Release: Sanders Applauds Agency Plans for Ag. Competition Workshops

Sanders Praises Justice Department and USDA Plan to Study Agriculture Industry Competition
WASHINGTON, August 5 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed an announcement by the justice and agriculture departments that they will hold joint public workshops to explore competition issues in the agriculture industry.

Sanders commended Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for scheduling the workshops to examine the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in the agriculture sector.

“These workshops will be an important step toward allowing farmers in Vermont and across the country the opportunity to tell the federal government the disastrous impact agricultural consolidation has had on their industries and their livelihoods,” Sanders said. 

“Nowhere else is this consolidation more evident than in the dairy industry where you have one company, Dean Foods, controlling 40 percent of the fluid milk market nationally, and 70 percent in New England.  We need to take a hard look at the dairy industry and other parts of the agricultural sector.  We need competition in agricultural because it is a backbone of our economy, central to the survival of our rural communities, and crucial to ensure consumers have fresh and locally produced food.”

The joint workshops will address the dynamics of competition in agriculture markets including, buyer power and vertical integration.  They will provide an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, consumer groups, processors, agribusinesses, and other interested parties to provide examples of potentially anticompetitive conduct. The workshops also will provide an opportunity for discussion for any concerns about the application of the antitrust laws to the agricultural industry.

“Maintaining a robust agricultural sector is crucial to the strength of the American economy and to who we are as a nation,” said Holder.  “It is important to have a fair and competitive marketplace that benefits agriculture, rural economies and American consumers,” added Vilsack. 

The first workshop will be held in early 2010.