Dairy merger falters

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(Host) A plan to merge two of the countries largest dairy processors may be withdrawn. Massachusetts-based H.P. Hood announced Monday that it will not pursue a proposed merger with National Dairy Holdings. The combined company would have been the second largest dairy processor in the country.

The U.S. Justice Department and the attorneys general of the six New England states had been investigating the proposed merger. Vermont Assistant Attorney General Julie Brill says her office was looking into the impact the merger would have on the Vermont consumers and on the state’s dairy industry.

(Brill) “We heard from people at all different levels of the dairy industry, spoke to farmers, we spoke to other processors, we spoke to co-ops and we spoke to retailers.”

(Host) Brill said it was too early to determine what the outcome of the investigation would have been. Jenny Nelson is a Ryegate farmer and an agriculture policy advisor to Vermont Congressman Bernard Sanders. Nelson says the merger would have created a huge dairy processor able to control the price farmers receive for their milk.

(Nelson) “We were concerned about farmers having more and more limited access to markets for their milk. It’s only when there’s good healthy competition that farmers have even a small option of garnering an even better price in the marketplace.”

(Host) In announcing the cancellation of the merger, the companies said they will propose a different plan. Assistant Attorney General Brill says her office will study the new plan when it’s announced.

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