Washington, D.C. — A diverse set of environmental, family farm, farm policy and rural community organizations sent a letter to the White House today urging the Biden administration to issue an executive order that would enact a moratorium on mergers and acquisitions in the food and agricultural industries.
The effort, led by Food & Water Watch, is meant to highlight the crisis of consolidation across the industry. The food system in the United States is heavily concentrated across all levels of the supply chain, with negative impacts on small farmers, industry workers, and consumers alike. Corporate consolidation has been accelerating since the 1980s, but particularly since the 2008 recession. Allowing additional food and agriculture mergers to proceed will only increase this consolidation which results in decreased income for farmers and higher grocery prices for consumers.
“Corporate control over our food system has destroyed family farms and raised prices at the grocery store. A handful of profit-seeking companies exert enormous control over everything from international supply chains to the very seeds that farmers plant,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “For the sake of building a healthy food system and helping the rural communities that have been devastated by corporate greed, the White House needs to take on corporate power.”
“Here in Missouri, corporate consolidation has put tens of thousands of independent hog producers out of business gutting our rural economies and Main Streets. It’s because our elected representatives haven’t enforced or created the laws that stop the corporate takeover of our livestock industries,” said Darvin Bentalage, a 4th generation cattle and grain farmer representing the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. “In order to create fair markets and protect Missouri’s 50,000 cattle producers and all American family farms, we need to put an immediate halt to corporate mergers, step back and study the negative impacts of consolidation and then do something about it.”
In their letter to the White House, the groups call on President Biden to issue an executive order directing the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to strictly scrutinize mergers and acquisitions in the industries, and to withhold approvals of any new or pending deals.
“Corporate consolidation in the food industry has reached epic proportions. Today, just four corporations control over 80 percent of beef; just two corporations distribute 75 percent of the food in this country; one corporation sells nearly one third of the groceries” said Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the HEAL Food Alliance. “This handful of corporations are abusing their unprecedented buyer power to squeeze farmers and people working across the food chain further up the supply chain, while wreaking havoc on our communities’ health and the environment in the process. With this executive order the Biden administration has a real chance to take a bold first step towards curbing this egregious monopoly and creating more democratic, transparent, and accountable food systems that work for people and our planet.”
The groups are also calling on the White House to establish a commission to study impacts of corporate consolidation in the food and agricultural industries, and to direct the Department of Agriculture to investigate (under the Packers and Stockyards Act) any unfair and anti-competitive practices that impact farmers.
Angela Huffman, Vice President of Farm Action Fund, said, “This executive order gives President Biden the ability to live up to his promise to ensure farmers and producers have access to fair markets where they can compete. He has the power to take this action. Failing to do so will only keep farmers, ranchers, and food chain workers in harm’s way.”
“America’s monopolistic free-for-all has unleashed agricultural and slaughterhouse giants that routinely put profits ahead of the lives of their own employees, even during a deadly pandemic,” said Barry Lynn, Open Markets Institute Executive Director. “Our new administration can take strong and bold action to radically improve workplace safety and to break apart these dangerous corporations. Or it can follow status quo and fail farm and food workers, small and independent farmers and ranchers, rural communities, and eaters in every city in America, yet again. We know President Biden wants to get this right. We look forward to working with his team.”
Organizations endorsing this effort include: American Federation of Government Employees Council 45, American Grassfed Association, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Dakota Resource Council, Dakota Rural Action, Green State Solutions, HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance, Farm Action Fund, Farm Aid, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Land Stewardship Project, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, National Family Farm Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Open Markets Institute, Organization for Competitive Markets, Public Justice Food Project, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA), Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Western Colorado Alliance, and the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC).