Booker, Tester, Merkley and Warren introduce bill to impose moratorium on major agribusiness mergers

Booker, Tester, Merkley and Warren introduce bill to impose moratorium on major agribusiness mergers

Washington D.C.- Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2022, legislation that would impose an immediate and indefinite moratorium on acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector. Supported by agricultural, food, rural, community, labor, consumer and other advocacy organizations, the bill would also create a commission to study and publish recommended improvements to merger enforcement and antitrust surveillance in the agricultural and food sectors. The moratorium would be lifted once Congress acts on the commission’s recommendations by passing comprehensive legislation to address the problem of growing market concentration in agriculture. Complementary legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI-02).

The concentration of the food and agricultural economy has accelerated at a rapid pace since the 1980s, and particularly since the Great Recession. This trend has far-reaching implications, especially for consumers. The infant formula industry, for example, has reached an alarming level of corporate concentration, with four companies now controlling almost 90% of the infant formula market. An interruption in the supply of a single producer of infant formula now poses a serious risk to infant health in the United States. Consolidation also contributes to the widening economic opportunity gap in the United States, as dominant companies are likely to generate profits for investors rather than raise wages or benefits.

Over the past four decades, the top four beef packers have increased their market share from 32% to 85%. This increased concentration, combined with the anti-competitive practices and other abuses of these large multinational meatpacking companies, is pushing small family farmers out of business and undermining the economy of rural communities.

“Increased market concentration in the food and agriculture industry has had dire consequences for family farmers and pastoralists, food workers, food quality and safety, and communities,” said Senator Booker. “Over the past four decades, we have seen the four largest corporations in almost every sector of the food and agricultural economy gain outsized market power. Using this power as leverage, these corporations have exerted undue influence on federal agricultural policies, pushed family farmers and ranchers out of business, and raised food prices to boost their profits while consumers pay more at the checkout.

“This alarming trend must be reversed,” continued Senator Booker. “I am proud to introduce this essential legislation that would put an urgent and indefinite pause on agribusiness mergers while a newly created commission provides recommendations to Congress on strengthening our antitrust laws. This is only once that Congress will act to address the damage caused by growing corporate concentration that the moratorium will be lifted This gives us the time we need to update existing laws that will better protect American farmers and ranchers, workers and communities that are harmed by corporate consolidation.

“The people of Montana know that consolidating our food systems is hurting rural America,” said Senator Tester. “Whether it’s meat packing or infant formula, a lack of market competition means tighter margins for American producers, higher costs for consumers, and makes our country less safe when these multinationals fail. Capitalism works exceptionally well when there is competition, and this bill will help put family farmers back in the driver’s seat by making our markets more competitive at every level.

“When agribusiness conglomerates control the market, family farms suffer, making it difficult to get fair prices and pushing them out of the market,” said Senator Merkley. “It serves no one and is devastating to our farming communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this bill forward.

“The agriculture and food industries are highly concentrated, with only a few dominant players controlling the majority of the market,” said Senator Warren. “It’s time to stop mergers that hurt workers and allow corporate prices to rise that lead to higher costs for American families – this bill would help us do just that.”

“Corporate profits and the runaway consolidation of large agricultural corporations have driven prices up at every point in the food chain, from farm to grocery store,” Representative Pocan said. “Congress must do more to help local farmers compete while providing greater market transparency to the American consumer. Today, too many middle-class families, farmers and food workers are struggling 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.

“The concentration of the food system has allowed corporations to steal profits from farmers, drive up prices from consumers and force workers to live in unsafe and underpaid conditions,” said Sarah Carden, political advocate for the Farm Action Fund. “These abusive practices have become all too common, threatening both our food and national security. This legislation puts an immediate end to further consolidation, allowing us to build a fairer and more resilient food and agriculture system. »

“Corporate control of our food system is crushing American families with ever-rising grocery prices, while putting sustainable family farms on the brink of extinction. Only a handful of profiteering corporations wield enormous control over everything from international supply chains to the very seeds that farmers plant,” mentioned Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Building a healthy and affordable food system means standing up for family farms and rural communities. The adoption of this legislation is a crucial first step in this process.

“The continued concentration of our agricultural and food markets allows dominant agribusinesses to exploit farmers and ranchers on one side of the supply chain and consumers on the other,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. “We commend Senators Booker and Tester for reintroducing this bill that protects food producers and food consumers from further harm and establishes a mechanism to begin to reverse that harm.”

Senator Booker has called for a moratorium on large agribusiness mergers since the legislation was first introduced in 2018.

Full text of the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act can be found here.

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