Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill to place a moratorium on acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector.
U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., introduced the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act.
The bill would put an immediate moratorium in place until Congress passes comprehensive legislation addressing the problem of market concentration in agriculture.
“Our agriculture and food sector have reached alarming levels of corporate concentration - today a small number of giant companies control every link of our food chain,” Booker said. “For instance, four companies control as much as 90% of the global grain market, and the top four beef packers in the United States now control 85% of the beef market.”
“Consolidation is one of the greatest threats to rural America,” Tester said. “Less competition means higher prices and fewer choices for small family farmers as they struggle to make ends meet. This bill will help put family farmers back in control of their futures by improving access to a competitive marketplace.”
“Today, corporate profits are soaring, but many middle-class families, farmers, and food workers continue to struggle,” Pocan said. “Establishing a moratorium on ag-mergers will not only strengthen our antitrust laws, but it will also expand economic security and opportunity to more of our communities.”
The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act was originally introduced by Booker last August and called for an 18-month moratorium on mergers and acquisitions; this year’s updated version calls for an indefinite halt.
In addition to the indefinite moratorium on merger combinations of over $160 million in sales or assets, the bill would set-up a commission to study how to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors and publish recommended improvements to merger enforcement and antitrust rules. The commission would also recommend any necessary changes to federal antitrust statutes or other laws and regulations to restore a fair and competitive agricultural marketplace.
Full text of the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act is here.
The bill is supported by 219 farm, food, rural and consumer advocacy organizations from 46 states, who signed a letter sent to senators and representatives.
“Consolidation across the food chain is harming workers and exacerbating income inequality: There is growing consensus that economic concentration is contributing to widening economic inequality as bigger monopolistic firms fail to raise wages and benefits for their workers,” the letter reads.