Monday, September 21, 2009

U.S. to probe dairy farmers' anti-trust allegations

U.S. Assistant Attorney Gen. Christine Varney has launched an investigation to determine if giant milk processors are violating antitrust law. Varney, testifying at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in St. Albans, Vt., Saturday, said she wanted to know "why our cooperatives are the captive of one distributor," The Associated Press reports. (Read more)

The milk price paid to dairy farmers can get has dropped 36 percent in the last year to the lowest level in three decades, Scott Kliman and Lauren Etter reported for The Wall Street Journal Thursday. Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. and Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America Inc., dominate the dairy industry after the Bush administration Justice Department cleared the way for the 2001 merger of the two largest dairy producers, they noted. (Read more)

The threat of a dairy monopoly isn't new, Dan McLean of Vermont's Burlington Free Press reports, noting that former state Rep. Tom Pelham wrote in 2003, "If we don't seek a different course, the road we now head down inevitably leads to huge corporate farms, supplying huge corporate dairy processors, supplying huge corporate food retailers." Vermont has lost more than 250 dairy farms in five years, McLean reports, leading Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders to push for an antitrust investigation of Dean Foods. Pelham told McLean: "I grew up in a dairy valley as a kid. I love these people. The culture that is wrapped around dairy farming is falling by the wayside in Vermont." (Read more)

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