A letter from Haarvest Farms, who was named plaintiff in the class action Northeast Dairy anti-trust litigation: Opportunity knocks. Help us resist oppression and join the fight for a free milk market.

You may have heard of the Northeast Dairy litigation. This class action resulted in the Dean settlement a couple years ago. We are your class representatives, fellow dairy farmers who have been involved in the case for anywhere from two to six years. In this role, we have seen the full confidential record of abuses of farmers by the defendants, DFA/DMS. These allegations involve market manipulation and monopolization, and accuse the defendants of suppressing milk prices in order to boost their subsidiary milk processing revenues.

Masquerading as a cooperative and not the processing giant they are, the defendants have hidden behind Capper-Volstead immunity and siphoned off up to a billion dollars from our milk checks and hence our local communities. (The court has agreed to allow us to proceed to trial seeking $350 million in damages.) The scope of damage affects not only dairy farmers, but also the businesses and communities we support.

On the eve of the scheduled trial in early July, our attorneys, working closely with their fellow Washington, D.C. attorneys representing DFA/DMS, came up with the sell out settlement that is currently in the works.

This settlement essentially offers DFA/DMS to continue business as usual for a $50 million fee, or roughly .16 cents per hundredweight of milk marketed in the order during the period. In exchange, class members must agree to “a broad release,” to quote the Honorable Christina Reiss, judge for the U.S. District Court, District of Vermont. Furthermore, “The court directs class members’ attention to the proposed ‘release’ itself, for the full extent of the ‘released claims.’”


Basically, the management of DFA/DMS is looking for immunity from damages for any wrongdoing by them and anyone they know for a period of time spanning 22-plus years.

You have an opportunity to oppose this sell out. You need not be a class representative to oppose this settlement, and you can help by contacting the court and providing an amicus brief. If you do oppose and, in the worst case scenario, the settlement goes through, you do not risk your share of any settlement payment. If we are able to stop this settlement, we:

  1. Go to trial.
    • Which increases exposure of the manipulation and monopolization of the Northeast Dairy industry to the public and the government.
    • The court had already agreed to allow us to go to trial seeking $350 million in damages. If we win in a class action antitrust suit, the damage amount is automatically tripled.
  2. We are able to negotiate for a real settlement with perhaps third-party accountability for DFA/DMS and a real damage payment. (In the Southeast Dairy case, the same defendants paid roughly $300 million in damages to subclasses totaling approximately 6,000 farmers. In the Northeast, our subclasses total approximately 12,000 farmers.)

Please oppose this settlement and notify the court by:

  • Phone call, at the courthouse (802) 951-6301
  • U.S. mail, at United States District Court, P.O. Box 945, Burlington, VT 05402-0945
  • In person at the fairness hearing at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in courtroom 542 at the courthouse in Burlington, Vermont. In order to speak at the hearing, one must file written notice with the court 14 days in advance.

Remember, to oppose does not risk your portion of any settlement. Rather, it gives us the opportunity to carry this fight forward to a just settlement or a federal court trial.

In honor of those who have gone before us, who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into our farms, and for the sake of the future of dairy farming, agribusiness and our northeastern rural communities, support free markets and oppose this settlement. PD

Thank you,

Ralph and Garrett Sitts
Jonathan and Claudia Haar
Richard Swantak

—From Haarvest Farms news release

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.