Local farmers who sell their milk through the Agri-Mark cooperative will be eligible for settlements from a $24 million class action lawsuit over the price of Grade A filed against Dean Foods Company.
Along with 1,000 other dairy farmers in New England and Maine, local farmers will need to apply and be accepted as members of the class action lawsuit.
Waitsfield dairy farmer Elwin Neill said this week that all Agri-Mark co-op farmers received a letter detailing the process of applying and providing detailed information about each farm’s milk production from 2002 through May of this year. Farmers must complete the application to join the settlement by August 23.
“Under the scenarios I’ve read, individual farmers will receive a settlement award that ranges from $2,500 to $6,000. That is based on how many farmers apply and how many are accepted,” said Neill.
“It also depends on what the total attorneys’ award is,” he added.
Neill, the Carpenter farm in Waitsfield, the DeFreest farm in Warren, the von Trapp farm in Waitsfield and the Turner farm in Waitsfield sell their milk through Agri-Mark and will be elgible to apply for a settlement.
“It’s about time,” said farmer George Carpenter, who milks 55 to 60 cows in Waitsfield.
“Dean Foods controls 80 percent of the milk market in the Northeast. I think the government needs to do with this market what they did to ATT back when they broke them up,” Carpenter said.
He said he has already filed the appropriate paperwork to participate in the settlement and expects that his share will fall within $2,500 to $5,700 range.
“Every little bit helps,” he said.
Doug DiMento, Agri-Mark spokesperson, said awards will be based on the hundred weight of milk produced by each farm during the almost 10 years covered by the lawsuit.
“We sent each farmer details about their milk production that would help them qualify for the settlement,” DiMento said.
Last week the Vermont District Court approved the Dean Foods settlement involving the price of Grade A milk produced and sold in the Northeast. The class action antitrust lawsuit brought by a class of Northeast dairy farmers against Dean, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Dairy Marketing Services (DMS) was filed in August of 2009. The farmers reached a settlement agreement with Dean Foods Company in December 2010, including $30 million in monetary damages. The final settlement had to be approved by the federal court, which has taken over seven months.
In the final settlement, the court awarded all of the plaintiffs’ costs of $1.5 million but only awarded $4.5 million in fees, out of the $8.5 million requested by the attorneys for the plaintiffs. Attorneys will get $6 million or 20 percent of the settlement amount, as opposed to the 33 percent requested. Approximately $24 million will be provided to eligible dairy farmers in the defined class.
All past and present dairy farmers in Vermont should have received a mailing regarding this settlement. Farmers’ legal rights are affected whether or not they act. Information, claim forms and a description of the settlement is available at www.NEDairySettlement.com or farmers can call 1-888-356-0258.