Tag Archives: dairy

Dairy Farmers Settle Lawsuit for $159 Million

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Southeastern dairy farmers from 14 states have reached a tentative settlement for nearly $159 million in their antitrust lawsuit against the Dairy Farmers of America over claims of dairy price controls.
The preliminary settlement heads off a civil trial that was to have begun Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.
The farmers claimed there was a conspiracy among major milk producers to drive down the prices they received for milk. The lawsuit was filed in July 2007 and the farmers have previously settled with Dean Foods and the Southern Marketing Agency.
An order issued Tuesday by Judge Ronnie Greer grants the dairies’ motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. Greer will conduct a hearing April 3 to consider final approval.
The lead attorney for the farmers, Robert Abrams of the law firm BakerHostetler, said in a news release that the southeast milk market has been reformed as a result of the settlement.
“The monetary recovery itself is very substantial and the resulting conduct changes will significantly and positively impact competition in the southeast dairy industry,” he said.
The law firm said in a statement that the last settlement brings the total amount for the farmers in the class action lawsuit to more than $300 million. The Dairy Farmers of America, a milk marketing cooperative, also agreed also to change some of its business practices in the southeast region to increase raw milk prices and boost transparency, the law firm said.
The settlement was first reported by The Greeneville Sun (http://bit.ly/Tg1KoO ).

Lamar & Bob Talk Medicare Cuts and Other TN Fiscal Cliff Notes

Alexander, Corker Join on Fiscal Cliff, Medicare Cuts:
Focus on Medicare, Not Taxes During news conferences on Friday, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker predicted that the “fiscal cliff” tax situation will be resolved and decried another “fiscal cliff no one wants to talk about, the looming bankruptcy of Medicare,” reports the Bristol Herald-Courier.
There was a lot more reporting on the matter. A sampler:
Congress will act within days or weeks — perhaps even this weekend — to stem any increase in income taxes for almost all Americans in response to an inevitable public outcry, The Tennessean reported.
“I would like them (taxes) to stay the same (for everybody), but I am not king here,” Alexander said at a joint press conference with his Tennessee colleague.
The article also has comments from the two senators saying they still think they did the right thing in voting for the package of legislation that brought on the “fiscal cliff.” U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Scott DesJarlais offer similar comments — though Blackburn voted for the bill in question, DesJarlais against.
From the News-Sentinel: U.S. senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker said Friday taxes will not increase for most Americans and insisted “fiscal cliff” negotiations will either address pending hikes before Monday’s deadline or through retroactive legislation in the new year.
With that confidence, Tennessee’s senators turned to spending cuts and offered a proposal to exchange a $1 trillion reduction in entitlement spending — mostly from Medicare — for a $1 trillion rise in the federal debt ceiling.
“Taxes is not the biggest uncertainty,” Alexander said. “That is the possibility that all of those Americans who depend on Medicare to pay for their medical bills to fall off the fiscal cliff because Medicare goes bankrupt.”
The plan, which the senators have dubbed the “Dollar for Dollar Act,” was introduced by Corker on Dec. 12. Its details include reforming Medicare to include competition from private health-care options, gradually raising the eligibility age to 67 by 2027, requiring high-income beneficiaries to pay higher premiums and giving flexibility to the states to manage the program.

Total Dereliction of Duty’
CBS News aired a Corker interview wherein he chides President Obama and congressional leaders for “a total dereliction of duty at every level” and “a lack of course to deal with the spending issues.”
“I’m very surprised that the President has not laid out a very specific plan to deal with this,” said Corker, admitting, “Candidly, Congress could have done the same. And I think the American people should be disgusted.”
While Corker granted that “98 percent of the people in our country can be assured…their income taxes are going to be the same,” he argued, “We here in Washington are going to hurt the American economy, we’re going to hurt Americans at every level, and to me it’s just a travesty that we’ve not been willing to deal with this issue.”
And Corker did not predict much progress from (Friday’s) meeting between the President and congressional leaders, predicting a “worst case scenario” in which “We’ll kick the can down the road…we’ll do some small deal, and we’ll create another fiscal cliff to deal with this fiscal cliff.”

There’s a Milk Cliff,, Too
Tennessee dairy farmers soon could get paid substantially higher prices for their milk, but they’re not relishing the prospect, says The Tennessean. Instead, they fear it could make milk so expensive — potentially as much as $6 to $8 a gallon, by some estimates — that even more people stop drinking it.
“I don’t think it would kill our industry, but it would seriously injure it,” said Deborah Boyd, secretary/treasurer of the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association.
Those “dairy cliff” fears are based on Congress’ inability to pass a new five-year farm bill to replace one that is set to expire on Monday. The bill outlines how the federal government determines prices paid to dairy farmers.
Unless a new bill is passed or the current one is extended — Congressional leaders said Friday they were working on an extension — a 1949 law would take effect. That law would force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay roughly $38 per 100 pounds for milk, or double the current prevailing price.
Experts say that would ultimately increase the retail price for milk, which now averages $3.59 a gallon, as well as for other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
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DesJarlais: Republicans Frustrated
House Republicans feel stymied but not hopeless as they prepare to return to Capitol Hill for possible last-minute action to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais tells The Tennessean.
DesJarlais, of Jasper, Tenn., was one of 234 members of his caucus who listened in on a conference call Thursday with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Boehner said the House will return to work Sunday at 6:30 p.m. and remain in session in case lawmakers and President Barack Obama reach agreement on a deal to avoid more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that will otherwise take effect on Tuesday. Economists fear the combination could jar the nation’s economy back into recession.
DesJarlais said in an interview from his Tennessee home Thursday that it’s up to the Senate to come forward with a plan now, an opinion also expressed by Boehner. “But all we are hearing is crickets,” DesJarlais said. Asked if Republicans feel a lack of hope about a possible solution, he said, “It’s more frustration.”

Mayfield Dairy Big Into Government Contracts

Like many Republicans campaigning for smaller government, congressional candidate Scottie Mayfield routinely criticizes the federal bureaucracy and what he calls “Washington’s outrageous spending.”
But Chris Carroll reports that Mayfield appears content with at least one of Uncle Sam’s recurring expenses — federal contracts to the family dairy.
Since 2000, Mayfield Dairy Farms LLC has received more than $7.5 million from 47 government contracts and transactions, federal records show. The Department of Defense awarded 37 of those contracts and 99 percent of the money.
…Overall since 2000, Dean Foods Co., Mayfield Dairy Farms’ parent company, has received more than $306 million from more than 7,000 government contracts for its many subsidiaries, according to federal databases and company records.
About 58 percent of Dean’s contracts were not competitively bid, government databases show.
“Information on relationships with our customers, beyond what we disclose in our filings, is proprietary,” said Liliana Esposito, a Dean spokeswoman.
Mayfield’s history as a government contractor doesn’t end at the federal level. Since 2007, Tennessee has paid more than $175,000 directly to Mayfield Dairy Farms. Databases don’t identify a clear purpose for the state contracts, but most of the federal contracts are for milk, eggs and juice on military bases and in prisons.
By its very nature, the government must contract for goods and services it doesn’t have the time or means to produce. But one 3rd District observer said Mayfield’s experience as a government breadwinner puts him on the wrong side of his own rhetoric.
“It makes it a little more challenging to sell the ‘small government’ pitch,” said Chattanooga Tea Party spokesman Brendan Jennings. “He might have trouble with that.”

Mayfield Campaign Milks Company Colors for Publicity, Votes

Advertising for Mayfield Dairy, a dominant brand in the East Tennessee milk market, has a yellow and brown color theme . So does advertising for Scottie Mayfield’s run for the 3rd District The only difference, reports the Chattanooga TFP, is that candidate Mayfield’s logo lacks the picture of a brown cow’s face that is part of the Mayfield Dairy logo.
Experts said the campaign brochures, bumper stickers and posters signal Mayfield’s efforts to capitalize on his career as the pasteurizing plant’s bow-tied spokesman.
“I don’t think we considered anything else,” Mayfield campaign strategist Tommy Hopper wrote in an email. “It made sense for all the obvious reasons.”
Those reasons — homespun name recognition and the happy vibes associated with milk and ice cream — may come in handy when voters compare Mayfield’s views with Fleischmann’s, assuming they’re able to do so.
..On Friday, the 49th day of the campaign, Mayfield’s website included links to donate and volunteer but showed no trace of the candidate’s political views, except for the phrase, “Republican for Congress.” At a recent campaign fundraiser, when asked if he disagreed with any of Fleischmann’s congressional votes, Mayfield replied, “Not really.”
Fleischmann responded at his own fundraiser a day later.
“There are a few people who want to be congressman,” he told a roomful of donors, “and it’s always very nice that they seem to keep confirming my voting record and all the things I do.”
Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, said the Mayfield name likely packs more punch than Fleischmann’s, but that may not translate into victory.
“It’s a primary, so you’ve got to give Republicans a reason to vote for you as opposed to the current incumbent,” Oppenheimer said. “It may not be enough to just say, ‘I’m somebody you know because I’ve produced a good product that you like.'”

In speeches, he downplays politics and says his congressional qualifications come from managing 1,700 employees at the dairy empire’s peak — and beginning in 2007 cutting more than 250 jobs as milk prices declined.
“My 40 years of experience in business and my no years of experience in politics actually will help me be a good congressman,” Mayfield told supporters last week. “That’s kind of my reason for doing it.”
Still, Mayfield’s livelihood could provide a fertile line of attack for Fleischmann and other Republican challengers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an average gallon of whole milk cost $3.52 in February, up 32 cents compared to two years ago. At area grocery stores, Mayfield milk often costs at least a dollar more than its competitors’ product.
“Scottie has nothing to do with setting milk prices,” wrote Hopper, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman. “I would hope the campaign is about the future of the country, not false negative attacks on a good man’s character.”