President Biden announced a four-point plan for increased competition in the meat industry on Monday, including "across the board" enforcement of antitrust laws and support of legislation to inject transparency into cattle pricing. During a virtual meeting with farmers and ranchers, Biden said meatpacking, dominated by a handful of big processors, was a textbook example of the perils of corporate consolidation.
The second-largest U.S. poultry processor, Pilgrim's Pride, pleaded guilty in federal court in Denver to conspiring to fix prices of broiler meat and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $108 million, said the Justice Department on Tuesday. Pilgrim's was the first company to settle charges in an alleged conspiracy that involved 10 officials from five processors.
Fundamental change in U.S. agricultural and rural policy is "an absolute necessity," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday in calling for Teddy "Roosevelt-style trust-busting laws to stop monopolization of markets and break up massive agribusinesses." In a position paper, Sanders, pursuing the Democratic nomination for president, endorsed supply management — federal control over farm production — higher minimum prices for major commodities such as grain and milk and a return to a government-owned grain reserve "to alleviate the need for government subsidies and ensure we have a food supply in case of extreme weather events."
Antitrust enforcement took center stage at Saturday’s Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, a platform for Democratic presidential hopefuls to share their visions for rural America. Nearly all of the candidates said tackling consolidation would be part of their rural agenda, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar calling it a main priority. Farmers at the forum were buoyed by the candidates’ attention to an issue that is a top priority for many rural communities that have been hollowed out by the effects of economic concentration and the powerful grip of agribusiness.(No paywall)
The Department of Justice on Tuesday approved Bayer’s $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto, completing a two-year approval process for the mega-merger that spanned several countries. The combined company will be the largest agrochemical and seed company in the world with about $48 billion in annual sales.
EU regulators are looking "very carefully" at competition issues in Bayer's proposed purchase of Monsanto to make sure farmers will have a choice of products at affordable prices, said Bloomberg. The wire service said Bayer, based in Germany, was to receive a so-called statement of objections as soon as this week, which could lead the companies to offer a package of concessions.
A special review panel of U.S. officials "has concluded there are no unresolved national security concerns" in the proposed purchase by German chemical giant Bayer of St. Louis-based Monsanto for $66 billion. "Bayer and Monsanto will continue to cooperate with the authorities in order to complete the transaction in early 2018," said a terse joint statement by the companies.
The world's largest meat company, JBS, entwined in a corruption scandal in its home country of Brazil, hired as its global food security Al Almanza, who just retired as head of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Organization for Competitive Markets, which focuses on agricultural antitrust issues, called the hiring "the latest of the scandalous job swapping between government and the meat industry."
When the Justice Department filed suit to block Deere & Company, the largest farm equipment maker in the world, from buying Precision Planting, owned by seed giant Monsanto, it said it was trying to preserve competition in sales of high-speed planters. One of Deere's competitors, Kinze Manufacturing, claims Deere may be using the lawsuit to seek access to Kinze's trade secrets.
The Justice Department, which filed an anti-trust suit to prevent Deere & Co. from buying Precision Planting, recently telephoned farmers in the Midwest to ask about the market dynamics for high-speed planters, says DTN.