Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Bought Milk? the Dairy Industry Might Owe You Money

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Bought Milk? the Dairy Industry Might Owe You Money

Article excerpt

The dairy industry called it "herd retirement," a pleasant phrase, summoning up images of old cows relaxing in a pasture somewhere in Wisconsin, their productive years behind them after a lifetime of service to a grateful milk, ice cream and yogurt-loving nation. But it meant something else entirely, according to a class- action lawsuit. The cows were neither old or unproductive. Indeed, that was the problem. They were capable of producing plenty of milk at a time of glut, thereby bringing down the price of dairy products for consumers.

And the "retirement the industry had in mind for them was what most people call slaughter.

Over the course of seven years - in a scheme to hike up prices for milk products - dairy producers conspired to slaughter more than 500,000 young cows, the nationwide class-action lawsuit alleged.

The antitrust lawsuit accused dairy cooperatives - groups of farmers who serve as middlemen between farmers and dairy processors - of coming up with a scheme to limit the production of raw milk by paying farmers to prematurely kill off cows, otherwise known as price fixing, which is illegal.

Studies indicate that the "herd retirement program" led by Cooperatives Working Together - worked. From 2004 to 2008, milk producers' prices rose 66 per hundredweight of milk. By the end of the program in 2010, it was responsible for a cumulative increase in milk price revenue of $9.55 billion, the class action lawsuit claimed.

On Aug. 25, a group of the nation's largest dairy producers agreed to pay $52 million to settle the lawsuit with no admission of wrongdoing.

And as part of the settlement, millions of milk consumers in 15 states and the District of Columbia could be eligible to claim cash.

But they need to act fast.

Until January 31, anyone who purchased milk or other fresh milk products, such as yogurt, cream cheese or sour cream, for their own use while living in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wisconsin between 2003 and the present can submit a claim to receive a portion of the settlement.

Those entitled must have purchased the milk through a grocery store or other indirect retailer - not through the dairy producers themselves. The milk products also may not have been used for resale. However, consumers don't need proof of purchase or residency to submit a claim. …

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