A handful of corporations control our food system, from farm to fork. That dominance gives them political power to shape the rules meant to protect farmers and eaters. Corporate power lets them manipulate the marketplace, pushing down prices the paid to farmers, driving many out of business.
That’s not news. What is news is legislation that puts a hold on the mergers that allow these corporations to further consolidate and increase their power even more.
Farm Aid is proud to join a coalition of 213 farm, food, rural, faith and consumer advocacy organizations that endorse the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 (S.3404/H.R.6800). In early November, we signed on to a letter to Congress urging members of the House and Senate to cosponsor the legislation introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI).
The legislation would impose an 18-month moratorium on the mega-mergers that have swept the agribusiness, food manufacturing and grocery industries recently. At a time of crisis across the farm economy, the last thing we need is to tilt the scales even further in the direction of these corporations which have contributed to falling farm prices, stagnant wages for food workers, rising food prices and economic stagnation in rural 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 necessary changes to federal antitrust statutes or other laws and regulations to restore a fair and competitive agricultural marketplace.
You can read the full text of the letter we sent to members of Congress, along with quotes from some of our fellow co-signers, who represent organizations from 47 states, below.
“There are now just a few colossal companies reaping profits from their control of every link of the food chain. 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.”
– Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch
“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. 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.”
–Lorette Picciano, Executive Director of the Rural Coalition
“Corporate consolidation has long been one of the greatest challenges plaguing family farmers, ranchers and rural communities. 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.”
– Roger Johnson, President of National Farmers Union
“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. 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.”
– Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets
“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. This legislation is sorely needed to prevent a tsunami of grossly anticompetitive, anti-consumer merger proposals.”
– Thomas Gremillion, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America