First Amendment

Small dairy farmer seeks First Amendment protection from state regulators

Five years ago, the Florida Department of Agriculture turned its regulatory power on a small third-generation dairy farm in the Panhandle’s Calhoun County, population 14,462.

The Ocheesee Creamery, as it’s known, was caught being a little too honest.

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft, owner, was selling all-natural pasteurized skim milk – whole milk with the cream skimmed off – and labeling it exactly what it was: skim milk.

But in a strange twist with First Amendment implications, the state said Wesselhoeft was misrepresenting her product. After a decade without complaints or confusion, newly enforced regulations required artificially injected additives — something Ocheese Creamery had never done and wasn’t about to start doing.

As a result, the department issued an ultimatum: either stop selling skim milk or label it “imitation milk.”

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