Wisconsin dairy CAFO (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR)
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth), along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), introduced legislation Wednesday that would place an indefinite moratorium on acquisitions and mergers in the food and agricultural industry.
The aim of the legislation is to halt growing concentration in agriculture among a few massive companies. The bills include the creation of a commission to study and recommend improvements for enforcement and oversight of antitrust laws relating to farms.
The introduction comes as the closure of one factory has caused a nationwide shortage of infant formula because four companies control 90% of that market, according to a news release announcing the bills.
“Increased market concentration in the food and agricultural industry has led to disastrous consequences for family farmers and ranchers, food workers, food quality and safety, and communities,” Booker said. “In the past four decades, we have seen the top four firms in nearly every sector of the food and agriculture economy acquire outsized market power. Using this power as leverage, these firms have exercised undue influence over federal agriculture policies, driven family farmers and ranchers out of business, and increased food prices to pad their profits while consumers pay more at checkout lines.
In Wisconsin, concentration in the industry has been devastating to small family farms, causing one dairy farm per day to shut down. Across the country, the issue has affected every aisle of the grocery store. The market share of the nation’s four largest beef producers has increased from 32% to 80% over the last four decades.
“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,” Pocan said. “Congress must do more to help local farmers be competitive while providing greater market transparency to the American consumer. Today, too many middle-class families, farmers, and food workers struggle to make ends meet. Establishing a moratorium on agribusiness mergers will protect our farms and farmers while ensuring consumers continue to enjoy variety on supermarket shelves.”
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