John Kinsman, FFD president #608-986-3815
“When it comes to consistently undermining cooperative principles, violating the Capper Volstead Act, and refusing to pay their own farmer members a fair parity price, it is really hard not to acknowledge the leadership of Foremost Farms, Dairy Farmers of America, and Land O Lakes,” noted John Peck. “These co-ops may have been built with the blood, sweat, and tears of family dairy farmers long ago to serve their own best interests, but that is no longer the case. In fact, these dairy co-ops have become just as unethical, corrupt, and greedy as their corporate counterparts like Kraft, Deans, and Nestle.”
The first producer co-ops in the U.S. were actually founded by dairy farmers in CT and NY back in 1810 and today over 80% of the fluid milk in the U.S. is marketed through cooperatives. Unfortunately, not all co-ops are equal when it comes to respecting the law and acting for the mutual benefit of members. Many dairy co-ops have become less democratic and more unaccountable as managers answer to other interests, block vote for their own members, and engage in illegal price fixing behavior.
For instance, Deans tried to buyout Foremost Farms to create a quasi-monopoly in fluid milk in the Midwest, a move that was fortunately blocked by the Justice Dept. in 2010. In 2008 the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) levied a $12 million fine against Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and its two top executives for rigging Class III milk markets at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Land ‘O Lakes has engaged in similar collusion, and is also promoting factory farm expansion, pushing dangerous biotechnologies like rBGH and RR alfalfa, and importing milk protein concentrate (MPC) from abroad for illegal use in dairy products to the detriment of its own farmers and consumers.
“How long has Foremost Farms been masquerading as a cooperative? And how did its members agree to be bought out by private dairy giant like Deans,” asked John Kinsman, longtime dairy farmer and president of Family Farm Defenders. “Eighty years ago Hillpoint Co-op Creamery was organized by farmers with a processing plant and headquarters in the village of Hillpoint, less than six miles from my farm. Later it became Wisconsin Dairies. Certain corrupt executives, though, fired responsible employees who exposed short butter weights, milk watering, false sampling, and other illegal activities, which all led to a messy criminal investigation. Later Wisconsin Dairies became Foremost Farms, and nothing has really changed. In fact, in a referendum about a decade ago on the future of the National Dairy Board, Foremost was caught bloc voting for several hundred more patrons than they actually had.”
The winners of last year’s “Land of 10,000 Lagoons” awards presented at the World Dairy Expo were the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT). Both AFACT and ALEC had major roles in orchestrating state legislation and manipulating public opinion to the benefit of corporate agribusiness and factory farming in Wisconsin. Sadly, AFACT dissolved itself shortly after receiving last year’s award, and many members of ALEC are now reconsidering their participation in that controversial organization.
Following the “Land of 10,000 Lagoons” award ceremony, Wisconsin citizens will have an opportunity to speak out about how they have been affected by environmental pollution, health threats, political corruption, and other problems emanating from factory farm expansion statewide.