GILLETTE, Wyoming — Agents from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are being accused of raiding and shutting down a farmer’s market in Gillette, Wyoming.
Three federal agents last month made vendor John Thompson dump the chili he was selling at the Lakeway Farmer’s Market, according to The Gillette News Record. Part of the incident was recorded in a video posted on YouTube.
The video also contains a conversation between vendor Frank Wallis and a Gillette police officer. The officer was called after the agents came to the farmer’s market and got into a dispute with the vendors.
Wallis called the visit by federal agents a “raid.”
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“They were trying to intimidate us when they called you guys,” Wallis said on the video of the agents from the USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS).
The video shows an FSIS agent asking Thompson to sign a form stating he authorized voluntary destruction of his chicken chili. Thompson makes and sells bottles of Big John’s Chili.
State Representative Tyler Lindholm (R-Sundance) said the raid never should have occurred.
A state law called the Wyoming Food Freedom Act allows processed food to be sold at farmer’s markets provided they don’t contain any meat other than poultry, according to County 17, a local website. Thompson said he bought the chicken at a grocery store and it already had been subject to federal inspection. Thus, under state law, he said, his chili was legal.
“[The police] were very professional and acted like a public servant should act,” Wallis County 17, a local website. “They were there to keep the peace, but there was no threats going on from our side. It was the USDA agents that were threatening us with arrest.”
Said Lindholm, “We had no clue that they were coming. They didn’t notify any of our state agents. These were products sold from Wyoming vendors to Wyoming people. In my opinion the FSIS didn’t have the authority to inspect that food because it didn’t involve interstate commerce.”
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