ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A top antitrust investigator from the U.S. Justice Department is investigating why New York farmers are getting record low payments for milk and consumers are seeing just a fraction of the savings.
Sen. Charles Schumer announced the effort Sunday. It follows his request for a probe after his office released a report that found the price paid to dairy farmers fell by almost half since January. At the same time, the retail price of milk fell just 15 percent.
Christine Varney, the assistant attorney general in charge of the federal Antitrust Division, will meet with farmers in coming weeks to investigate potential anticompetitive behavior in the dairy production system.
Schumer said he wants to see greater transparency in how the market works.
"These anticompetitive practices on the part of the nation's largest milk processors are squeezing both consumers and dairy farmers while securing the middlemen record profits," Schumer said. "The Department of Justice is doing the right thing by sending the nation's top antitrust investigator to New York to suss out what's going on."
Schumer requested the action in August. He wants a review of market practices and how the price paid to farmers is kept at historic lows without a corresponding savings to consumers. He said the plunging wholesale prices have driven dairy farmers out of business nationwide and is a disaster for rural communities.
The times and locations of the interviews with farmers haven't yet been set.