Wisconsin Farmers Union is among a diverse coalition of agricultural groups that have stepped forward this past week in support of a bill that seeks to halt the mega-mergers that are sweeping the agribusiness, food-manufacturing and grocery industries
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin-2-Madison, introduced Sept. 14 the agribusiness merger-moratorium bill. That legislation is the House companion to The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 (S-3404) introduced in late August by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.
The bill calls for an 18-month moratorium on food and agribusiness mergers. It also calls for the establishment of a federal commission to study ways to strengthen antitrust oversight in agricultural sectors. In the past few years, chemical- and seed-company acquisitions and mergers have allowed just three companies to control two-thirds of the crop seed and almost 70 percent of agricultural-chemical markets.
It’s time to hit pause on these mega-mergers and the growing trend of vertical integration in U.S. agriculture. The United States is losing farmers at an alarming rate. And we’re seeing a lack of competitive markets in seed, agro-chemical and many other ag sectors. That’s thanks in no small part to an unprecedented number of mergers that have swept across the nation’s food and agriculture industry. Those mergers hurt farmers who are facing fewer options and increasing input costs amid declining farm incomes. Net income for U.S. farmers has dropped by almost 50 percent since 2013.
Hyper-consolidation hasn’t been limited to seed and agrochemical sectors. America’s meatpacking industry is also deeply concerning. Four firms now control 71 percent of hog slaughter and 85 percent of cattle slaughter. That growing vertical integration is decimating family farms and allowing buyers and processors to impose unfair conditions on farmers. The farmer’s share of retail sales of agricultural goods has plummeted to just 15 cents on the dollar.
Wisconsin Farmers Union members who were in Washington, D.C., this past week for the National Farmers Union Fly-In recognized Pocan for his efforts. That bill is a key example of the kind of advocacy that has made Pocan a friend of family-farm agriculture and a fitting recipient for the Golden Triangle Award, Farmers Union’s highest legislative honor.
National Farmers Union has endorsed the bill along with 16 state Farmers Union organizations as well as an array of other food and agricultural groups.