The SWAT-like team raid in December 2008 of a food coop called the Manna Storehouse near LaGrange, Ohio (Lorain County) was heavily covered here at the Journal. Sheriff deputies and agents from Ohio Department of Agriculture and the county health department stormed the home while homeschool was in session with several children and were held at bay in a room for seven hours while agents confiscated food, computers and records. They did not obtain a food service license after it was requested by the health department. After a court ruling earlier that Manna required a food service license from the health department, owners John and Jaqueline Stowers appealed. Yesterday, the verdict on the appeal was that Manna is a retail store and must be licensed, according to the Lorain Morning Journal newspaper:
- Appellate judges ruled yesterday the Manna Storehouse, a LaGrange organic food co-op, is a retail store, and as such is not exempt from Ohio food safety regulations and should be licensed.
- The ruling upheld a Feb. 10, 2010, decision by Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge that despite Jacqueline and John Stowers’ claim that their organic food store on SR 303 was not a retail store, it is subject to inspection and regulation.
- The Stowers also argued the regulatory ruling about licensing “infringes upon property rights, their right to earn a livelihood, their freedom to contract, and their inherent natural right to cooperate with friends and neighbors to acquire food” as guaranteed in the constitution.
- Appellate judges also state the storehouse does not fall under the category of an exempted storehouse, such as a farm or market.
- The controversy surrounding the Manna Storehouse started when the Ohio Department of Agriculture raided the store in 2008 and confiscated hundreds of pounds of processed beef and large amounts of lamb, turkey and other perishable products in addition to office files, a computer, two cell phones and other electronic devices, according to the search warrant inventory.
- The items were taken to establish the Stowers’ ownership in any property, records of hidden wealth or illegal income and anything that would establish illegal activity, according to the search warrant affidavit.
The Stowers filed some 70 complaints to the federal court, among them: claiming unlawful search and seizure, violation of equal protection and due process, unlawful exercise of administrative authority, unlawful application of state police power, violation of inalienable and retained rights and taking advantage of private property without compensation– but the suit was dropped and taken into a state court and the court ruled in favor of the state and this prompted the appeal.