Miller's Organic Farm in Upper Leacock

This file photo from 2016 shows Miller's Organic Farm in Upper Leacock Township.

A Lancaster County farmer is balking at a $250,000 fine federal prosecutors are proposing after he was found in contempt of court for violating a 2020 consent decree.

Amos Miller, who owns Miller’s Organic Farm in Upper Leacock Township, wants to pay $25,000, or 10% of the proposed fine. And he wants 60 days, rather than the 30 days the government is proposing, to pay the fine and $14,436 the government is seeking to cover its enforcement costs.

A $250,000 fine would complicate Miller’s efforts to come into compliance with federal regulations, his attorney, Steven Lafuente of Dallas, Texas, wrote earlier this month in a court filing in which Miller and the farm objected to other proposed sanctions.

Those sanctions concern conducting an inventory of meat and poultry at the farm, how that meat and poultry can be sold or destroyed, and record keeping.

Miller was found in contempt of the consent decree because he was selling meat from animals he slaughtered at his farm, which isn’t federally approved as a slaughterhouse.

Miller wants to seek a custom exemption that would allow him to operate a slaughterhouse, and he suggested in the filing that he should essentially be granted the exemption so he can show that he’d be operating as required.

“The best way to execute a plan is to set it in motion,” Lafuente wrote in the filing.

Miller also took issue with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service’s requirements for record-keeping.

“It is not Miller’s choice, but rather, Miller’s religion that prohibits the use of computers that would facilitate the creation of records as FSIS requires,” Lafuente wrote. ‘The implementation of the sort of records sought by FSIS is very difficult for an Amish farmer.”

In their filing last month, federal prosecutors said the FSIS has successfully worked with other Amish farmers.

“FSIS has not singled out Miller’s or denied it any accommodation that FSIS has extended to similarly situated farmers. Other Pennsylvania Amish/Mennonite meat and poultry farmers and sellers routinely submit to FSIS inspection and other statutory and regulatory requirements,” the government wrote.

Prosecutors also noted that they could have sought fines well over $1 million, depending on how Miller’s violations of the consent decree were calculated.

U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith has scheduled a July 19 hearing on the government’s proposed sanctions and Miller’s objections to them.

Miller’s came to the attention of federal authorities in 2016, when the Food and Drug Administration said it identified Listeria in samples of Miller’s raw milk and found it to be genetically similar to the bacteria in two people who developed listeriosis — one of whom died — after consuming raw milk.

That led to the FSIS investigating and suing Miller’s over the meat and poultry issue in 2019, leading to the 2020 consent decree.

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