Not all farmers happy with dairy deal

MIDDLEBURY - A much-anticipated $30 million farming settlement isn't sitting well with some of Vermont's largest dairy farmers. In fact, these farmers say the deal will likely hurt their incomes and profit as dicey as they are in the current dairy environment.

Farmers point to the 2009 class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by five New England dairy farms.

The operators of these northeastern farms claim that Dean Foods Co. of Texas, and Dairy Farmers Co-op of America of Missouri conspired to take over the milk market by depressing prices paid to farmers.

Vermont dairy farmer Howard Howrigan of Franklin County was interviewed by several newspapers and TV stations last week.

Howrigan apparently speaks for some fellow farmers in Franklin and Addison counties, at least when he says the big pay out may end up lower prices to farmers even further.

Howrigan, a long time member of St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, also said that Dean Foods, which purchases large quantities of milk in Vermont and in the greater New England, might instead turn to midwest sources or California for more of its milk.

"Farmers all do better when we work together," Howrigan said. "Co-ops are strong and they market the bulk of U.S. milk. That is why the $30 million settlement goes against the basic idea."

Farmers involved in the 2009 lawsuit claim they were forced into becoming members of Dairy Farmers in order to use Dean Foods' milk bottling apparatus.

In addition, lawsuit claimants said that the Missouri co-op and Dean conspired to lower the price of milk products paid to local farmers.

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