ST. ALBANS – A settlement was reached late last year over a class action lawsuit alleging dairy cooperatives participating in a herd retirement program between 2003 and 2010 conspired to reduce milk output and unfairly raise milk prices.’
The cooperatives, including the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and its new owners Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), as well as Agri-Mark, Inc., do not admit fault in the $220 million settlement.
The settlement, filed in December, has yet to be approved by a judge.
The suit, originally filed in 2013, involves the Cooperatives Working Together initiative and its herd buyout program, which offered a premium for producers selling their milking herds for beef in order to reduce milk production and stabilize dairy prices.
The suit alleges the program effectively amounted to a “conspiracy... to eliminate competition, significantly reduce the number of dairy farmers competing in the market and to produce both short-term and long-term increases to the prices of raw farm milk, butter and cheese.”
According to the suit, the resulting price hikes for dairy products cost consumers and retailers millions.
In their settlement, the remaining cooperatives, represented by the National Milk Producers Federation, do not admit to any wrongdoing.
Several cooperatives listed in the suit, including the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, have since merged with other cooperatives or otherwise ceased to exist.
Purchasers of cheese or butter from any of the cooperatives or their respective cooperative stores – including the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery’s store in St. Albans City – between Dec. 6, 2008, and July 31, 2013, could qualify as a class member in the suit.