Local Farmers Arrested for Labeling Offense

The couple who run Double H Farm, in Nelson, have been arrested for using non-approved labels as price tags, Dave McNair writes for The Hook. The couple, in their 60s, had their farm swarmed by ten Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services agents, a state trooper, and the Nelson County Sheriff before they were handcuffed and hauled away in separate cruisers. Their Double H pork products were seized from restaurants across the area, destroyed by soaking them with bleach. Double H’s owners are well-known advocates for the rights of family farmers, which has surely earned them no love from state regulators.

I know a fair number of people in the farming and livestock business. They are all terrified of harassment by the state, which appears to both loathe family farms, actively seeking out piddily reasons to bust them. Locally-produced food is a strong interest of mine, and I’ve encouraged some of these food producers to speak out, but they’re all terrified that if they do, VDA&CS will invent a reason to shut them down. Now I see why.

This is going to get ugly — the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association will make sure of that. I wonder if any members of the General Assembly will have the good sense to introduce legislation to support family farms and stop this harassment on the part of state regulators.

24 thoughts on “Local Farmers Arrested for Labeling Offense”

  1. I cant believe it. Makes me sick.

    What do these people think is going to happen to us if our over centralized food system ever breaks down!

  2. This is sickening–both the scary implications for the future of small farms and local food, and the fact that two people were taken away in handcuffs over the type of label they use for price tags.

  3. If if we pretend that Double H’s owners were maliciously mis-labeling their products, this still makes no sense. It’s an insane overreaction.

    Can you imagine if, say, Smithfield mis-labeled their products? There’s zero chance — none — that agents would raid their headquarters, arrest their CEO, and destroy their products in restaurants and stores. This sort of thing is done only to family farmers.

  4. I do not want to be paranoid and I generally dismiss all conspiracy theories, but it is hard not to think that the state government, in this case, is doing the bidding of big agri business; and tryin make an “example”.

  5. Scary. Sickening. Makes me want to go out and start an ant-government militia group.
    Maybe we need something like the Black Panthers to deal with the “pigs” that are destroying all our freedoms.
    I shall be strongly tempted to vote for the Libertarian candidate in next year’s election.

  6. Unconscionable. Oppressive. Unfair. Outrageous.

    When can we expect a statement from VDACS that they followed “SOP?”

  7. If there’s nothing more to this story then I hope there’ll be a legal defense fund or something where I could send a few bucks.

  8. Kathryn Russell from Majesty Farm has set up a support fund for Double H Farm owners Richard Bean and Jean Renaldi. In Kathryn’s words, “If anyone would like to contribute to help them for things such as the attorney fees, that would be very helpful (They have NOT asked for support, this is on MY suggestion.)”


  9. From the VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website:

    “On June 29, 2007, Governor Timothy M. Kaine appointed Todd P. Haymore as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Haymore, a native of Danville, Virginia, currently resides in Henrico County. He comes to VDACS from the Universal Leaf Tobacco Company, where he was Corporate Director of External Affairs and Vice President of the Universal Leaf Foundation.

    “When you get down to the essence of things, agriculture is the one industry we cannot live without,” said Haymore in a June 29 statement. “Agriculture literally sustains life, and in Virginia, it also sustains our economy. It is our largest industry, with nothing else coming a close second. I am very pleased to begin my new role as Commissioner of this exemplary state agency and to serve as a spokesperson for Virginia’s farmers, processors and consumers.” ”

    Farmers are regulated by VDACS. VDACS is run by Haymore. Haymore was appointed by Kaine. What is Kaine’s position on local food? On family farms? Kaine chose from within the Tobacco industry, a man whose general statement of purpose outlines his view of Agriculture as Industry.


  10. The gastopo strikes again! I will gladly join a milita to fight to get OUR freedoms back. I was in Vien Nam in 1967 I still don’t know who’s freedom I was fighting for. This time I will MY freedom>

  11. Connie Brennan and Watkins Abbitt are out on the stump for that District’s Delegate. I hope every small farmer and his relative or friend will ask them their opinion on this matter and what they plan to do about it, rather than stand there listening to canned speeches and looking at practiced smiles. Kaine is ultimately in control of (no, I did not say responsible for) this mess.

  12. In the meantime, Topps Meat Co. has expanded their recall of ground beef from about 300,000 pounds to 21.7 million pounds. E-coli, which causes severe diarrhea and cramps, as well as other complications. It’s believed that around 25 people from Maine to Florida have gotten ill from eating this beef. And, get this, Topps says that, since most of the beef was packaged a year ago, much of it has already been consumed. But don’t worry, says the spokeswoman for Topps, because, in addition to working with the USDA and CDC, Topps is conducting their own investigation.

    So, here we have Richard Bean and Jean Rinaldi, who have injured no one (and, by the way, had scores of faithful customers crowded around their stall at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market this morning), being hauled off in handcuffs, while the corporate agro-industry giant, Topps, who, literally has their customers shitting themselves because of the bacteria-laden, year-old meat, is “conducting their own investigation”. Where are the handcuffs? Where’s the court date for the chairman of Topps? Who are the real criminals?

    John Coles and Christine Solem (of Satyrfield Farm) have been fighting a largely lonely fight against oppressive regulation of family farmers for years now. Maybe this will galvanize others into demanding relief from Richmond.

  13. To donate to a fund to help Richard and Jean w/ their legal expenses go to http://www.majestyfarm.com They have not solicited this, it is simply my desire to have the community a n easy way to provide them with their support.

    Jean and Richard are sustainable farmers feeding their community QUALITY food while the Commonwealth of Virginia is a food deficit state–importing food to feed their people. All the while our new sec’ty of Ag is into LET’S EXPORT MORE VIRGINIA FOOD!!! There is something REALLY wrong with this picture.

  14. I want to once again thank local media and especially The Hook for supporting local farmers and writing articles concerning issues affecting us.

    Small farmers in America are at a major crossroads due to recent USDA programs (NAIS) that will not only strip farmers of their right to farm, but will limit livestock farmers in having complete control and ownership of their land and their livestock. Average Americans are not even aware of the constraints this will put on their lives, or what will happen if/when local farmers are forced to stop providing food in traditional settings outside of agri-business due to heavy handed bureaucracy.

    I find what VDACS has done for a second time in the state of Virginia this year to be a gross use of force and power that is totally unnecessary and unwarranted.

    Farmers speak of being afraid of speaking out and rightly so. Every day I fear the VDACS will come to my farm to conjure up some false allegations because I do speak out and do to me what has been done to others in the state. This is no longer the free United States I grew up in.

    I also know if I keep silent I will not be true to myself and it will not get our plight out in the open. Virginia is not the only state where we are seeing open attacks on farmers for the sake agri-business interests and USDA gain, but it is the state I live in and the offensive use of force scare me.

  15. I fancy myself as being rather up on current events, but I had NO IDEA that these kind of things have been happening to farmers in Virginia – birthplace and home to some fairly significant farmers. It’s really unbelieveable.

    Maybe I’m looking too hard for a silver lining amid the clouds, but hopefully this latest outrage will galvanize some sort of “Freedom to Farm” bill in the General Assembly and reign in the excesses of VDACS. One wouldn’t have to be a particularly courageous state senator or delegate to propose such a measure, and I can’t imagine it not receiving fairly broad bipartisan support.

    Let’s hope this setback in Nelson is just what we need to take a couple of steps forward.

  16. Even though this raid happened before NAIS is to be made mandatory, ALL people who eat had better get wise to what NAIS (national animal id) is and how it will destroy family farms.

  17. The paralell between Topps and the Double H is quite appropriate. The National Animal Identification System will make this kind of thing a complete non event as the food supply will become entirely corporatized.

    I find it amazing that so many of us fighting against the NAIS, who have a natural leaning to less law, are trying to get laws enacted to save us from regulations.

    This nation needs a massive wake up call. If we have No Farmers, we’ll have No Food. If locally grown food is a crime, then we’ll have lost the ability to feed ourselves, which is a horrific thought.

    Thanks you for covering this story. I look forward to a follow up article.

  18. I think it comes down to this: How much government do we really need to protect us from ourselves?

    I keep hearing these stories about farmers being fined or arrested for trivial things like not having a digital scale. It seems to me that consumers should have the right to determine whether they really need a fancy scale or special processing of their meat.

    All this combined with the wine fiasco recently, really makes me think that the big guys really do have it in for small farmers and are using the government to shut them all down.

  19. I think you’ve captured it nicely, Lonnie. What’s at issue is the balance between the freedom to make a living as one sees fit and the state’s regulation of that freedom. While very few would choose to live with no regulatory agancies such as the FDA and VDACS, maybe the balance between them and people’s freedom has tilted too much in favor of the state and is in need of redress.

  20. Wow, this is really bad. What can we all do to help the local farm community in genereal? I like the idea of the fund to help these two, thanks for the pointer to that.

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