THE CORNERSTONE OF REBUILDING OUR FOOD SYSTEM FROM THE GROUND UP: AGGRESSIVELY ENFORCE EXISTING ANTI-TRUST LEGISLATION AGAINST POWERFUL MONOPOLIES. An Op-Ed pice by NFU's (National Farmers Union) President Rob Larew delves into the problem and identifies important solutions.
Full disclosure: we are members of New England Farmers Union, the local chapter of NFU. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"Over the past 50 years, every aspect of agriculture has become far more concentrated and more specialized. In the absence of antitrust enforcement, the seed, fertilizer, pesticide, farm machinery, corn milling, and meat processing industries have all come to be dominated by a handful of large corporations.
"By some estimates, just 50 plants account for 98 percent of meat slaughtering and processing in the United States…
"…The meatpacking industry is notorious for its high level of consolidation, and for its abuse of farmers and workers…
"Unsurprisingly, the same companies that abuse workers also abuse family farmers and ranchers. Because there is so little competition in the meat industry, the dominating companies can collude to fix prices—and often do. There have been numerous allegations of price fixing against meatpacking companies in recent years, the most recent of which was leveled just a few weeks ago, in the midst of the pandemic.
"While wholesale meat prices have surged, those dollars aren’t being passed on to ranchers. In fact, cattle prices have dropped so much that some ranchers are struggling just to break even. What this ultimately means is that packers are paying farmers less than they usually would for their cattle while charging grocery stores more, raking in record profits at both parties’ expense.
"But federal efforts to support businesses affected by the pandemic could make the problem of consolidation worse…
"All of this sounds like bad news—and it is. But endless consolidation isn’t a foregone conclusion. Indeed, this crisis is an opportunity to finally address concentration in the meat industry and support a more diverse, regionally focused system…
"By offering support to smaller-scale meat processors and family farmers who need it most, the Trump administration can ensure their survival during this difficult time. That alone is not enough; to support the success of independent businesses and prevent large meatpacking corporations from wielding undue political influence or market power, we also need strong antitrust enforcement—something that many legislators are already calling for. This must be accompanied by greater legal protections for farmers and workers from anticompetitive practices and abusive treatment.
"A fairer, more flexible, and more resilient food system is possible—now is the time to build it."
Op-ed: A Fairer, More Resilient Food System is Possible | Civil Eats
The President of the National Farmers Union argues that strong anti-trust enforcement is needed to make a better life for workers, farmers, rural communities, and animals.