Got milk? Or rather, bought milk? How about half and half, yogurt, or pretty much any kind of cream? In the past fourteen years? I’m willing to bet that you have, and if this is the case, then you could very well be eligible to receive a cut of a milk-related $52 million settlement. If you’re wondering why, you should be. Money is, by nature, not free, which in this case begs questions like: “So what the hell has been wrong with the milk I’ve been drinking for the past fourteen years?”
Fortunately, this class action settlement has nothing to do with tainted milk or anything like that. You’re safe, we’re safe, we’re all safe (let’s assume). Unfortunately, the reason countless milk-buyers are getting free money does involve mass slaughter — more than 500,000 cows were killed prematurely in an apparent plot to drive up milk prices.
Sick, Twisted Milk People
The class action lawsuit, filed by a San Fransisco milk purchaser in 2011, targets the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) along with its subsidiary Cooperatives Working Together (CWT). CWT, despite not mentioning milk in their name, consists of various milk producers who together are responsible for 70% of our great nation’s milk supply.
According to the lawsuit, it is primarily CWT who is to blame for coming up with and executing the nightmarish plan to murder half a million cows. They allegedly paid milk producers affiliated with their organization to participate in the so-called “herd retirement program.” This is a terrible and misleading name, since ‘retirement’ in this context is synonymous with ‘slaughter’. It seems like the program was pretty much all about killing cows indiscriminately. In the words of the lawsuit, its goal was to “reduce the supply of milk, eliminate competition, and significantly reduce the number of dairy farmers competing in the market in order to increase the price of raw farm milk.”
Evidently, it worked. According to the University of Missouri’s Dr. Scott Brown, the herd retirement program’s effort to cause the untimely demise of 500,000 cows effectively lowered the United State’s supply of milk by approximately 1.2 billion gallons. This, in turn, caused the price of raw milk to double between 2007 and 2010, allowing milk producers to rake in a cool $10 billion. This, to quote plaintiff-representing lawyer Steve Berman, was a “classic price-fixing scheme.”
Settling The Score
Aside from being beyond unethical, the cow-killing milk scheme definitely broke the law (not that this needed mentioning). However, the milk producers could very likely get away without charges now that they’ve agreed to the $52 million class action settlement. At least, the NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern is confident that they’ll avoid criminal charges, since the herd retirement program is no longer in effect and the court hasn’t found the milk producers guilty of antitrust violations. And of course they still get to sell milk. Mulhern just thinks they’ll have to think of other ways to drive up profits:
“The CWT Program is poised for a quick rebound and a strong future. We will continue to focus on CWT’s present mission of providing member cooperatives with export assistance, creating new export market opportunities and continuing to look for innovative ways to increase sales of milk and dairy products for participating cooperatives.”
Whatever. It’s safe to say we shouldn’t expect an apology from these people, who have “vigorously denied and continue to deny” the cow-slaughter allegations in spite of agreeing to pay millions of dollars for crimes of cow-slaughter. So, this brings us to the next question: who’s eligible?
The class action lawsuit applies to milk-buying consumers in fifteen states: Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Vermont, South Dakota, Oregon, New Hampshire, Nevada, Nebraska, Missouri, Michigan, Massachusetts, Kansas, California, and Arizona. It also applies to those who lived in Washington D.C. And to be clear, you’re only eligible to receive a portion of the settlement if you’ve lived in one of these states when you bought milk (or milk products). The deadline is fast approaching — if you want to be included, you’ve got to go to boughtmilk.com and file a claim by January, 31. According to the site, qualified individuals will receive $10 to $20 once the settlement is confirmed.