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Dean Foods settles antitrust lawsuit

By Staff | Dec 24, 2010

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Dairy processor Dean Foods Co. will pay $30 million and take other undisclosed actions to settle allegations by a group of dairy farmers that it had monopolized the milk industry in the Northeast.

The settlement does not include another major player in the national dairy industry that had been named in the original lawsuit.

“This settlement with Dean will help our dairy farmers who have been hurting for too long,” said Burlington attorney Andrew Manitsky, who represents Vermont dairy farmers involved in the case.

Manitsky said he couldn’t provide any details of the settlement until the case has been approved by a federal judge in Burlington, which is expected to happen next week.

Dallas-based Dean Foods revealed the settlement in a submission Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It said the company had agreed to the payment as a way to settle the “purported class action antitrust lawsuit.” It also said it would agree with other terms and conditions for its “raw milk procurement activities at certain of its processing plants located in the northeast.” It did not elaborate.

Dean Foods spokeswoman Liliana Esposito declined to comment, citing confidentiality requirements.

In October 2009, a group of Northeast dairy farmers sued Dean Foods and Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America, saying they had sought to monopolize the market into which farmers had to sell their milk, fixed prices and created an economic crisis in the region’s dairy industry. The suit charged that farmers were being forced to join DFA or its marketing affiliate Dairy Marketing Services to survive.

HP Hood was also named as a defendant, but the company has since been dropped from the suit.

Dairy Farmers of America and Hood did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

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