One would image the dairy aisle of the grocery store to be drama-free, but that's not quite the case. The behind-the-scenes action of dairy production includes allegations of price-fixing, premature cow retirement, a class action lawsuit, and now a payout for consumers who have bought dairy products.
Have you bought milk in the last 14 years? Consumers who purchased milk or dairy products (like cream, half-and-half, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, or sour cream) are eligible for a refund depending on where they live.
American citizens residing in one of 15 states — Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — qualify for a refund up to $70, as per the settlement of a nationwide class action lawsuit filed against milk producers in September 2011.
The lawsuit claims Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), a lobbying trade group led by the National Milk Producers Federation, engaged in a price-fixing scheme that reduced supply of milk and dairy products by prematurely slaughtering — or "dairy herd retirement," as the CWT calls it — over 500,000 cows. This, in turn, purportedly increased prices. According to a 2009 analysis by Dr. Scott Brown of the University of Missouri-Columbia, herd retirement added $0.66 per 100 pounds of milk between 2004 and 2008.
The need to raise prices is counterintuitive, considering the demand for dairy has been on a rise. Bloomberg reports, citing the U.S. government, that American dairy consumption has gone up over the past decades. Specifically, Americans went from consuming 539 pounds per person per year in 1975 to 627 pounds per person per year in 2015.
The CWT, which settled for $52 million but has not admitted to any wrongdoing, says the dairy herd retirement was not about money. Instead, it was a "voluntary self-help farmer-funded program that allowed dairy farmers who wanted to stop farming to exit farming altogether."
Consumers who meet the qualifications can submit claims until January 31, 2017, at boughtmilk.com.
Read more: Bought Milk? You May Be Eligible for $70 in These 15 States from TIME