Food and Power: Addressing Monopolization in America’s Food System
March 27, 2019
Over the last forty years, economies of scale in agriculture have made it possible for most Americans to spend far less of their income on food than did previous generations. Yet over the same period, the American food supply chain—from the seeds farmers plant to the peanut butter in our neighborhood grocery stores—has become concentrated in the hands of a shrinking number of giant multinational corporations.
This concentrated power has many negative consequences, particularly for farmers, farm workers, and for rural communities that depend on agriculture to drive their economies. For example, because of spreading agribusiness monopoly, the prices farmers pay for inputs such as seed and fertilizer continue to rise rapidly. At the same time, growing concentration among meat processors, grain traders, food processors, and retailers is responsible for driving down the prices farmers and farm workers receive for their labor. Largely because of these factors, a farm crisis is building across America on a scale not seen since the 1980s.
Monopoly also affects the quality of our food and agriculture’s environmental footprint, making it a concern for both food producers and consumers, both in rural and urban areas. This brief documents the degree of concentration found in different agriculture-related sectors of the economy and lays out solutions for policymakers.
Please note that this report was updated on May 13th, 2019. The updated version is linked above.