Today, from meat to beer to seeds, the food industry is highly consolidated. The removal of a long-standing ownership structure, one that distributed profit and opportunity across America’s landscape, means that now, most land and most animals are now cared for by corporations, not by individuals.
Open Markets fellow Austin Frerick argues on The American Conservative that America’s agricultural system has become extractive, and more and more of the profits are flowing to a few. It is little wonder that monopolies and corporate farms have grown more powerful at the expense of workers and family farmers.
If you care about reducing pesticide use, promoting agricultural biodiversity, and supporting small farmers, then you should also care about who’s amassing agricultural data. That’s the message of a new report from a group of sustainable food policy experts, out last week. The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems spent three years putting together a comprehensive food policy platform outlining how the European Union can build a more equitable and sustainable food system. Among dozens of proposals, the report called on EU regulators to “block agribusiness mergers leading to over-consolidation of farm data” as a way to promote more resilient and ecological food production.
Open Markets fellow Austin Frerick writes on Forbes magazine that when policymakers talk about “green jobs,” they tend to default to examples in solar power, wind and other sources of renewable energy—or perhaps manufacturing and supply chain management. They’re less likely to talk about agriculture.
In Claire Kelloway’s article “How to Close the Democrats’ Rural Gap” in the January/February issue of The Washington Monthly, she argues that antitrust needs to be part of this solution. She writes, “the biggest cause of growing regional inequality isn’t technology; it’s changes in public policy, embraced by both parties, that have enabled predatory monopolies to strip wealth away from farmers and rural communities and transfer it to America’s snazziest zip codes.”
Today, the Open Markets Institute joined five law professors and one public interest group in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board criticizing a proposed rule that would make it harder for workers to organize and collectively bargain with franchise businesses.
Almost a century ago, in 1921, Congress passed the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect America’s farmers and ranchers from meat packing monopolies. Last week the Department of Agriculture quietly eliminated the independent office tasked with enforcing that law, the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The change was the single biggest in agricultural antitrust regulation since Congress passed the original Act.
Open Markets Food & Power reporter Claire Kelloway covers the story of a lawsuit by seven corporate agriculture interest groups against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to halt the extension of a public comment period on a proposed mega-dairy expansion in Winona County, Minnesota. The suit highlights broader efforts by agribusiness to silence opposition from rural residents who speak out against large concentrated animal feeding operations in their communities. Her story from Food & Power, re-published on The Fern, is available here.