WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s antitrust division hosted 30 farmers affiliated with the National Farmers Union on Monday to discuss the state of competition in agriculture markets and strengthening antitrust enforcement.
The department is committed to fighting for fairness in food systems and protecting American farmers, producers, workers, and consumers from the effects of consolidation throughout the food supply chain.
The meeting builds on the division’s ramped up efforts to combat anticompetitive practices and advocate for competition in agricultural markets. The division has brought all of its tools to bear. Over the last year, the antitrust division has put special focus on competition in agriculture, including by suing to block U.S. Sugar from acquiring its rival, Imperial Sugar Company.
“Competition in agriculture is critical. Too often, farmers and livestock producers have too few suppliers to buy from and too few buyers to sell to. Farmers and their families work incredibly hard and deserve to see the fruits of their labor and the American dream,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “Yesterday, we heard from farmers about how monopolies, collusion, and other anticompetitive conduct threatens their livelihood and their communities. Protecting competition and the rule of law in agricultural markets is core to the work of the Antitrust Division, and we will vigorously enforce the antitrust laws in this area.”
In addition, this summer, the division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against a data consulting firm and its president, as well as three poultry processors, to end a long-running conspiracy to exchange information about wages and benefits for poultry processing plant workers. The proposed consent decree with defendant poultry processors Cargill, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms would prohibit them from sharing competitively sensitive information about poultry.
This effort — in cooperation with the USDA — built on other interagency partnerships with the USDA, including the Farmer Fairness reporting portal, which allows farmers and ranchers to report anticompetitive practices online.
The division protects competition, including through enforcement against monopolies, illegal mergers, collusion, and other anticompetitive abuses in agricultural markets. It also partners with state, federal and international enforcers where appropriate to ensure vibrant food systems and free market competition in this critical economic sector.