A U.S. district court judge approved a $50 million settlement agreement in a 7-year-old Northeast dairy antitrust lawsuit, spawning two new potential lawsuits related to the case. Feeding Pennsylvania and industry partners Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association are combining to provide milk for eight local food banks. A 100-foot larger-than-life Olympic logo on an Arizona dairy farm celebrates the winning combination of the U.S. Olympic team and milk. This and other U.S. region-by-region dairy news can be found here.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

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Northeast antitrust lawsuit settled, but not over

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss approved a $50 million settlement agreement in a 7-year-old Northeast dairy antitrust lawsuit, spawning two new potential lawsuits related to the case.

The class-action lawsuit (Allen v. Dairy Farmers of America Inc., No. 5:09-CV-230) was initially filed in 2009. It alleged Deans Foods, dairy cooperative Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and its marketing arm, Dairy Marketing Services (DMS), were involved in anticompetitive milk marketing conduct within Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) 1.

Dean Foods agreed to a $30 million settlement in 2011. The June 7 ruling by Judge Reiss, in the U.S. District Court of the District of Vermont, finalizes a $50 million on-again, off-again settlement with DFA/DMS.


Read: Northeast milk marketing antitrust lawsuit settlement agreement revised

Under the DFA/DFS settlement, which was subject to an April 29 “fairness hearing,” DFA will pay about 8,860 dairy farmers an average of about $4,000. The settlement creates dairy advisory council and farmer ombudsman positions to oversee future dairy farmer interests.

DFA agreed to the settlement without admitting wrongdoing.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision to approve the settlement of this case,” said Monica Massey, senior vice president and chief of staff for DFA. “While we believed these allegations were without merit and the activities of DFA, DMS and other affiliated milk marketing cooperatives in the Northeast benefitted all dairy farmers, litigation is both costly and distracting. For these reasons, settling the matter is in the best interest of our members. We want to thank our many farmer-owners for their support and advocacy on our behalf as they communicated the positive benefits of DFA’s milk marketing efforts.”

New lawsuits pending

Despite the ruling, the books on the case are not closed.

At Progressive Dairyman’s editorial deadline, Jonathan and Claudia Haar, dairy farmers from West Edmeston, New York, were preparing an appeal. Details of that appeal were not yet available.

The Haars, among listed plaintiffs in the DFA/DFS lawsuit, contend Judge Reiss issued prejudicial and legally questionable rulings in advance of approving the settlement agreement. Among those actions, the Haars allege Judge Reiss appointed pro-settlement representatives to the settlement negotiating team.

The Haars said they will continue to press for enforcement of federal antitrust laws.

“We’re just looking to get the law enforced,” Jonathan Haar said. “If they are violating the law, they should be held accountable.”

Separately, about 125 farmers who opted out of the settlement agreement are preparing another lawsuit. That group has retained Boston trial attorneys Nystrom, Beckman and Paris LLP, according to Mike Eby, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chairman of the National Milk Producers Organization (NDPO). NDPO is not formally involved in the lawsuit.

“Not only are we seeking greater compensation, but we feel this option gives us the best hope DFA and DMS will be forced to answer to the antitrust allegations in the case and not simply buy their way out,” Eby said.

Citing pending legal action, Eby declined further comment on that lawsuit.

Read: Separate lawsuit sought in Northeast antitrust case

Pennsylvania groups conducting ‘Fill a Glass with Hope’ program

Feeding Pennsylvania and industry partners Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association are combining to provide milk for eight local food banks.

The first-ever statewide charitable milk program, Fill a Glass with Hope, provides a means for food banks to purchase milk for the families they serve. Funds are raised through grants, corporate sponsors and individual donors who share a goal in providing fresh milk to those who need it most.

Launched during the 2015 Pennsylvania Farm Show, Fill a Glass with Hope has raised more than $325,000 for Feeding Pennsylvania food banks to purchase milk directly from area processors. Each $1 donated provides eight servings of milk.

In 2016, the Fill a Glass with Hope program has been expanded to include all eight food banks that make up the Feeding Pennsylvania network.

Learn more at www.feedingpa.org/milk.

Dairy farmers vote to continue Georgia Milk Producers

Georgia dairy farmers voted to continue Georgia Milk Producers Inc. (GMP) for another three years. The May mail referendum passed by 93 percent, with 79 ballots voting in favor and six against.

GMP is a dairy producer advocacy organization funded by a penny-per-hundredweight assessment on all milk produced in Georgia. Separate from the state’s dairy promotion organization, GMP has worked on issues affecting herd health testing requirements, taxes and environmental regulations.

GMP was also instrumental in organizing and funding the Georgia Dairy Youth Foundation (GDFY), and currently provides administrative oversight of GDFY and the Mobile Dairy Classroom.

‘Meet your milk’ event set in New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Agricultural Experiment Station and Granite State Dairy Promotion will host a “meet your milk” event, June 18. The annual statewide event will be held at the UNH Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It features free New Hampshire-made milk and ice cream, wagon rides, tours and visits with the UNH milking cows and calves.

According to Granite State Dairy Promotion, a nonprofit organization funded by New Hampshire dairy farmers, New Hampshire has approximately 130 dairy farms with an average of 115 cows per farm. The New Hampshire dairy industry strongly impacts state and local economies with more than $141 million in total output, 3,717 jobs and more than $19 million in labor income.


Jaspers named South Dakota secretary of agriculture

Mike Jaspers, Minnehaha County farmer, has been named South Dakota’s secretary of agriculture, effective July 5. He succeeds Lucas Lentsch, who resigned in March to become executive chief officer of the Midwest Dairy Association (MDA).

A native of northeast South Dakota, Jaspers operates a diversified crop and livestock farm in McCook, Hutchinson and Marshall counties.

In addition to operating his farm and holding management positions in several agricultural businesses, Jaspers served in the South Dakota State Legislature from 1997-2005, and as state director of USDA-Rural Development from 2007-2008.

Lentsch succeeds retiring MDA CEO Mike Kruger, effective July 1.

Western Iowa Dairy Alliance plans open house

The Western Iowa Dairy Alliance's ninth annual June Dairy Month open house will be held June 22, 4-7 p.m. at Maassen Dairy in Maurice, Iowa. Learn more about attending and supporting the open house at wiadairy.com.

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board elections held

Wisconsin Ag Secretary Ben Brancel certified Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) election results. Seven state dairy farmers will assume three-year terms on the 25-member dairy promotion board, effective July 1.

• Mark Leder, Gleason, District 3 (Lincoln, Oneida, Price and Taylor counties).

• Vivian Thompson, Cadott, District 6 (Chippewa and Eau Claire counties).

• Jeff Strassburg, Wittenberg, District 9 (Shawano and Waupaca counties).

• Ken Heiman, Marshfield, District 12 (Portage, Waushara and Wood counties).

• Mary Cook, Wilton, District 15 (Adams, Juneau and Monroe counties).

• Dean Strauss, Sheboygan Falls, District 18 (Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Washington and Waukesha counties).

• Kevin Wallaser, Desoto, District 21 (Crawford and Vernon counties).

• Tina Hinchley, Cambridge, District 24 (Dane and Jefferson counties).

Of the 3,233 dairy producers living in the election districts, 12 percent returned ballots.

Ramirez is new Iowa State University dairy specialist

Hugo Ramirez has joined the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff as a dairy specialist. He will also serve as an assistant professor of animal science at Iowa State University, based in Ames, Iowa.

Ramirez comes to Iowa State after two years as a research scientist and assistant professor in Texas. He worked as an assistant professor and director of the Southwest Regional Dairy Center at Tarleton State University and research scientist with Texas A&M AgriLife.

Ramirez completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in animal science at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. While at Nebraska he conducted research in dairy nutrition, including the evaluation of corn silage hybrids and ethanol co-products for dairy cows.

He can be reached via e-mail at hramirez@iastate.edu.


Animal activists seek Utah ‘ag-gag’ judgment

A Utah law designed to protect livestock farmers from animal activists’ video surveillance has received renewed attention.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a motion for summary judgment in their challenge to the law, seeking to have it struck down as unconstitutional. The lawsuit, the first in the nation to challenge a so-called “ag-gag” law, was filed in 2013.

Washington State Dairy Ambassador Coronation is June 25

The 2016 Washington State Dairy Ambassador Coronation will be held June 25, at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, Tacoma, Washington.

Finalists are Becca Bartelheimer, Allyson Carothers, Caitlin Meek, Tiana Peterson, Jana Plagerman and Alicia Smaciarz.

Advance tickets are required. Contact Gloria Edwards at gloria.wsdw@hotmail.com or (360) 273-7313.


STAR Fund helps Texas farmers

Texas farmers negatively impacted by last spring's flooding may be eligible to receive financial assistance through the State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund.

The STAR program is funded through private contributions by individuals and businesses, and is designed to help farmers and ranchers respond to and recover from natural disasters. Funds may be used to rebuild fences, restore operations and pay for other agricultural relief efforts.

TDA is currently accepting applications for grants, which are available in areas where a state of disaster declaration has been issued by the governor.

Arizona Milk Producers celebrate winning combination of milk, Olympic teams

A 100-foot larger-than-life Olympic logo on an Arizona dairy farm celebrates the winning combination of the U.S. Olympic team and milk. The logo, created using eco-friendly paint, is located at Jim Boyle Jr.’s 2,500-cow dairy farm in Mesa, Arizona.

The fluid milk promotion campaign, Milk Life, is co-sponsoring the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. The logo also kicked off a month-long June Dairy Month celebration.

Milk Life has signed on to support the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams through the Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The initiative will educate consumers about the nutritional benefits of milk, and provide Team USA athletes with the support of hundreds of dairy industry groups.

Arizonans can join in on the celebration, including an online enter-to-win contest for the chance to win free Shamrock Farms milk and co-branded Milk/Team USA swag and more.

See an overhead view on the Arizona Milk Producers website.

Gene Koopman, former Milk Producers Council president, dies

California’s Milk Producers Council (MPC) is mourning the loss of Gene Koopman, longtime California dairyman and former MPC president. Koopman, 73, passed away May 31 after a lengthy battle with health issues.

Koopman served on MPC’s board for 18 years, including 10 as president. He was a fixture in the Chino Valley dairy industry, serving on numerous boards, including nearly 20 years as a director for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency.  PD

Dave Natzke