Attorney general to investigate milk processor merger

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(Host) The Vermont Attorney General’s office will investigate how a planned merger in the milk business will affect Vermont consumers and dairy farmers. Two weeks ago, the H.P. Hood company of Boston announced it will merge with National Dairy Holdings of Dallas, Texas. That would result in the nation’s second largest milk processing company.

The anti-trust division of the U.S. Justice Department is looking into the merger. Now the Vermont anti-trust office says it will also investigate. Julie Brill is an assistant attorney general for the state:

(Brill) “We hope to work with the Department of Justice with respect to the issues that may impact Vermont farmers, as well as potentially Vermont consumers. We plan to conduct interviews and to talk to people, both the co-ops and independent farmers, to find out what their views on the merger are.”

(Host) Vermont farmers are concerned that if the merger goes through, they would have fewer options to market their milk. H.P. Hood now buys most of its milk from the Agri-Mark dairy co-op, which has 475 members in Vermont. But if the merger goes through, the new company would buy its milk from Dairy Farmers of America, a huge co-op based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Brill says her office will examine whether the new dairy company will have unfair market power:

(Brill) “From the perspective of the farmers, the issue is: Is there an entity out there that has too much buying power for milk? And that could be in the form of the co-ops, it could be in the form of the processors.”

(Host) Vermont’s two U.S. Senators have also asked the Justice Department for a thorough review of the merger.

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