A report released last month detailing the 2010 workshop process that examined competition in the agricultural sector says that adding new products and marketing agricultural products is crucial to the success of today's producers.
Prepared by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the USDA, the "Competition In Agriculture" report is a summary of the workshops. The discussion at the workshops centered on agricultural production and sector competition in a range of areas, from row crop to pork production.
Ranchers, processors, retailers, workers, academics, regulators, and government officials were invited to join in the discussion. Several key issues were apparent in producer comments:
- Anticompetitive Mergers
- High Market Concentration
- Monopoly Power
- Price Levels
- Lack of Capital
- Market Transparency and Captive Supply
- Market Manipulation
- Genetically Modified Seeds
In the report, the Department of Justice pledged to keep a closer watch on mergers, price fixing, and other conduct that can damage agricultural competitiveness.
"The Division emerges from the workshops better prepared and rededicated to fulfilling its important role in fostering a healthy and competitive agricultural sector. Vigorous antitrust enforcement is imperative, and the Division has redoubled its already active enforcement activities," the report said.
The National Farmer's Union appreciates the release of the report, but urges follow-through on those promises.
"Competition and fair markets have been a long-term priority for NFU and the proceedings in 2010 offered hope that this administration would reverse the decades of under-enforcement of antitrust laws," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "Economic studies have shown that the top four beef and pork packers dominate their sectors, so it's clear that oversight is needed to make our markets competitive."
Though the DOJ and USDA took responsibility for antitrust oversight, they did not dismiss the participation of alternative entities.
"Efforts to foster a healthy and competitive agricultural sector do not end with antitrust enforcement," the report concluded. "Other public and private entities are pursuing legislative, regulatory, and other initiatives relating to agriculture. Division staff and leadership have built important relationships with these entities, and we are better positioned to lend our expertise to their efforts to promote 'free and fair competition' in agriculture."