On Wednesday, May 11, NSAC joined 160 organizations on a letter urging USDA and the Department of Justice to complete and release a report on the findings from five workshops held in 2010 on antitrust issues and regulatory enforcement in farm and food sectors. Hundreds of farmers and ranchers attended the workshops held across the country. Many farmers and ranchers testified about their experiences with discriminatory, deceptive, and coercive practices by meatpackers and poultry processors. Numerous academic experts described the adverse impacts of these practices on the ability of farmers and ranchers to stay in business.
In addition, USDA and the Department of Justice heard from economists on the corrosive effect on farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and consumers of the increasing concentration of meatpacking, poultry processing, dairy production, and seed production in the hands a few multi-national corporations. In the meat and poultry sectors, these corporations not only control packing and processing but have also increased their hold on livestock and poultry production by raising their own livestock and poultry or hiring farmers and ranchers through contract to raise corporate-owned livestock and poultry. Production contracts written by the corporations impose significant burdens on farmers and provide advantages to the corporations.
Congress recognized the need for reform and oversight of livestock and poultry markets in the 2008 Farm Bill by directing USDA to implement regulations requiring fair terms for poultry growers in contracts with poultry processors. In addition, Congress directed USDA to issue regulations to clarify and strengthen the provisions and implementation of protections for individual farmers and ranchers provided in the Packers and Stockyards Act. USDA is currently reviewing over 60,000 comments received on its proposed rule to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act.
The Report from the 2010 Workshops will provide additional information to the public and to Congress on the impact of the consolidated economic power wielded by a shrinking number of mega-firms in agriculture, food processing and food marketing.
The organization sign-on letter sent this week urges USDA and the Department of Justice to expedite the completion and release of the final report on the findings and results of the workshops and submitted comment. This Report should include an analysis of the scope, causes, and nature of the problems and identify changes necessary to begin to address current trends in agricultural consolidation, and develop appropriate antitrust approaches to curtail monopoly or monopsony power of the seed, beef, hog, poultry and dairy industries and reduce the harmful impacts of unrestrained corporate power on U.S. food and farming.