sorry, Mike.

  12. Les 2014.02.06

    The performance of our state government should incense all party voters. These last two Ag secretary's actions against the small family farm and consumer are incredulous. Lentsch was apparently brought in to do a job and this ugly picture painted now both East and West River obviously fits his job description exactly.
    That a former Gov Rounds would veto Sen Maher's effort to create a very minimal superfund for a pipeline failure,and, none since, shows no less concern for the SD taxpayer than all the mining cleanup we've faced at SD expense.
    That the same governor, legislature and current herd down in Pierre consider Brett Clanton less worthy than a foreign national should be treasonous at least..
    Pierre will wake to the overhaul Rapid City awoke to, hopefully soon enough.

  13. mike from iowa 2014.02.06

    MBradshaw-no offense taken. iowa has produced many outstanding duds like Michele(one L) Bachmann,John Wayne Gacy(notorious serial killer),Ga Congressman Bob Barr who was a leader in the Clinton Impeachment,Tom Dorr was appointed some honcho in dumb bass dubya's ag department and of course the homeliest male model ever-Ashton Kuthcher. Henry Wallace fits in ag somehow.

  14. Steve Bulle 2014.02.06


    Lentsch is not the only former Iowan wearing a Department Secretary hat in the Daugaard administration.

    Jeffrey Vonk, Secretary of Game, Fish and Parks, is an Iowa reject who shares the connection as well as the arrogance and self-importance that you so aptly attribute to Lentsch.

    Wouldn't it be nice if Department Secretary positions were filled through the election process, rather than through appointments by Governors who too often have less than stellar motives for their choices?

    April, 2013 - Daugaard said, “Lucas Lentsch will be a great Secretary of Agriculture. He is well-known across the state and well-respected in the ag community. Lucas will be an effective advocate for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers.”

    Ability to issue a genuine apology apparently never came up in his employment interview...

  15. interested party 2014.02.06

    Imagine a Governor Wismer and Secretary of Education Don Kopp then gut Bulle's dog with a fencing pliers.

  16. Steve Bulle 2014.02.06

    Larry (interested party),

    Most of the folks on here seem like pretty sane, reasonable people. How did you ever find a home here?

    Your nastiness speaks volumes about you...

  17. interested party 2014.02.06

    Mr. Bulle: take a flying mount of a rolling fried pastry.

  18. interested party 2014.02.06

    Go over to Pat's, Steve: they love torturing small animals over there.

  19. mike from iowa 2014.02.06

    Steve B-I read within the past month that the ex-govs dad stepped down from the Game department and was replaced. Do you know if he was qualified to fill that spot,as I believe his son appointed him in the first place. Nepotism isn't a qualification for good governance. Just curious.

  20. Douglas Wiken 2014.02.06

    And Iowa gave us Herbert Hoover.

    I don't know about the testing and releasing of information, but if I were dumb enough to buy raw milk, I would want testing to be more on the tough side than the lenient.

  21. MBradshaw 2014.02.06

    Lentsch is well respected in the ag community? Really Daugaard? You sure about that? Because that is not what I'm hearing, quite the opposite actually.

    And Douglas: You would want the testing more on the tough side, and I get that. I feel the same way aboout DUI and testing for alchohol, but I would be quite pissed if I lost my license for testing positive for mouthwash.

  22. Steve Bulle 2014.02.06

    IP, you just proved my point.

    mike from iowa,

    Need some more details, specifically names - not sure who you are referring to - give me those and I'll do some digging...

    I agree with you 100 percent that nepotism is not good for governance!

  23. Jana 2014.02.07

    Sadly, nepotism in Pierre is so common that we've lost our ability to be outraged. Go ahead and ask the governor and his son-in-law.

  24. Jana 2014.02.07

    The GOP in South Dakota runs the state like the mafia. Political donations and support are the currency of protection money.

  25. Joan 2014.02.07

    The testing is tough enough. The problem lies in the Dept.'s implementation and interpretation of the rules. And that problem can be squarely set in the lap of the Secretary. He needs to properly oversee his Dept. He has some overzealous employees who happen to have strong views on raw milk. It's not their job to interpret the law as they would like it to be. Their job is enforcing the law that the state has passed.

  26. mike from iowa 2014.02.07

    Steve B-it was Don Rounds,ex Gov's Dad that retired from SD Board of Water and Natural Resources. His son appointed him June 16,2003. He had worked for the state before. Was wondering about quailifications.

  27. Steve Bulle 2014.02.07

    mike from iowa,

    Here's what I could find:

    "The elder Rounds originally was appointed to the board by his son June 16, 2003. He filled the remainder of another member’s term. He was reappointed to a new full term in 2004 and to a second full term in 2008, both times by his son. He was reappointed to a third full term May 4, 2012, by Gov. Dennis Daugaard."

    He resigned from the Board in October. He is 86 years old, so I guess that is understandable. His first two appointments by his son certainly have the ring of nepotism in my mind. And then Daugaard appoints him to a third full term at the age of 85. Had he completed his third term he would have been 89 at the end of that term.
    Looks like once you are in with these guys you are in for as long as you want to be...

    "Don Rounds, worked at various times as state director of highway safety, a staffer for Rural Electrification Administration and executive director of the South Dakota Petroleum Council."

    I'm not sure about how this work history would translate to qualifying him for appointment to the SD Board of Water and Natural Resources. Perhaps his main qualification was that his son was the Governor...

    I checked on the State Employee Salary Lookup webpage and it lists his DENR salary/wage as $60 hourly and his status as inactive. Pretty good wages, don't you think?

  28. Curtis Strong 2014.02.07

    Letter to the Editor Raw Milk

    What is the real motivation to this? Why would we want to put small milk producers out of business? Is it to protect the public or is it to control the public? Forty years ago, my family went once a week to small South Dakota dairy and exchanged one gallon milk jars for as long as I can remember and I never had a family member get sick. I do not believe these regulations are motivated with public safety in mind. Why won’t the legislators just nullify these regulations from South Dakota? Apparently our legislators want to control South Dakotans food source. Why would our South Dakota legislators want to control our food source since we have ruled out public safety? It must be power and money, as they can appoint the accredited lab for all of these tests. This gives the Legislators the power to possibly appoint a company who could be a political donor. Or is it increasing the sales of large producers who could also be a possible political donor. There is no way this is about public safety. If you look at the research that SoDakLiberty has (, this is about power and donation money. Any legislator who will not totally nullify these regulations, we will spread their names out to the constituents to get them voted out of office as they throw another tax on South Dakotans with these ridiculous regulations. I believe the free market made this country great. If we can get the regulations and the government out of the way, this country can shine again.
    By the Grace of GOD, America will shine again
    Curtis Strong, Governor Candidate Constitution Party

  29. Douglas Wiken 2014.02.07

    If raw milk is another ideology with its own mythology, my guess is the dairy did not lose any revenue, because the buyers aren't influenced by science or regulations.

  30. interested party 2014.02.07

    The human microbiome has been in the news for some time: one reason raw milk is desirable to some and horrifying to others.

    Listeria is no joke: the two Colorado brothers convicted for their parts in contamination likely heightened the paranoia South Dakota Republicans use for autoeroticism.

  31. mike from iowa 2014.02.07

    Steve B- $60 an hour-chicken feed. That isn't that much less than a beginning lawyer can pull down,I'm thinking. Maybe I should move to SD and start kissing arses. Beats disability. Thanks for the help.

  32. Nick Nemec 2014.02.07

    Besides the nepotism of Gov. Mike Rounds appointing his father to a position on an important state board we shouldn't overlook the fact that Don Rounds was the long time executive director and registered lobbyist for the South Dakota Petroleum Council. The state board he was appointed to was the SD Board of Water and Natural Resource. The agency tasked with protecting our water was being governed by an oil industry lobbyist.

    Were any red flags raised? Business as usual in Pierre.

  33. Gena Parkhurst 2014.02.07

    The Ag Department pays for the first pathogen test, and the farmer pays for re-tests if needed.

  34. Gena Parkhurst 2014.02.07

    Thank you everyone for supporting SB 126, the raw milk bill.
    The result of today's hearing: the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to defer to another day, passed with amendment, YEAS 5, NAYS 2. Final vote is February 19th.
    Stay tuned for next action alert…in the meantime, you can listen to the VERY interesting hearing at this link (takes few minutes to load - it is 2 hours and 28 minutes of audio)

  35. Kelly Wesner 2014.02.07

    I have an issue with shutting the small milk producers down. Growing up, drinking whole milk from small dairies never had a sickness or a health problem, never had to worry about it going out of date, you had creamed milk off of the top which was good for anything, milk was better for you than we receive today. Local farmers guarantee the product they sell. There is no guarantee what we get out of the store or out of the government. If we shut them down we have no guarantee. If we shut the small farm dairies down the guaranteed milk is gone. The pasteurized and processed milk we have today, if you would take a good glass of milk you would understand what I mean, meaning small dairies.

  36. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.08

    Candidate Strong's submission reminds us why the raw milk topic is so interesting: it scrambles the usual partisan battle lines and gives us a chance to find common ground with folks we usually disagree with. Dakota Rural Action and radical Constitutionalists come out sounding like mainstream defenders of the free market, while Republican regulators come out sounding like the nanny-state alarmists.

  37. Rose 2014.02.08

    I happen to be a customer of Jerseydale dairy, and I know that the family has lost 75% of their customers as a result of the department of Agriculture's fear mongering. They made $1000 a month from raw milk prior to the scare. The income that was left sure didn't go far towards providing for their 5 children. They are no longer selling raw milk.

  38. Les 2014.02.08

    Tell them to visit good attorneys and find the cost of litigation. The collections for help with that bill can then begin.

  39. Family Farm 2014.02.08

    From NE South Dakota, we are farmers and we do not support Lentsch or any of his policies.

  40. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.09

    Rose, they've quit selling raw milk for good? Are they selling any other products?

  41. Rose 2014.02.09

    They are selling their cows. Anyone who wants a gallon of milk a week can buy 1/20th of a cow and pay for its feed.

Comments are closed.