Food and Agribusiness Merger Ban

The Lempert Report
June 21, 2022

The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2022 was announced last week by a group of Democratic Senators and Representatives in an attempt to control growing corporate concentration. We’ve all read and heard the reports of record profits by many agribusinesses this year. “Corporate profiteering and out-of-control consolidation by big agricultural firms have led to increased prices at every point on the food chain, from the farm to the grocery store,” said Representative Mark Pocan (D., WI—2nd) in a statement announcing the legislation.“Congress must do more to help local farmers be competitive while providing greater market transparency to the American consumer.”

The legislation is welcomed by several farmers and ranchers contacted by Bryce Oates reporter at the Daily Yonder. “The Agribusiness Merger Moratorium Act would give those of us trying to build a better food system hope that some in Congress have seen how corporate monopolies, from seed to grocery store, are making it impossible to keep family farmers on the land,” Chelsea Davis, a Callaway County, Missouri, farmer and Chief Operating Officer of The Root Cellar, a Mid-Missouri local food hub told Civil Eats. Davis said that if we want our food system to be more sustainable and resilient, we have to make policy choices that would stop further monopolization at every stage of the supply chain.“These huge corporations don’t care about our rural or urban communities, our streams, and our rivers, or being good neighbors,” she said. “I just hope Congress and the President will act quickly because too many family farmers are running out of time.”

The Daily Yonder writes that addressing corporate power in agriculture has been a major focus for many Democrats since 2021. A White House analysis on concentration in the beef, pork, and chicken industry states that four firms control approximately 55-85 percent of the market for these food products. “That reflects dramatic consolidation of the industry over the last five decades, as the large conglomerates have absorbed more and more smaller processors. In 1977, the largest four beef-packing firms controlled just 25 percent of the market, compared to 82 percent today,” according to the analysis. “In poultry, the top four processing firms-controlled 35 percent of the market in 1986, compared to 54 percent today. And in pork, the top four hog-processing firms controlled 33 percent of the market in 1976, compared to 66 percent today.”