In comments submitted last night to the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice regarding the agencies’ proposed merger guidelines, the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch and five groups applauded the Biden Administration’s commitment to marketplace competition and urged tighter guidelines to clamp down on illegal mergers.
The looming Kroger-Albertsons merger has drawn attention to the extreme consolidation in food and farm markets that allows massive corporations to gouge farmers and consumers. Today, just four grocery retailers corner 69 percent of the market; if the merger goes through, Kroger-Albertsons would be the nation’s second largest grocery chain, capturing 22 percent of the national market. In the comments submitted last night, the groups recommended three specific improvements to address mergers like this one:
- Establish stronger presumptions to reject and define illegal mergers: Agencies need clear presumptions to reliably and confidently block any additional mergers in agribusiness markets that would increase concentration or a dominant firms’ market power.
- Lower market share threshold to 15 percent: Draft guidelines propose any merger that would create a company with 30 percent or higher market share to be presumptively illegal. A lower threshold of 15 percent would better address sector concentration in its incipiency.
- Reject efficiency metrics in full: Corporate claims of efficiencies, including reduced consumer cost, should not be allowed to justify an anticompetitive merger.
Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Tyler Lobdell issued the following statement:
“Monopolistic and predatory agribusiness corporations are taking advantage of farmers, ranchers, and consumers. While a handful of powerful, multinational corporations reap excessive profits, everyday people are getting squeezed — it’s time for the Biden Administration to rein in Big Ag. We applaud the Agencies for their commitment to competition and reinvigorated antitrust enforcement, and urge them to end merger mania by faithfully applying our antitrust laws as Congress intended.”
For years, Food & Water Watch has been cataloging the impacts of an anticompetitive consolidated corporate ag sector on consumers, farmers and the environment. For more, see the recent “Economic Cost of Food Monopolies” series: “The Grocery Cartels,” “The Hog Bosses,” and “The Dirty Dairy Racket”.
Co-signers of the Food & Water Watch drafted comments include Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Ranchers-Cattleman Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), Western Organization of Resource Councils.