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Pocan Introduces Bill to Place Moratorium on Ag Mergers

Wisconsin Ag Connection - September 14, 2018

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan has introduced legislation that would impose a temporary moratorium on mergers and acquisitions between large farm, food and grocery companies. The Madison Democrat says his bill would also establish a commission to strengthen antitrust enforcement in the agribusiness industry.

As part of the 'Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018,' the federal government would seek to address concentration in the agriculture and food sectors, which Pocan feels is squeezing small family farmers, driving down wages for workers, and hurting rural communities.

"Out-of-control consolidation has enabled agricultural firms to control prices at every stage of the food chain, from farming to distribution, and Congress must do more to allow local farmers and food systems to be competitive, while establishing greater market transparency for the American consumer," Pocan said. "Today, corporate profits are soaring, but many middle-class families and farmers continue to struggle. Establishing a moratorium on ag-mergers will not only strengthen our antitrust laws, but it will also expand economic security and opportunity to more of our communities."

Over the past two years, Pocan claims chemical and seed company acquisitions and mergers have resulted in just three companies controlling two-thirds of the crop seed market.

"Further, over the last 30 years, market concentration has grown to the extent where the four largest multinational corporations now control of 71 percent of the pork market, 85 percent of the beef market, and 90 percent of the grain market," he said. "As big-agricultural firms expand, shares of profits for farmers continue to drop, and over the last five years, net income for American farmers has dropped by more than half."

The measure is modeled after a similar proposal introduced 20 years ago by the late-Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, which would have established a commission to study ways to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors and recommend improvements to merger enforcement.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut; Keith Ellison, Minnesota; Marcy Kaptur, Ohio; Ro Khanna, California; and Chellie Pingree, Maine.

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