Notice the price of food going up? Here’s one reason: The dairy lobby.
Big Dairy is accused of paying dairy farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of healthy cows, which reduced the supply of milk and raised prices for consumers.
Consumers in 15 states are eligible for about $30 million from the class action lawsuit settlement, which currently works out to $10 – $20 per person. Schools or businesses could get $140 – $560 each.
You have until January 31, 2017 to sign up. Claims can be submitted online at www.boughtmilk.com or by mail to Fresh Milk Products Antitrust Litigation, PO Box 43430, Providence, RI 02940-3430.
To be eligible, you must have bought milk or fresh dairy products (including cream, half & half, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, or sour cream) from any of the following states after 2003:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Washington, D.C.
About 70% of American milk is produced by dairy farms controlled by the milk lobby — National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), a.k.a. “Cooperatives Working Together,” Dairy Farmers of America Inc., Land O’Lakes Inc., Dairylea Cooperative Inc., and Agri-Mark Inc.
Lawyers say they cooperated to boost their own profits — at the expense of tens of millions of consumers who paid higher prices for milk at the grocery store — in a class action antitrust lawsuit filed in 2011.
The price-fixing scheme began in 2003. It was no secret — dairy organizations boasted of completing “herd retirement” or “cow removal” programs in 2007, 2008, and 2009 that added $2.4 billion to milk farmers’ income.
It was widely-advertised and ran unchecked for more than 7 years — perhaps because it was marketed as a “voluntary dairy farmer-funded and managed self-help program” rather than price-fixing.
Here’s how it worked.
Farmers paid 10 cents for every hundred pounds of milk sold. The money went into a buy-out fund. Farmers put in bids every July, and if their bid was accepted, they had to slaughter their entire herd of cows.
Starting in 2009, farmers also agreed not to produce milk for one year. In 2010, over 9.6 billion pounds of milk were removed from the market. That year, dairy farmers made 37% more per hundred pounds of milk than 2003.
The program ended in 2011, but don’t expect milk prices to go down anytime soon. Just as stock prices go down faster than they go up, cow herds can be slaughtered very quickly but they take time to build up.
Fewer dairy cows means fewer calves, and each calf takes years to reach maturity. Farmers who slaughtered their entire herd may have simply retired, which further reduces competition in the highly-competitive dairy industry.