Small Potatoes, Not: Suit Alleges OPEC-like Tuber Cartel

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The grocers contend that the groups being sued are not cooperatives within the meaning of the Act, and, further, that some of the price-fixing activities in which they are claimed to be engaged are not protected. UPGA, they allege, is nothing more nor less than "a scheme to manage and restrict the supply of potatoes."

Mark Patterson, professor of law at Fordham University and an expert on anti-trust, tells ABC News that even if the plaintiffs meet the Act's definition of a coop, it's not clear that limiting production is one of the activities permitted. "The statute," says he, "does not list that as allowed. You're allowed to market goods in such a way as to try to get a higher price," but the law is "just not clear" that a coop can restrict the quantity of goods to do that.

Moreover, he says, one coop cannot legally collude with another. So, while one coop's restricting output would be questionable, he says, an agreement between coops to do so would be "worse."

On the last point, Mark Grady concurs. Grady, a professor of law and expert on anti-trust at UCLA, says price-fixing within a coop is okay—privileged under the Act. "But there is no privilege between coops."

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