Editor's note: This story has been updated with information for producers who receive more than one claim form. Eligible dairy farmers have until Jan. 28, 2019, to return a claim form for their share of a class action lawsuit settlement stemming from nonfat dry milk (NFDM) sales more than a decade ago.
A $40 million settlement was reached in the lawsuit Carlin, et al. v. DairyAmerica Inc., et al., case number 1:09-cv-00430-AWI-EPG. Read: DairyAmerica class action lawsuit headed toward $40 million settlement.
Qualified producers should receive a letter and claim form regarding the settlement from Rust Consulting, hired by the court to administer producer payments, by Dec. 11. The list of recipients was developed from Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) data, and the letter contains individual producer milk volume marketings. Producers can accept the milk volume listed in the letter, or dispute it and provide their own documentation to substantiate the milk volume they marketed.
Some producers may receive more than one claim form, with partial milk volume totals. Those include producers who may have switched co-ops during the specified period, and/or those who marketed milk in different FMMOs during the period. In that case, both claim forms should be submitted.
As in other class action lawsuits, attorneys’ fees may take up to one-third of the total settlement, leaving about $27 million to be distributed to eligible dairy producers. In addition to the volume of milk marketed, individual payments will be based on the number of dairy farmers who submit valid claim forms.
Qualified dairy producers are those who sold raw milk through a FMMO during the period of Jan. 1, 2002, through April 30, 2007. Producers who believe they are eligible for the settlement but did not receive a claim form by Dec. 11, 2018, should download a form here. Do not file duplicate forms.
Producers can also opt out of the settlement, leaving options open for other legal action.
As in previous class action lawsuits, dairy farmers may be approached by third-party firms offering to fill out and file the claims in exchange for a percentage of the payment. According to Rust Consulting, the forms can be easily filled out with minimal time and effort. Producers with questions can also contact Rust Consulting directly.
The court will hold a hearing on March 18, 2019, 1:30 p.m., in courtroom 2 of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Fresno, California. At the hearing, the court will consider whether to approve the settlement.
At the center of the lawsuit were NFDM prices reported to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) by DairyAmerica Inc., a federated marketing cooperative and the largest U.S. marketer of NFDM, from April 2006 to April 2007.
After discrepancies between NASS and USDA Ag Marketing Service (AMS) prices for NFDM were detected, a USDA audit revealed sales reported to NASS by DairyAmerica included prices from long-term contracts, a practice prohibited by law.
Even though the court case was held in California, the state’s dairy farmers won’t likely see any money from a settlement. That’s because California was not part of the FMMO system during the time period, and the state order’s minimum milk pricing formulas did not include NASS pricing data.
- Progressive Dairyman
- Email Dave Natzke