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220M settlement agreement reached in National Milk Producers herd retirement case

A class-action lawsuit between retailers and the National Milk Producers Federation might end in a 220-million-dollar settlement.  National Milk’s President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “We’re really trying to avoid the clearly, very crippling damage we would have suffered as a dairy industry had there been a four-billion dollar judgment against the dairy industry.”

Mulhern tells Brownfield it’s disappointing and frustrating that NMPF and the member cooperatives had to go through this legal process. “At its heart, this was a case of being accused of doing something right, being accused of increasing milk prices for farmers, so as painful as it is to deal with this, we’re happy to get it behind us.”

The plaintiffs claimed the dairy herd retirement program that ran from 2003 until 2010 conspired to raise prices by paying farmers to slaughter cows, illegally restricting the milk supply and violating antitrust laws.  Mulhern says the settlement has been filed with an Illinois District Court judge. “The court will take that in, review it, and I would expect, based on what the lawyers tell me, to get a ruling sometime in the first half of 2020, a ruling from the court. We expect that the proposed settlement will be accepted by the court.”

Under the proposed settlement, NMPF and its member cooperatives do not admit any wrongdoing, and it makes NMPF the sole defendant, releasing claims against all remaining dairy cooperative defendants.

NMPF says the settlement amount will be paid through existing Cooperatives Working Together mechanisms, ensuring no disruption to other business operations.

The proposed settlement would not end a smaller, similar case filed in Florida.

National Milk Producers Federation President & CEO Jim Mulhern discusses the 220-million dollar settlement proposal in the Herd Retirement lawsuit

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