The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) announced Wednesday it has settled a class-action lawsuit brought by larger retailers and companies who purchased cheese and butter from members who participated in the Cooperative Working Together program for a whopping $220 million.
The herd retirement program was administered through NMPF’s Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) initiative between 2003-10. The program was created during a period of growing milk supplies and declining prices, culminating in historically low farmer milk prices in 2009. Under the herd retirement program, CWT announced invitations for dairy producers to submit bids to sell their dairy herds and cease milk production in an attempt to bring milk supply in closer balance with demand and help struggling dairy farmers.
In 2016, NMPF settled a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of consumers for $52 million. The suits were bought following CWT’s Herd Retirement Program, which was an industry-financed herd buyout program that operated between 2003 and 2010. Plaintiffs in both suits alleged the program unfairly raised dairy product prices, costing consumers and food retailers millions of dollars.
NMPF agreed to a settlement of $220 million in exchange for a release from all claims. Based on antitrust rules that mandate a tripling of any damages, that amount is less than 6% of the damages sought by plaintiffs, according to NMPF.
NMPF still faces a CWT case in Florida brought by Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. But that case is much smaller in scope than the two previous cases.