Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/28/2010

Texas-based Dean Foods says it is contesting a complaint filed by the Department of Justice challenging its April 2009 purchase of two Wisconsin dairy plants from Foremost Farms. According to a statement, the company believes its acquisition of the DePere and Waukesha fluid milk processing plants is “fully compliant with antitrust laws,” and said they will defend themselves vigorously against the complaint.

"The company believes that, from the time of the acquisition almost a year ago, this transaction has benefited Wisconsin dairy farmers by providing a stable and growing outlet for their milk," Dean Foods stated. "In addition, the transaction already has produced important cost savings that will benefit customers and spur competition in and around Wisconsin. It promises to deliver even greater customer benefits once the DePere and Waukesha plants are fully integrated into the Dean network."

Last week, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced he has joined the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney Generals of Illinois and Michigan in suing to challenge the acquisition of the milk plants.

The complaint, which has been filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, states that the transaction lessens the competition in the fluid and school milk markets in violation of the federal law.

At the time of the sale, Foremost officials said the sale allows the cooperative to focus on wholesale markets for cheese, butter, and dairy product ingredients. Dean also purchased the Golden Guernsey and Morning Glory brands from Foremost Farms.