Federal agencies take tough stance on anticompetitive practices in agriculture

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The federal authorities are stepping up their efforts to combat anti-competitive practices in the agricultural sector. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently reiterated their commitment to competition law enforcement. At a recent White House event regarding farm competition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland spoke about the need to protect farmers and ranchers from unfair practices.

“Growers across the country have for too long faced a market that benefits a few big companies rather than the ones that grow our food,” Vilsack said in a news release. “This means that consumers pay more and farmers, ranchers and producers receive less profit. The pandemic has only further disrupted these challenges along the supply chain, exposing a rigid, consolidated and fragile food system. Antitrust and market enforcement is essential to enable the competition needed to transform our concentrated supply chains in favor of diverse and resilient food systems.

The two agencies will work together to prioritize competition issues in agriculture and improve information sharing to better address issues. The USDA and DOJ will jointly develop a new portal in the coming month to make it easier for producers to report anticompetitive practices. The two agencies will also work together to identify areas where Congress might be able to improve enforcement capabilities. The renewed attention on behalf of the USDA and DOJ comes as the Biden administration takes a comprehensive approach to addressing supply chain issues.

“Over the past ten months, we have intensified our efforts to ensure competition and combat anti-competitive practices across all industries – from airlines to insurance brokers to book publishers,” Garland said. “And we will continue to vigorously enforce our antitrust laws, regardless of industry, regardless of company and regardless of individual.”

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