Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

AFBF Encourages Farmers to Claim Exemption in Dean Foods Shakedown

News / Newsline December 23, 2020

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The American Farm Bureau Federation continues to stand up for farmers against Dean Foods. Chad Smith has more on what actions farmers can take to protect themselves.

Smith: Hundreds of U.S. dairy farmers were targeted by lawyers representing Dean Foods in its bankruptcy proceedings. Travis Cushman is the senior counsel for public policy with the American Farm Bureau. He said the trouble for many dairy farmers began during Thanksgiving.

Cushman: Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Dean Foods Estate sent out hundreds of letters to dairy producers across the country, demanding that they repay three months’ worth of milk payments they would have received in the three months prior to when the company went bankrupt, which was in November of 2019. And these letters demanded that the farmers repay the money by Christmas Eve or else, essentially, we’ll see you in court.

Smith: Cushman says the American Farm Bureau immediately sent a letter responding to what it called a predatory shakedown.

Cushman: We found these letters to be highly misleading and essentially a predatory shakedown written in legal language. We wrote them our own letter and have been explaining to them why we felt these letters were inappropriate, notably because we believe that most, if not all farmers have a complete defense to these claims. Most farmers shouldn’t have to pay anything.

Smith: Cushman says the right form for farmers to sign is available through their local Farm Bureau offices.

Cushman: The Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board had already worked with Dean Foods to create a one-page form that can be filled out to claim this exemption, rather than going through a complicated process that was otherwise required by these letters. We have just now confirmed with Dean Foods lawyers that this form can be used anywhere, not just in Pennsylvania, which should provide a much easier solution for the folks that are grappling with these letters.

Smith: Chad Smith, Washington.

Find the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board form here

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