WASHINGTON — Today, a broad-based coalition of 213 farm, food, rural, faith and consumer advocacy organizations delivered a letter to Congress endorsing food and agribusiness merger moratorium bills and urging members of the House and Senate to cosponsor the legislation. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 companion bills this year (S.3404/H.R.6800).
“Corporate consolidation has long been one of the greatest challenges plaguing family farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “By allowing us to step back to evaluate and strengthen the United States’ antitrust framework, the merger moratorium is a meaningful first step in stemming the tide of concentration in the agriculture and food sectors. We applaud Senator Booker and Representative Pocan for introducing this legislation and urge other members of Congress to join the effort to pass this legislation.”
The legislation would impose an 18-month moratorium on the mega-mergers that have swept the agribusiness, food manufacturing and grocery industries. This wave of consolidation has contributed to falling farm prices, declining farm incomes, stagnant wages for food workers, raising food prices and economic stagnation in rural communities.
“There are now just a few colossal companies reaping profits from their control of every link of the food chain,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Hyper-consolidation raises consumer prices while lowering the prices farmers receive. It eliminates choices for both farmers and eaters and undermines the resiliency and sustainability of the food system.”
The letter outlines why the legislation is sorely needed as the food and agribusiness industries have been on a merger and acquisition spree. Major seed, fertilizer, food processing and grocery chains have merged to form some of the biggest food and agribusiness companies of all time.
“With the recent onslaught of agricultural mega-mergers and acquisitions, including those of multinational giants like ChemChina and Syngenta, Bayer and Monsanto, and Marfrig and National Beef, there has never been a more pressing time for Congress to take action,” said Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “OCM is encouraged by the groundswell of organizational support and proud to stand with more than 200 groups calling for a crackdown on monopolistic corporate practices that hurt farmers, workers, consumers and our communities.”
The Booker-Pocan bill would put a strategic pause on merger combinations of over $176 million in sales or assets and establish a commission to study the impacts of consolidation in the food and agricultural sectors on farmers, rural communities and consumers. The commission would also recommend any necessary changes to federal antitrust statutes or other laws and regulations to restore a fair and competitive agricultural marketplace.
“The consolidation in the food and agribusiness sectors has disproportionately harmed smaller-scale and socially disadvantaged farmers that have had a harder time selling their farm products at fair prices to fewer, bigger corporate buyers,” said Lorette Picciano, Executive Director of the Rural Coalition. “The mega-merger trend also compounds a downward spiral in income, wages and working conditions for farmers, ranchers, farm and food chain workers, and small businesses, eroding rural economic vitality, creating less vibrant and less sustainable communities who are pitted against each other to survive. It is long past time for a pause to provide them the time and statutory tools they need to build the futures they want.”
The letter, signed by groups from 47 states, urged other Members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation to stop the mergers that threaten independent family farmers, consumers and communities.
“The unchecked wave of food company mergers has enabled and encouraged large corporations to raise prices and manipulate research and development, to the detriment of farmers and consumers,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. “This legislation is sorely needed to prevent a tsunami of grossly anticompetitive, anti-consumer merger proposals.”
A copy of the letter is available here.
–National Farmers Union
For more articles concerning agricultural policy, click here.