Price-fixing lawsuit against Land O' Lakes, dairy coops moves forward

Categories: Law

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Photo: Enchanted Dairy.
Animal rights groups celebrated a small victory this week in a federal lawsuit alleging that the practice of killing dairy cows to increase the cost of milk -- known as "herd retirement" -- violates anti-trust laws

Filed in September 2011, the suit alleges Cooperatives Working Together, a dairy conglomerate that includes Arden Hills-based Land O' Lakes, colluded in a price-fixing scheme that cheated Americans out of billions by sending more than 500,000 cows to the slaughter between 2003 and 2010.

SEE ALSO:
COVER STORY: Milk Money

The dairy consortium has repeatedly denied the claims, calling herd retirement a "self-help initiative" simply designed to help farmers and coop members in hard economic times.

"The program was designed and has always been operated in a manner fully consistent with the anti-trust laws of the United States," CWT Chief Operating Officer Jim Tillison said in a statement when we reported on the lawsuit earlier this year.

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For more info on the lawsuit, read our February 2012 cover story.
In September, the dairy coop filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on several grounds, including lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.

On Tuesday, a judged filed an order denying the dismissal, meaning the lawsuit will move forward. However, the judge also noted that if attorneys bringing the suit plan to rely on a "theory of fraudulent concealment," they need to file supporting allegations in an amended complaint by November 15.

But Compassion Over Killing, a California-based organization that helped research the suit, is still chalking the order up to a win.

"This price-fixing case will now move forward," writes Cheryl Leahy, general counsel for the animal rights organization, "and we're eager to see this injustice get its day in court."

Read the full order here, via Compassion Over Killing.



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