Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dean Foods settles lawsuit with Vermont dairy farmers, faces another involving 14 states

Dean Foods has agreed to pay $30 million to settle a class-action, anti-trust lawsuit filed by a group of dairy farmers in Vermont. Karen Robinson-Jacobs reports for The Dallas Morning News that the farmers had accused Dean and three other dairy-industry defendants of price-fixing and conspiracy to control the milk market in the Northeast, writes Robinson-Jacobs. (Read more)

The Burlington Free Press reports that the case was also against the Dairy Farmers of America, who the farmers say forced dairy farmers to join the organization. Doug Lantagne, extension dean at the University of Vermont, said the state's dairy farmers have been forced to sell milk for $2 to $3 per hundredweight below the cost of production. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who convened a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009 to discuss competition and sustainability in the dairy industry, said "Vermont dairy farmers, like dairy farmers across the country, are struggling, and we cannot allow collusion among larger dairy conglomerates to continue at the expense of our locally owned and operated dairy farms." The settlement needs court approval. (Read more)

Dean Foods is facing a similar class action, this one filed in Tennessee by 7,500 dairy producers in 14 states. The suit alleges that the low prices dairies were paid for their milk since 2001 are the results of a combination of price-fixing, "flooding" the milk market, restricting milk producers’ access to bottling plants and other illegal activities. The suit further alleged that Dean entered into an agreement that it would purchase milk only through Dairy Farmers of America, preventing individual dairies from selling directly to Dean or through other marketing services, writes Erin L. McCoy for the Kentucky Standard, a weekly newspaper in Nelson County, where all dairy farmers are part of the suit. (Read more)

No comments: