Free Speech, Kansas Justice InstituteCase Info & Legal Team

Free speech victory in Kansas for Raw Milk Farmers

The advertisement of raw milk off the property is now legal in Kansas, thanks to a successful lawsuit filed by Kansas Justice Institute and their clients, Mark and Coraleen Bunner. Before the lawsuit, Mark and Coraleen couldn’t even talk about their legal product when they stepped off their property, now they can.

Bunner v. Beam

This case is about the right to truthfully voice information free from government intervention. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as Section 11 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights, does not tolerate government bans on truthful speech concerning lawful products. This is why The Kansas Justice Institute did not hesitate to represent the Bunner family in their pursuit of striking down the unconstitutional ban on advertising their product.

Sam MacRoberts, General Counsel and Litigation Director for Kansas Justice Institute remarks, “The government’s speech-ban was offensive. This quick and decisive victory is a win for the speech rights of all Kansans. The Bunners have the absolute right to advertise raw milk. I believe that if we do not stand up for our rights, we lose them. That’s why we filed this case on behalf of not just the Bunners, but all Kansans. The government cannot be permitted to censor speech.”

Case Background

Mark and Coraleen Bunner are dairy farmers near Pfeifer, Kansas. The Bunners have a small goat herd and they offer raw milk for sale. The Bunners have the constitutional right to promote raw milk away from their farm and consumers have the right to hear about it. The First Amendment demands no less.

Even though raw milk is a perfectly legal product, farmers like Coraleen and Mark Bunner are banned from advertising their raw milk away from their farm. That means the Bunner family and other farmers in Kansas are prohibited from posting flyers at local stores, advertising sales online or via email, or posting a bulletin at church.

Kansas’ censorship of free speech prohibits farmers in the state from talking about their product when they step off their property. It also keeps consumers who would like to find individuals in Kansas that sell this legal product. Many consumers desire to seek out raw milk for various reasons. Some consumers prefer the rich taste, some like the nutritional benefits, and some consumers who have a sensitivity to cow milk do not have the same sensitivity to raw goat milk. These consumers have a near-impossible time finding the product because farmers are not free to promote it off their own land.

Kansas’ ban results in farmers, like Mark and Coraleen Bunner, who are afraid to talk about one of their biggest passions when they visit with friends in their hometown.

Meet Mark and Coraleen Bunner

Mark and Coraleen Bunner run Shepherd’s Gate Dairy, LLC near Pfeifer, Kansas. They started the dairy about 25 years ago with just one goat. As they grew, they designed Shepherd’s Gate as a “Grade A” dairy, the highest-graded facility in the state. Their milking parlor is air-conditioned for the summers and has heated floors for the winters. The parlor is equipped with a separate commercial-grade kitchen.

Even though they built their dairy to “Grade A” specifications, the Bunners preferred raw milk to pasteurized milk. So did their neighbors and customers. For some, raw milk tastes better. For others, they prefer the potential health benefits. Either way, the Bunners’ preferences, and the marketplace steered them toward raw milk instead of the pasteurized version produced in Grade A facilities. They’ve been selling raw milk and raw cheese ever since.

Goat farming is a passion for the Bunners. Mr. Bunner wrote articles for the Dairy Goat Journal, a bi-monthly magazine featuring articles, information, and ideas for anyone connected with dairy goats. Mrs. Bunner loves her goats so much she has a “GoatMom” license plate. Each goat has a name, and Coraleen is eager to tell you all about their personality and how she cares for them. The Bunners follow the American Dairy Goat Association breeding standards and many of their goats are award-winning.

Raising goats is time-consuming and expensive. A new goat costs between $300-$500 but sometimes goes as high as $1,500. The Bunners feed their goats alfalfa and grain concentrate, the price of which has both increased.

The Bunners carefully follow a strict milking protocol ensuring the milking area on the goat is wiped down and clean, the milk is stripped, and the goats are routinely checked for any physical issues that would impact the safety of the milk. After this protocol, the milking begins at 5:30 AM every day and 5:30 PM every evening.

Their goats currently produce multiple gallons per day but because they can’t advertise, the Bunners are forced to throw away about half the milk. They simply cannot sell or get rid of the milk fast enough. The Bunners have decreased their milking goats from over twenty-five to six.

Shepherd’s Gate is located on a dead-end road in rural Kansas. Their dairy is bounded by the Smoky Hill River to the north and west. Because they are so isolated, the advertising ban hurts the Bunners more than most.

Bunner v. Beam

Date Filed
October 28, 2019
District Court of Shawnee County (Topeka)
Case Status

Case Timeline

Verified Petition for Declaratory Judgment
Signed Judgment
Press Release on SB 346


Raw milk causes sour feelings in Kansas as sales ban or warning label considered

BY JONATHAN SHORMAN FEBRUARY 17, 2020 Raw milk causes sour feelings in Kansas as sales ban or warning label considered   Got raw milk? The answer in Kansas is yes. But that could change. A […]
Read More >

A bizarre Kansas law prohibited advertising raw Milk. So this farm couple fought back.

By The Kansas City Star Editorial Board – November 11, 2019 05:00 AM via The Kansas City Star Got raw milk? Kansas goat farmers Mark and Coraleen Bunner do, but bizarrely, they and every other […]
Read More >

Free Speech: Right to Advertise Raw Milk

The Kansas Department of Agriculture has agreed that a Kansas statute sharply limiting such advertising violates the First Amendment. EUGENE VOLOKH |THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY | 11.7.2019 9:01 AM via Kansas law allows “the sale […]
Read More >

Judge declares unconstitutional Kansas’ limits on raw milk ads

By Tim Carpenter via the Topeka Capital Journal Goat farmers Coraleen and Mark Bunner’s lawsuit challenging a 50-year-old state law limiting advertising on sales of raw milk resulted Wednesday in a court order approved […]
Read More >

Kansas Prohibition on Advertising of Raw Milk Ruled Unconstitutional!

By Alexia Kulwiec | November 11, 2019 via Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund – Until last week, Kansas raw milk farmers were permitted to produce raw milk and sell it directly from the […]
Read More >

Kansas case was about free speech, not raw milk

By Sam MacRoberts The First Amendment doesn’t stop at a farmer’s gate. At least not anymore, thanks to Mark and Coraleen Bunner. The Bunners are hardworking, honest dairy farmers near Hays. They started their dairy […]
Read More >

Bizarre law drives justified suit

Bizarre law drives justified suit Feb 18, 2020 Got raw milk? Kansas goat farmers Mark and Coraleen Bunner do, but bizarrely, they and every other producer have been prohibited by state law from advertising or […]
Read More >

Raw milk producers may now advertise in Kansas

By Tim Carpenter Posted Jan 1, 2020 Raw milk producers may now advertise in Kansas Kansas dairy goat producers Coraleen and Mark Bunner from near Hays filed a lawsuit against the state for restrictions placed on farmers […]
Read More >

Government conducts surprise, warrantless searches of homestead

Award-Winning Kansas Dog Trainer and Handler Files Suit to Protect Property and Privacy Rights Kansas Justice Institute stands up for rights of all Kansans by challenging licensing and warrantless search regime Oct. 24, Cowley County, […]
Read More >