TORONTO - The Ontario government is wasting its time by appealing a court ruling that found raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt was not guilty of violating the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the Durham-based farmer and activist said Friday.

The Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed it is appealing last month's decision by a justice of the peace to dismiss 19 charges against Schmidt to the Ontario Court of Justice, but did not elaborate on the reasons.

"They're clutching at straws," Schmidt said in a release.

A yearlong trial that ended Jan. 20 found Schmidt's innovative "cow-share" program for raw milk consumers -- which elicited a raid by the Ministry of Health in 2006 -- did not violate provincial laws.

Justice of the peace Paul Kowarsky ruled that Schmidt's program, in which consumers become "part-owners" of his dairy cows, complied with the Health Protection and Promotion Act and Milk Act, despite the prohibitions on selling unpasteurized milk.

While raw milk is legal to drink, it's illegal to sell in Canada because it's considered a health hazard.

During Schmidt's trial, food scientists and health experts testified that mandatory pasteurization laws are needed to protect public health.

Schmidt argued that government officials and food scientists could not guarantee the safety of any food, and suggested informed consumers should be able to buy raw milk if they want.

Kowarsky also acknowledged the growing trend towards the local food movement, and said he found many cow-share programs existed around the world.

The Liberal government is underestimating the food freedom movement, Schmidt said Friday after learning of the province's decision to appeal.

"This is not about milk, this is about the respect for the individual's right to make choices without government interference," he said.

"This is now the next stage in a serious battle, a clear declaration by government to rob people of their fundamental freedoms."

Schmidt will hold a news conference at Queen's Park on Tuesday to respond to the government's legal move.

"In 2006, after the raid on our farm, I said the government made a big mistake using an army of 25 armed officers to shut a farmer down. Justice Kowarsky proved me right."