By Jim Dickrell, editor, Dairy Today
A class action, antitrust lawsuit was filed on behalf of Northeast dairy famers against Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Dean Foods in Burlington, Vt.
The suit alleges DFA and Dean each with monopolizing the distribution of fluid milk, and forcing farmers to join DFA or its affiliate Dairy Marketing Services (DMS). DMS and HP Hood, a milk processor based in Massachusetts, were also named in the suit for aiding DFA's and Dean's monopolization, and DMS for price-fixing with DFA.
"Many dairy farmers have been forced to choose between joining DFA or DMS or going out of business,” says lead attorney Benjamin Brown, with the law firm Cohen Milstein. "If they join, they have to pay a fee to market to their own customers at prices fixed by DFA, DMS and other cooperatives. Meanwhile major milk processors Dean and HP Hood, which is part owned by DFA, enjoy the economic benefits.
In a statement released Friday, Monica Massey, DFA VP of Communications, responded: "It is disappointing that although DFA's activities in the Northeast have improved prices for cooperative members and independent producers alike, these charges are being brought against us. We will aggressively defend ourselves against allegations we believe to be without basis.”
The suit, Alice H. Allen, et al. vs Dairy Farmers of America, seeks both monetary damages and injunctive relief. The suit alleges DFA has engaged in unlawful mergers, acquisitions and closures of bottling plants. It also alleges DFA has defied explicit instructions of the Department of Justice by entering unlawful agreements with Dean and HP Hood.