More than a year ago, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Agriculture began an unprecedented joint journey into possible agricultural sector antitrust violations. The series of five public workshops ended in December 2010 but no findings have yet been released.
This week a coalition of more than 150 interested groups–including the Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association–said they’ve waited long enough, and that the agencies should release a report of their findings. Signatories on the coalition letter (embedded in full below) represent a diverse swath of organizations with interest in the food and agricultural industries as well as general advocates of rural America.
“The American public now awaits the next steps the Departments will take to address excessive corporate concentration in the U.S. food and agricultural sectors and its devastating impacts on American lives and livelihoods,” reads the letter addressed to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney and Grain Inspectors, Packers and Stockyards Administrator Dudley Butler.
The first-of-their-kind joint antitrust workshops were held throughout the nation and focused on a wide variety of industries and concerns.
- March 2010, Iowa — Intro to the series and discussion of issues facing crop farmers such as seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency, and buyer power.
- May 2010, Alabama — Production contracts in the poultry industry, concentration, and buyer power.
- June 2010, Wisconsin — Concentration, marketplace transparency, and market dynamics in the dairy industry.
- August 2010, Colorado — Concentration in livestock markets (beef, hog and others), buyer power and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
- December 2010, Washington, D.C. — Discrepancies between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers. As a concluding event, discussions from previous workshops were incorporated into the analysis of agriculture markets nationally.
Or, as the DOJ summarized, “The workshops addressed the dynamics of competition in agriculture markets, including buyer power (monopsony) and vertical integration. They examined legal doctrines and jurisprudence, as well as current economic learning, and provided an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, consumer groups, processors, agribusiness, and other interested parties to provide examples of potentially anticompetitive conduct and to discuss any concerns about the application of the antitrust laws to the agricultural sectors. The workshops were transcribed and placed on the public record along with submissions and written comments received.”