MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — 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 submitted to 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.
The complaint dairy farmers serving markets in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia and the District of Columbia.
In October 2009, 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 did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the settlement was good news for dairy farmers.
"These companies should be put on notice that there is a price to pay for anti-competitive practices," he said.
(This version CORRECTS that settlement will become public when it is submitted to a judge.)