Dairy farmers sue Dean Foods
A group of dairy farmers has filed two lawsuits accusing Dean Foods Co., Dairy Farmers of America and National Dairy Holdings and other entities of monopolizing milk production in the Southeast by fixing prices, buying milk bottling plants and using other means, bizjournals.com reports. The 16 dairy farmers accuse Dallas-based Dean Foods and others of conspiring to monopolize raw milk production through price fixing, flooding the milk market in the Southeast and requiring independent dairy farmers to market their milk through Dairy Farmers of America-controlled entities in order to gain access to fluid Grade A milk bottling plants, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit says Dean and the others began as early as 2001 to implement a plan to eliminate competition in the production, marketing and processing of Grade A milk. Dean currently operates 17 fluid Grade A milk bottling plants in the Southeast and controls 60 percent of the fluid Grade A bottling capacity in the Southeast, according to the lawsuit. National Dairy Holdings owns nine fluid Grade A milk bottling plants, and Dairy Farmers of America fully or partially owns eight milk bottling plants, the lawsuit states. The 33 plants are believed to represent 77 percent of the fluid Grade A milk bottling capacity in the Southeast, the lawsuit states, and because Dairy Farmers of America has full-supply agreements with other fluid Grade A bottlers and supermarkets, the entities are believed to control 90 percent of the Grade A milk produced in the Southeast, the lawsuit states. The class action lawsuits were filed in July in U.S. district courts in Tennessee.