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Farmers, milk co-op reach deal

State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns Thursday approved a confidential settlement of the financial dispute between seven Western New York dairy farm families and the Niagara Milk cooperative.

Following three days of hearings in his Buffalo courtroom, Burns approved the nondisclosure clause and was told by attorneys for both sides that the board of Niagara Milk will be advised of the settlement, with payments to farm families expected to come within the next week.

After the end of the court session, Deborah J. Chadsey and James J. Navagh, attorneys for the seven families, said their clients are satisfied with the deal. The families were attempting to prove they were entitled to more money because of the May 2006 merger of Niagara Milk with Upstate Farms.

William Savino and Anthony Eugeni, attorneys for Niagara Milk, confirmed the confidential settlement and declined to comment further.

The seven dairy families were among 12 dissenters to the merger who contended they hadn't been offered enough money for their shares of the co-op's assets.

Niagara Milk settled with the five other dissenting farmers and a 13th farmer who had initially gone to court prior to this week's hearings before Burns.

Eugeni and Savino maintained before this week's hearings that Niagara Milk owed the seven families something.

Under the confidentiality agreement, neither side is allowed to publicly disclose final payment figures.

Chadsey and Navagh had disputed Niagara Milk's valuation estimates.

Following the 2006 merger, the seven dissenting dairy farmers -- Thomas J. Krenzer, Leon F. Perry, Leon G. Perry, Douglas Kelkenberg, Dwight and Renee Darling and the George Dairy Farms -- joined other cooperatives to sell the milk they produce in Monroe, Erie, Genesee and Wyoming counties.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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