WASHINGTON--Five dairy cooperatives from Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court to prevent U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman from implementing her most recent milk pricing formulas, which were scheduled to take effect April 1. The dairies allege that the secretary has abandoned long-standing USDA policies without adequate explanation, and that this action provides an unfair competitive advantage to dairy processors in California.
The five cooperatives are Northwest Dairy Assn., Seattle, Northwest Independent Milk Producers Assn., Mount Vernon, Wash., Tillamook County Creamery Assn., Tillamook, Ore., Farmers Cooperative Creamery, McMinnville, Ore., and Agri-Mark Inc., Methuen, Mass. The group filed the complaint on March 18. The next day, the National Cheese Institute, a constituent organization of the International Dairy Foods Assn. filed a brief voicing its support of the suit.
According to the suit, the new formulas would raise the minimum price of milk to federally regulated cheese plants in ways that the plants could not recover from the marketplace. This jeopardizes the ability of dairy farmers to sell milk to federally regulated cheese plants, which would be required to pay substantially higher prices for raw milk than are paid by their competitors in states like California that are not under the federal system.