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MILWAUKEE

Deadline approaches in $52M price fixing settlement

Time is running out for any milk consumer in 15 states and the District of Columbia to take part in a $52 million class action settlement.

The suit alleges that some dairy co-ops and others conspired to fix prices by reducing the size of their herds, thus raising the price of milk, WISN reported.

Anyone who bought milk any time since 2003 is eligible to get in on the settlement, but claims must be made by Jan. 31. There is no proof of purchase required to sign up for the settlement.

The payout remains unclear. The $52 million dollar pool will be divided among the lawyers and every consumer who signs up.

"It depends on how many people apply. They divide the money up, but I don't think we're looking at very many bucks," said University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Robert Cropp, who was an expert witness in the original case.

Cropp said he believes that any alleged price fixing had "little impact" on consumers.

MADISON, WI

Wisconsin state Senate passes bill to help cheese plant 

The Wisconsin state Senate has passed a bill extending tax incentives to help a cheese distributor. The Senate unanimously passed the bill  on Jan. 17, that is designed to assist with Plymouth-based Masters Gallery Foods building of a $30 million cheese packaging and distribution plant in the village of Oostburg.

The bill would allow Oostburg, in Sheboygan County, to create a new tax incremental district to help subsidize construction of the 150,000-sqaure-foot facility expected to create 120 jobs over three years. The proposal now heads to the Assembly.

PIERRE, SD

Winter wheat plantings at long-time lows in South Dakota

Winter wheat plantings in South Dakota last fall totaled only 900,000 acres, down nearly one-fourth from the previous year to one of the lowest levels in years.

In its first estimate of the crop, the USDA reported the numbers, which are down 24 percent from the 1.18 million acres planted in September 2015. The reason for the drop includes more than just the growth in popularity of corn and soybeans in recent years.

South Dakota Wheat Commission Executive Director Reid Christopherson said farmers likely planted fewer acres of winter wheat because there was a big-yielding crop last year, which produced lower protein content and brought down the price of winter wheat.

The drop has made farmers look into other crops, like corn, soybeans and sunflowers, for income. The gap between winter wheat prices and spring wheat prices has also been high at about $1.30 a bushel.

YODER, KS

Kansas man accidentally shot at meat plant; buffalo blamed 

Authorities say a man accidentally was shot while trying to help kill a buffalo at a south-central Kansas meat-processing business.

The Reno County Sheriff's Department says Duane Helms of Moundridge was wounded in the leg shortly before 12:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, at Yoder Meats in Yoder.

Authorities say Helms was assisting a Yoder Meats employee in trying to shoot a buffalo so the animal could be butchered.

The sheriff's department says a Yoder Meats employee with a rifle was atop a ladder, trying to shoot a buffalo confined in a trailer, when the animal turned, jarring the ladder and knocking the employee off balance. That's when the rifle discharged, shooting Helms.

LA FARGE, WI

Billion dollar company plans for joint venture 

The largest La Farge-based co-op of organic farmers in the country is planning to create a joint venture with one of the nation's largest dairy processors in order to put its dairy products in as many as 140,000 more stores nationwide.

Organic Valley, founded by CEO George Siemon among other farmers in 1988, is coming off its second billion-dollar year. The company is joining with Dallas-based Dean Foods in a 50-50 pact beginning this year under the Organic Valley brand label.

Dean Foods, founded in 1925 in northwest Illinois, is a dairy processor and direct-to-store distributor of fluid milk. According to its website, the company also distributes ice cream, cultured products, juices, teas, bottled water among other products.

The joint venture is projected to expand Organic Valley products nationwide from just grocery stores to also drugstores, convenience stores and discount outlets. Organic Valley's producer pool accounts for about 12 percent of the organic farmers in the nation.

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