SALEM, Ohio — Some dairy farmers in the northeastern portion of the country are lashing out at Dairy Farmers of America, Dean Foods, Dairy Marketing Services (an affiliate of DFA) and HP Hood after deciding low milk prices could be attributed to the milk marketers and retailers.
Dairy farmers in the Northeast have filed a class action lawsuit against the entities, charging they have monopolized the market and created the current economic crisis in the dairy industry.
The lawsuit (Alice H. Allen, et al. vs. Dairy Farmers of America) claims farmers have been forced to sell their milk into a market with record low prices and accuses the organizations of fixing prices.
The law firm Cohen Milstein, out of Washington D.C., filed the lawsuit Oct. 8.
The suit alleges DFA and Dean have seized control of the region’s dairy industry and are forcing farmers to join DFA or its marketing affiliate, Dairy Marketing Services, to survive.
The dairy farmers are blaming DFA and Dean for lowering the price they receive for milk by making DFA and its affiliates the exclusive suppliers of milk to Dean and Hood. Together, the two processors bottle about 90 percent of the milk in the Northeast.
It is not clear how many farmers could be impacted if a jury verdict was rendered in the case, but it could be more than just the dairy families that have filed as the plaintiffs, according to Benjamin Brown, attorney for the Cohen Milstein group. He expects more farmers to join the class action suit.
A statement issued by Dairy Farmers of America Oct. 9 said the organization is disappointed about the charges being made against them and believes them to be without basis.
DFA declined to be interviewed by Farm and Dairy, and instead released the written statement.
Monica Massey, vice president of communications for DFA, said in the statement the cooperative is continuing to search for additional ways to increase dairy farmer pay price and net returns and does not suppress them.
The milk marketing cooperative claims the strong relationship with other co-ops has enabled it to cut costs in the area of field services, hauling and administration, which has benefited farmers.
Dean Foods and HP Hood did not return phone calls from Farm and Dairy.