STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news. Dairy farmers in the Southeast have won a big settlement from the nation's largest diary cooperative. But the terms of the settlement mean they will not be getting answers about why milk prices went into a free fall after they joined the cooperative.
Peggy Lowe of member station KCUR in Kansas City has more.
PEGGY LOWE, BYLINE: Farmer Sam Galphin says this lawsuit should inspire a John Grisham novel. More than 7,000 dairy farmers in southeastern states say they were betrayed by their own representative, called the Dairy Farmers of America, Incorporated, the largest milk marketer in the U.S. They allege the cooperative created a cartel, cutting out competition, and forcing farmers to take lower prices from the only available milk processor.
Galphin says while cooperative executives were living the high life, he watched while farmers went out of business.
SAM GALPHIN. BYLINE: When I started in North Carolina, there were 1,200 dairies. Today there are less than 300. In South Carolina, there were 800 dairies. Today there are less than 100. That's not just consolidation.
Farmers had hoped that a trial would expose all the cooperatives dealings. But yesterday, a day before that trial was to start in Tennessee, Dairy Farmers of America CEO Rick Smith announced that his group would pay nearly $159 million to settle the case, so long as it could maintain it did nothing wrong.
RICK SMITH: Where inherently there's risk when you go to trial, the member's interest would be better served by making a business decision to put it behind us.
LOWE: Dairy Farmers of America faces a similar suit from Northeastern dairy farmers who say for years they, too, have been victims of a monopoly that manipulated milk prices.
For NPR News, I'm Peggy Lowe.
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