Batavia DOJ hearing news roundup

We attended the Department of Justice's visit to Batavia to talk dairy today -- you can see our minute-by-minute coverage of the event here. The hearing was an historic one: the first time the DOJ has actually met dairy farmers on their own turf. This afternoon, articles are already being released by various news outlets, most of which seem to focus on remarks made by Senator Charles Schumer. Here's a roundup:

From the Rochester Business Journal:

Dairy prices hit historic lows in 2009, while revenue for dairy farmers per dollar spent on milk by consumers declined, said Schumer, D-N.Y. “For too long, farmers have been receiving rock-bottom prices for their products while prices have not dropped commensurately for consumers at the stores,” Schumer said in a statement. “It just doesn’t add up.

From the AP:

About 200 people are at a meeting Sen. Charles Schumer arranged with Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney. She’s taking testimony on why the prices that processors pay for milk at the farm level have fallen and consumers haven’t seen savings in stores. Schumer says prices paid to dairy farmers are the lowest in nearly four decades, while retails costs for consumers are high. That’s part of what’s forcing dairy farmers out of business.

From Main Justice (which credits our reporting):

*Schumer went after Dean Foods, hard.

“Dean Foods is the largest fluid milk buyer in the country. … They dominate too much of the dairy industry, they thwart competition, and both farmers and consumers are hurt. … Dean Foods’ profits went up by a third while milk prices to farmers crashed,” Schumer said, according to Lissa Harris from Watershed Post.

The Justice Department sued Dean Foods in January alleging that the dairy processor’s acquisition of two plants in Wisconsin eliminated competition in the milk industry. In a filing last Thursday, Dean Foods argued that the DOJ did not define the geographic market in its complaint in a manner required by its own guidelines for challenging a merger.

*Varney, who grew up outside Syracuse and went to college in Albany, said she milked cows and is familiar with family farms.

*One speaker said the prices paid to dairy producers dropped more than 30 percent in 2007 and 2008, and 25 percent last year.

*Some speakers stressed the role that large retailers play — saying they pressure the processors, who in turn pressure producers to lower prices.

*One farmer with 1,800 cows lost half a million dollars last year. He said he used to sell to five processors, but they’ve all gone out of business or been sold to Dean Foods.