Concentration and consolidation in the food industry

March 31, 2011

Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Mr. Holder and Mr. Vilsack:

In 2010, the five workshops on Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy convened by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Agriculture established a framework for understanding the impact of consolidated economic power on farmers, workers and consumers.

We commend the Departments for organizing this important series of workshops. They created an historic opportunity for the American public to share our experiences, and many people travelled thousands of miles to participate and testify. Through this process hundreds of Americans—farmers, ranchers, workers and consumers—have shared stories of their struggles to cope with the unprecedented level of concentration in the food and agriculture industries. Hundreds of thousands more showed their concern by submitting formal comments and petitions for the record.

More than a year has passed since the first workshop took place in Iowa on March 12, 2010. The American public now awaits the next steps the Departments will take to address excessive corporate concentration in the U.S. food and agricultural sectors and its devastating impacts on American lives and livelihoods.

The Justice Department and USDA must expedite the completion and release of a final report on the findings and results of the workshops and submitted comments. 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 end the harmful impacts on U.S. food and farming, and end the harmful impacts of unrestrained corporate power on U.S. food and farming. Our rural communities, our food supply and the fate of a major portion of the American economy depend on us fixing this problem.

Finally, as discussed in the fifth and final workshop addressing the farm to retail price spread, it is clear we can’t solve this dilemma unless we are willing to look at the whole picture of the American food chain—from the farm to the grocery store shelf.

We would appreciate receiving an outline of your intended response, with a general timeline for your planned course of action, including the publication of your findings. We hope to hear from within the coming month. Please direct correspondence to Patrick Woodall at Food & Water Watch (pwoodall@fwwatch.org, 202-683-2500).

Sincerely,
RAFI-USA
PCC Natural Markets

cc. Christine Varney, Asst. Attorney-General
cc. Dudley Butler, Administrator, Grain Inspectors, Packers and Stockyards Administration

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