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How Consolidated Agribusiness Harms The Organic Sector

The pioneers of organic agriculture probably did not foresee the day when consumers could buy organic junk food at the supermarket. But now organic is a $31 billion a year big business and the biggest food companies are eagerly moving to capture the profitable and high-priced organic food label. Although many consumers and farmers moved to organic to avoid corporate-controlled and unsustainable industrial food production, the Big Food monopoly is catching up. Read more

Killing the Competition: Meat Industry Reform Takes a Blow

 

One of the least-discussed but most promising attempts at food system reform was dealt a serious blow the other day. The USDA itself eviscerated its proposed reform to a set of rules which would have given a government division with a wonky name–the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA)–authority to crack down on the way large corporate meatpackers wield power over small and mid-sized ranchers.

To say this was a lost opportunity is a vast understatement. After all, the top four companies control 90 percent of all beef processing. In the case of pork, four companies control 70 percent of the processing, while for poultry it’s nearly 60 percent. When you get that kind of market power,* abuse becomes rampant. Indeed, ranchers all around the country now agree that it’s impossible for them to get a fair price for livestock. Read more

For Fair Food, Even the Big Guys Need to Play by the Rules

On Valentines Day, while most people fretted about dinner reservations or flowers, a coalition of livestock producers, agriculture groups, and consumers took time out to show a little love for fair food by participating in a national call-in day to the White House. Over 2,000 confirmed calls were placed throughout the country to the White House to ask the Obama administration to finalize and implement fair livestock marketing rules. Read more

Looking Back at a Year of Ag Industry Consolidation Workshops, Ahead of Finale This Week

Over the last year, in towns around the country, thousands of farmers, ranchers, and concerned citizens have packed auditoriums to overflow capacity–not for a rock concert or even a farm auction, but for the leaders of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the USDA. The departments have been on a listening tour, taking them from Iowa to Alabama and Wisconsin to Colorado, to hear from food producers about how corporate consolidation in food and agriculture markets has affected their livelihoods. Next stop? Washington, DC, this Wednesday, December 8. Read more

Holder calls for Historic Era of Antitrust Enforcement, Rural America Hopeful Once Again

ANKENY, IA — There are moments in a nation’s history that define it. For America’s remaining 2 million farmers (less than 1% of the population) and the more than 300 million eaters, the recent joint Department of Justice and Department of Agriculture workshop on lack of competition in the food and agricultural sectors held in Ankeny, Iowa is potentially one of those moments.

With concentration at record levels in agriculture today, well past levels that encourage or even allow fair prices or competition, the Obama administration’s call for public workshops is an historic event. While agribusiness continues to deny any problem, a simple look at the facts shows that the playing field for family farmers and American consumers is distorted beyond anything resembling a free or competitive market. Read more

Can the USDA Really Fight Industry Consolidation?

The first of the much anticipated agricultural competition workshops began last Friday in Iowa. Hosted jointly by the USDA and the Department of Justice, the workshops aim to explore the question of consolidation in agribusiness. The workshops themselves have already come under scrutiny for initially excluding actual farmers on the panels–and have come in for continued criticism that the farmers who have been put on are more representatives of corporations than real farmers.

It’s hard not to be somewhat cynical about our government’s claim that they’re shocked, shocked to discover there’s anti-competitive behavior in agriculture. On the other hand, for the last twenty or so years, consolidation has been–in Washington at least–the crime that dare not speak its name. So the fact that it’s the USDA and DOJ running these workshops is nothing short of astonishing. Read more

8 Steps the Department of Justice Could Take to Reform Farming

On Friday in an unprecedented move with the USDA, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the farm business. The investigation began a 7-state probe into how Monsanto treats its customers, our nation’s farmers.

I recently had the honor of presenting for our nation’s top producing farmers in Chicago at the Top Producer Seminar, sponsored by Cargill and Pioneer. I was scheduled to present with Monsanto’s VP of Sustainable Yield, but a few days before the presentation was told that he had moved to China and that there was no one to take his place. I then had the privilege of spending the afternoon in an incredibly insightful discussion with the farmers, many of whom are Monsanto’s customers, who are remarkable fathers, grandfathers, and businessmen. Read more