The Dairy Industry’s $9.5 Billion Price-Fixing Scheme – Defendants

Dairy Lawsuit – the Defendants

  • National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF): dairy trade group that manages defendant Cooperatives Working Together, and its membership produces the majority of milk sold in the U.S.
  • Cooperatives Working Together (CWT): dairy industry group whose members produce over 70% of the dairy sold in the United States. Developed by the NMPF, its membership includes major dairy industry players including the other defendants.
  • Dairy Farmers of America (DFA): largest dairy cooperative in the country, contributing member of CWT. DFA is currently involved in antitrust litigation filed by milk producers accusing the cooperative of using a range of techniques to undermine competition.
  • Land O’Lakes, Inc.: second-largest dairy cooperative in the country, contributing member of CWT. In June 2010, agreed to pay $25 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed against the United Egg Producers and its members for allegedly engaging in an egg price fixing scheme.
  • Dairylea Cooperative Inc.: fifth-largest dairy cooperative in the country, contributing member of CWT.
  • Arig-Mark, Inc.: dairy cooperative, contributing member of CWT


Price-Fixing Timeline

2003: Defendants begin its so-called “herd retirement” program, which sends entire herds of young dairy cows to slaughter in order to limit the supply of milk and increase prices. In its first year, “approximately 33,000 cows will be culled due to the herd retirement program”

2004: CWT assesses the 2003 cull as having a “sizeable impact” on prices, and performs a second round of cullingof approximately 51,700 cows from 378 farmers.

2005: A third round of “herd retirement” is performed, sending “approximately 66,000 cows” to early slaughter.

2006: CWT commissions an economic analysis of the program’s success to date, which concludes that all U.S. dairy farmers have benefitted from the program: the “cumulative impact… is $1.97 billion in additional producer revenue.”

2007: A fourth cull is performed, “representing 54,000 cows.” Further economic analysis done, program continues.

2008: Fifth and sixth rounds of herd retirements are completed – 85,958 young cows are killed.

2008: Class action lawsuit is filed against United Egg Producers, Land O’Lakes, and other individual egg producers for alleged price-fixing scheme.

2009: Three separate rounds of “herd retirements” take place – over 200,000 young cows are killed. CWT’s commissioned economic analysis shows milk prices in 2009 “would have averaged $1.66 less had the CWT program not been in business.”

May 2010: CWT announces its tenth round of herd retirement, to build on the “positive momentum” of the program so far. Bids from farmers will be accepted through the end of June.

June 2010: Land O’Lakes announces $25 million settlement out of price-fixing lawsuit.

July 2010: CWT announces accepted bids for its tenth “dairy herd retirement” killing 34,442. This is CWT’s final cull.

October 2010: After an annual meeting, CWT announces the discontinuation of its “herd retirement” program.

June 2011: June, National Milk Producers Federation states that CWT is no longer performing herd retirements.

September 2011: Class action lawsuit is filed against CWT and other dairy groups claiming an illegal $9.5 billion price fixing scheme, accomplished by killing over 500,000 young cows.

September 2016: A class action settlement is reached, in which CWT and other dairy groups will pay $52 million to the affected class of millions of US consumers harmed by illegally inflated milk prices.