Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm did get another hearing this past Friday in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District Court, but federal Judge Edward Smith did not make any decisions. Smith instead asked government attorneys to complete their investigation and present the court with a written motion with their requested action.
In July, Smith ordered Miller to pay a $250,000 fine within 30 days for being in contempt of the court’s 2019-2020 rulings involving Miller and his businesses. When Miller did not pay the fine by the deadline, Smith opted to hold in abeyance as Miller reported he had come into compliance with the court’s orders.
Miller, who did reimburse about $15,000 for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s investigative costs, has kept raising money through an internet service to help with his legal exposes. By the hearing date, about 1,300 supporters had kicked in $133,000.
The USDA sent investigators back to Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-In-Hand, PA, before the hearing to inspect the premises and see whether his meat inventory did include any more product slaughtered without inspection. Miller is specifically prohibited from slaughtering meat and poultry. He must use USDA-inspected facilities.
Government attorneys continue to be skeptical about Miller’s claims that he has come into compliance with the court orders. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerald Sullivan told Judge Smith that Miller continues to take “a number of deceptive actions” to avoid the court’s orders.
Sullivan is also dubious about whether the $250,000 fine carries much significance to Miller considering his success in fundraising “Obviously the fine means nothing because he is able to raise money so easily,” Sullivan said. USDA has assigned five FSIS investigators to the new expanding probe, up from two. Miller sees that action as “increasingly aggressive.”
An investigator under cross-examination told Miller’s attorney, Steve LeFuente, that none of the activity observed before the hearing would amount to violations of the court orders. Because of technical problems during the telephonic hearing, Smith opted to ask the government for a written order based on its investigative findings.
Miller owns farms in multiple states as well as his own sales organization. Since late August, he has argued that his Miller’s Organic Farm has come into compliance with food safety regulations and it should no longer be necessary for him to pay the $250,000 fine.
The steps he says he has taken to come into compliance include:
- On or before July 22, Miller ceased the slaughter and delivery of amenable animals.
- On or before July 22, Miller ceased all amenable meat and poultry-related retail-exempt operations pending compliance with federal and state requirements of the Contempt Order.
- On Aug 4, Miller supplied USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) with the name of their proposed qualified, third independent party to conduct the inventory required by the Contempt Order.
- On Aug 5, information was posted on the Miller’s Organic Farm website as required by the Contempt Order.
- On Aug.18, Miller reimbursed FSIS for its enforcement costs as required by the Contempt Order, and FSIS confirmed receipt of $14,436.26, which was the amount owed.
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