Tester, Booker, Merkley, Warren Introduce Food & Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act

Legislation comes on the heels of Food & Water Watch report outlining the consolidation crisis hollowing out Iowa’s rural economies.

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Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, Senators John Tester (D-MT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced federal legislation to combat rampant consolidation and monopolistic practices in the food and agribusiness industries. The Federal Food & Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act would pause all industry mergers and establish a commission to study how to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors. The bill’s introduction comes as American consumers struggle with rising grocery prices and crucial product shortages.

A recent Food & Water Watch report, “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses”, laid out the agribusiness consolidation crisis’ effects on Iowa farm country, finding that as industry efficiencies squeeze more hogs than ever out of Iowa factory farms, farmers and communities are left behind. Key findings include:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog farm expansion drove out smaller, independent farms.
  • Since 1982, Iowa counties with the most hog factory farm development suffered declines across several economic indicators, including real median household income and total jobs. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s rural counties overall.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — have pushed down the real price of hogs. Adjusting for inflation, today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers capture the other $1.
  • Between 2004 and 2011, the top four firms slaughtered 9 out of 10 Iowa hogs thanks to corporate consolidation within the meat slaughtering and processing industry.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer John Aspray issued the following statement:

“For too long, a handful of agribusinesses have stood between our nation’s two million farmers and 330 million consumers. Iowans are seeing the effects of these decades of unchecked corporate consolidation in the grocery aisle and on struggling family farms. In order to create a food system that works for consumers, farmers, and our communities, we must rein in the corporate profiteers that stand in the way. Passing the Federal Food & Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act is a critical first step.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]