SE Milk Litigation: Appeal Deadline Expires, Dean Foods Payment 3 may be processed

Sun Photo by Phil GentryFederal Court House

The wait is apparently over for Dean Payment #3 per the Dean Foods/SMA Settlement Agreement in the Southeast Milk Litigation to be processed.

The deadline to file an Appeal to Judge Ronnie Greer’s October 16th, 2014 “Order Authorizing the Third Distribution of Dean Settlement Funds” has now expired. In this instance, an Appeal would have been filed with the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Unless official filing documents are received via the United States Postal Service at the Sixth Circuit offices with an appropriate postmark, payments can now be processed and mailed to producers.
Per Federal Court rules, there is a 30-day time frame in which an Appeal an Order may be filed, which may occur when Motions are filed prior to the entry of an Order.

According to court documents, a dairy farmer, who had become a board member of the SMA board following the Dean/SMA Settlement which became final in June of 2012, but prior to the DFA Settlement Agreement claims deadline of March 31,2013, received the first Dean Foods Settlement payment, but was denied the DFA Settlement Payment and Dean Payment #2.

This producer had filed a Motion asking the court to reinstate his eligibility for settlement payments, given the timing of his placement on the SMA Board. A clause was in all of the Settlement Agreements declaring Board Members of all defendant Co-ops to be ineligible for payments, but this specific instance of when a board position was filled was not addressed in the original documents, and so the Motion to reinstate was filed.

Producers who filed claims directly with Rust Consulting may expect that they will receive checks within a couple of weeks. Producers who used third-party filers may take a bit longer to receive their checks.
The amount in this cycle of checks will be similar to amounts producers received in the Dean Payment 2, paid to class members in September of 2013.

As far as future payments, producers can expect to receive their monies. Thus far, the defendants have been very responsible in depositing their monies in escrow accounts by the deadlines agreed upon in the original Settlement Agreements. This process is diligently monitored by the Court.

However, each payment cycle is always subject to various court proceedings, so the timing of receipts of payments by producers may vary. Two additional Dean Settlement Payments are set to be filed, one in 2015 and one in 2016. The possibility of an additional DFA payment remains if specified utilization rates are not reached by certain deadlines.

Class members should be aware that until the final payments are made, this is an ongoing legal matter, with a number of legal filings subject to changing subsequent payment schedules.

Producers will be notified of additional developments in this historic Class Action litigation when they occur. For a history of the case, including many official court documents, interested parties may visit

Litigations are just one portion of the worldwide milkshed.

SE Milk Litigation – Payment Schedule Updates


I, along with many other producer organizations, have been receiving questions regarding “When will the DFA Settlement Monies be received by farmers?” The answer: NOT anytime soon, and NOT until the proper reviews have been completed by first, the official Claims Administrator, Rust Consulting, followed by reviews and approvals of their work and official report by THE COURT!

As of Monday, August 19, an additional round of audit letters were received by several class members/producers in several states from Rust Consulting, the Claims Administrator. These letters were checking pounds claims discrepancies reported by Class members ranging from only a view pounds to several hundred thousand pounds. One producer reported that a phone call to Rust is all it took to correct the requested information.

However, that letter does state a response deadline (to Rust Consulting) of September 16 for verifying or correcting the information. Provided there is not another round of audit letters, and observing the January 2013 Dean Settlement payment process as an example, it is predicted that it will be late October AT THE EARLIEST before DFA Settlement Checks can be expected. Any delays will delay checks even further.

If anyone tells a producer to ‘expect payments anytime soon,” ask where they are getting their information. Unless that source can provide documents from the Court’s record, they are citing no official source. Speculation and ‘country-store discussions’ are not proper in this process!

The COURT is supervising this process, under the guidance of long-established Federal Court Rules. Documents filed on the Court’s record are the only source of accurate information, and are made public when there is official action. Here is the general sequence of events which will occur before checks can finally be issued:

1. The first step has been taken with the filing of a Motion requesting Payment #2 in the Dean Foods Settlement.
2. Requests were made in that document to alter some of the pounds claimed in the Dean Settlement, which in turn may affect the final allocation of pounds to an individual claimant in the DFA Settlement.
3. Those requests must be reviewed and approved by the Court before proceeding to the next step – the filing of a Motion requesting the Disbursement of the DFA Settlement Monies. Rust Consulting must complete their work before that Motion is filed.
4. Since the DFA Settlement will involve some substantial payments, and will be dispensed at one time, every care must be taken to make sure the pounds, and resulting monies, are allocated as fairly as possible and to the Court’s satisfaction before the Judge will approve issuing checks to producers.

To clear up a couple of other ongoing questions:
1.) The settlement checks will not be coming directly from DFA (Dairy Farmers of America. In accordance with Court procedure, DFA placed $140 Million in an escrow account earlier this year. The interest accrued by that fund becomes part of the Settlement fund. The eventual checks will come from Rust Consulting, Claims Administrator.

2.) There is no word yet on when the sealed documents, which DFA agreed to open to the public per terms of the Settlement Agreement, will be available for public review.

Please, Please, be patient. Most events in this case are not our area of expertise, are defined by Rules of Federal Court and process, and are dependent upon work performed by others, and are quite frankly, out of our control. News of important events concerning payments will be distributed as quickly as it becomes available. This is a complex legal event, and while the finish line is hopefully in sight, it is still a legal event, and the final outcome can be determined by a variety of factors.

(Note: photo at top is Greeneville, TN Federal Courthouse, the site of the hearings in the Southeast Milk Litigation, now in its sixth year.)