Got milk, get paid: Missourians may be eligible for milk rebates
COLUMBIA - If you're a Missourian and have purchased dairy products in the past 14 years, you might be eligible to collect some extra milk money.
Missouri is one of 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, where consumers are eligible for cash rebates from a class action settlement with the dairy industry.
A group of milk producer cooperatives established a $52 million fund for the consumer payouts after settling a 2011 class action lawsuit alleging price-fixing activities within the U.S. dairy industry.
The price-fixing allegations stem from cooperatives' "herd retirement" programs. Under the programs, farmers looking to leave the dairy business or scale back their operations could sell their herds for slaughter, rather than selling the animals to another dairy operation.
Larry Meineka, a farmer from Lafayette County, said he took advantage of a cooperative herd retirement program when he left the dairy business in 2005.
"It was a pretty clean way to get out of the business," Meineka said. "A lot of farmers in this part of the state took advantage of it."
Dave Drennan, executive director of the Missouri Dairy Association, said most producers who exit the business don't return, generating a long-term effect on supply.
According to court documents, the herd retirement programs removed about half a million cows from milk production between 2003 and 2010, lowering the nation's milk output by nearly 10 billion pounds. The decrease in supply led to a corresponding price increase for milk and dairy products, generating an overall revenue increase of $9.55 billion for the domestic dairy industry.
Joe Pasch, assistant manager at the MU Foremost Dairy Research Center, said these herd retirement programs are a mechanism for balancing supply and demand.
"To me, I don't see much difference between an auto manufacturer cutting production to lower supply and dairy farmers reducing their herds collectively," Pasch said.
Some Missouri residents, like Mark Kinnaman, a shopper at Lucky's Market in Columbia, said they weren't aware of the rebate opportunity but might take advantage of it.
"Certainly I'm interested in it, because I drink milk. My grandsons drink milk. We probably drink five gallons of milk a week," Kinnaman said.
To collect a rebate, visit www.boughtmilk.com by Jan. 31 and fill out the online claim form. You must have purchased milk, cottage cheese, cream, cream cheese, half and half, sour cream or yogurt between 2003 and today to be eligible for the funds. The value of the individual rebates will vary depending on the number of total claims received.