Here's How to Get Your Free Milk Money — Most Arizonans Qualify, but Deadline's January 31
A couple of weeks remain to submit your claim for free milk money.
Go to this website, www.boughtmilk.com, and put in your name and email. It's legit and it won't ask you for a credit-card number or allow Russian hackers to gain access to your accounts.
You just have to affirm that you lived in the state between 2003 and now, and while here you bought milk or dairy products.
The deadline is January 31. You'll quickly receive an email confirming the submission and letting you know that additional instructions in another email will arrive sometime after the deadline passes.
"In that email, you will be able to select from a variety of electronic payment formats potentially including PayPal, Google Wallet, Amazon Balance, and others in order to receive an instant payment," says the confirmation message.
Individuals will receive between $5 and $20 — enough for a few gallons of milk, according to the website. Entities like schools or businesses that purchased in bulk will receive $140 to $560.
The money is due the residents of Arizona, 14 other states, and Washington, D.C., because of a federal antitrust lawsuit against the dairy industry cooperative, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), and other national dairy outfits like Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.
Although many media outlets are reporting the payout for individuals is $45 to $70, the figure was reduced as claims have poured in.
Ashley Klann, spokeswoman for Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, the national law firm that handled the lawsuit, confirms that Arizonans who apply will be paid, but she couldn't immediately say when residents would receive their money.
While the $52 million lawsuit settlement doesn't require the dairy industry to admit wrongdoing or that anything illegal occurred, the industry ran a price-tweaking scheme that was dirty — and bloody.
The 2011 complaint, developed with research by Compassion Over Killing (COK), a Washington D.C.-based animal-rights group, accused the dairies with CWT of sending 500,000 cows to early slaughter in order to boost the price of milk. COK says the scheme resulted "in over $9.5 billion of unfairly and illegally obtained profits."
Keith Murfield, CEO of United Dairymen of Arizona, tells New Times that many dairies in the state had participated in the CWT plan to increase the price of milk. Although his organization wasn't named in the lawsuit, it's a member of the National Milk Producers Federation, which started the CWT.
Murfield downplayed the significance of the settlement, which was first announced in September, saying that milk prices were "so low," it was hurting the producers.
"We didn't do anything illegal," he says. "There was no conspiring."
The suit was filed in the U.S. District of Northern California, and that's where a jury trial would have been held if not for the settlement. That alone could have been a problem for the industry, Murfield suggested, "so we settled out of court."
The settlement checks will be handed out to everyone who applies "until they run out of money," he says. The CWT, which is funded by its members, has a pool of money that's paying for the settlement, and no Arizona dairies would be affected.
Murfield says the industry no longer practices "cow reduction."
To help dairy owners, the CWT now provides cash assistance to farmers to help them export dairy products to other countries.
Dairies are big business in Arizona: According to the Arizona Farm Bureau, dairy is the state's number-one agricultural product.
But the state's industry is shrinking: "We lost 10 percent of our producers in '16," Murfield says. "I'm expecting [to lose] 5 percent this year."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.