Saturday, December 10th, 2016

It’s not a plant closing story, it’s a success story

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The closing of the Golden Guernsey milk plant in Waukesha was not a failure of the anti-trust action taken by Attorney General JB Van Hollen’s office, it was a success story. Just ask state DOJ attorney Steve Means:

Steve Means, one of the attorneys of record for the state Department of Justice in the Dean Foods action, said the agreement that Dean Foods entered to sell Golden Guernsey was set up so the federal government had the ability to approve or reject a buyer and had sole discretion.

“The sale … is something that gave the Waukesha facility a fighting chance,” Means said. “The fact that it was there buying milk, trying to do business with retailers, not only did it provide better prices for milk for producers, the farmers, but it also kept prices down for the purchasers during that time frame. … That was certainly the objective.”

Hey, the government picked the buyers of the plant, but that’s okay. Milk prices were held down, “…during that time frame.” It’s a success story, right?

The Waukesha Freeman also quotes Means as saying that the plant was in financial danger before the anti-trust action that forced the sale. If Means, Van Hollen, and the Wisconsin DOJ truly believed that, then why did they force the sale of a plant that was doomed to fail anyway?

As for the plant’s chances of re-opening, the Waukesha Freeman consulted a dairy industry expert outside the Department of Justice:

Stephenson said the antitrust case took Golden Guernsey “from an organization that really knows and understands fluid milk plants really well to a group I don’t know at all. I don’t know that they own any dairy plants, let alone fluid dairy plants.”

But he added that he’s heard from several other large corporations that have some dealings in dairy that this area of the country is unique in that it has laws and rules not commonly found elsewhere.

“They find it amazing that we have the degree of regulation we do so it might be a tough climb for some group that has put together a pro forma investment package and found that this is a hard industry,” he said.

Stephenson added he believed it was possible that the Golden Guernsey brand could be resurrected.

“Golden Guernsey has a cache,” he said. “A lot of folks here have good memories of this as a brand name. The Borden brand was resurrected. It had been down for some years and was brought back. So it’s a possibility. I wouldn’t discount that completely but by the same token, I wouldn’t be waiting for that to happen. I think it is more difficult now that the plant is physically closed.”

You can read my op-ed column on the whole mess that appeared in the Waukesha Freeman in Thursday’s newspaper, page 6A.

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