"It's because there's an increasing perception that Capper-Volstead is being abused," he said.
For instance, a similar lawsuit filed in 2010 targeting potato growers is now advancing through federal court in Idaho, a case that may eventually be combined with this one.
Meanwhile, other groups including the U.S. Department of Justice have lodged antitrust complaints against mushroom growers, dairy farmers, egg producers and cranberries. Carstensen said a common gulf separates rival protagonists.
Large agricultural producers argue they're using the power of the cooperative to create a more efficient market, he said, while "the other side is saying 'No'... what you're doing is outside the scope of authorized conduct."
Federal prosecutors aren't involved in this latest litigation, but the DOJ has pushed recently to re-examine how large, modern agricultural cooperatives are using the Capper-Volstead Act, including holding workshops with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to scrutinize competition in the farming business.
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