by Nicole Heslip

Source: Brownfield Ag News

The Department of Justice has filed a brief in an ongoing Dairy Farmers of America federal court case with Northeast dairy farmers.

The Department says the cooperative’s actions are inconsistent with legal protections for co-ops in the Capper-Volstead Act and is not safeguarded from antitrust laws as DFA argues.

Ben Gotschall with the Organization for Competitive Markets tells Brownfield the purpose of agriculture antitrust laws is to protect producers and they’re pleased to see the government taking a stand to protect them.

He’s unsure if the merger between DFA and Dean Foods will have any bearing on the case, but says there could be implications because Deans is DFA’s largest processing customer and not a cooperative.

“The DOJ outlines in their argument that certain business dealings with non-cooperatives, such as Deans, are what would make DFA ineligible to be shielded by the Capper-Volstead Act and would make the subject to possible enforcement.”

More than 100 Northeastern dairy farmers are taking DFA to trial this fall after they opted out of a $50 million class-action settlement in 2016.

They argue DFA and other cooperatives agreed not to compete for members, shared payment information which led to depressed prices, and maintained low prices market-wide through supply agreements with Dean Foods and other processors.

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