Sen. wants antitrust probe of Dean Foods
Article from Dallas Business Journal
Concerns about U.S. farmers’ ability to sell milk at fair prices have prompted U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to ask the head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division to look into Dean Foods and corporate concentration in the dairy market.
Dallas-based milk processing company Dean Foods (NYSE: DF) was the only dairy company mentioned in Sanders statement. Sanders centered his argument around the idea that ownership concentration hurts prices and impacts dairy farms.
In a statement released by his office, Sen. Sanders said Dean Foods processes about 70 percent of New England’s fluid milk market. He said his office is concerned about the ability of dairy farmers to get a fair price for their products.
“We are talking to the attorney general’s office regarding antitrust activity and issues of concentration of ownership among processors and lack of competition,” Sanders said.
In response to the request for a probe, Dean Foods released a statement defending the company’s position in the market and elaborating on how the company works with dairy farmers.
“Dean Foods is dependent on about 10,000 dairy farmers across the United States for our supply of conventional raw milk,” said Marguerite Copel, vice president of corporate communications for Dean. “This includes dairy farmers in Vermont and throughout New England. We need these farmers’ businesses to be healthy over the long term for our business to be healthy over the long term.”
Dean Foods added in the statement that prices are generally set by the United States Department of Agriculture. The company also blamed current supply and demand levels for contributing to the low price environment.
“At Dean Foods, we work hard to create demand for our products which in turn creates additional demand for milk and additional markets for farmers,” Copel said.