$250 million in USDA grants to boost fertilizer output
The Agriculture Department will launch a $250-million-dollar grant program this summer to support "independent, innovative and sustainable" fertilizer production at home and to reduce reliance on imports. The USDA also said it would launch a public inquiry into concentration in the seed and agricultural input, fertilizer and retail markets.
DOJ probes Dean Foods/Dairy Farmers of America proposed merger
The Department of Justice is looking into the potential antitrust implications of a proposed deal between bankrupt milk processor Dean Foods and the giant dairy cooperative Dairy Farmers of America (DFA). According to a Monday report in the Wall Street Journal, the department is investigating …
Booker introduces bill that would reshape livestock farming
Sen. Cory Booker, who's seeking the Democratic nomination for president, today introduced new legislation that would reshape how livestock farming operates in the U.S. The Farm System Reform Act includes some changes that Booker and other legislators have proposed in the past, like a moratorium on new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Other elements of the bill are new, like a plan to phase out large CAFOs in the next 20 years.(No paywall)
Think tank proposes ‘farmer protection bureau’ to battle ag consolidation
America’s family farmers increasingly are out-muscled by large agribusinesses in trying to make a living, said the think tank Center for American Progress on Tuesday. It called on Congress to create an Independent Farmer Protection Bureau with offices nationwide to even the fight by enforcing …
Sanders calls for ag trust-busters, large government role in farming
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."
Big Ag says Sen. Warren’s proposals ‘miss the mark’
After a week in which Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who's running for president, was in the spotlight for her call to check the power of big agribusiness and "level the playing field for America's family farmers," Big Ag began to hit back, insisting her ideas are out of touch with reality.
At Iowa forum, Democratic presidential candidates vow to take on Big Ag
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)
Representative introduces bill for moratorium on agribusiness mergers
Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, introduced a bill yesterday that would impose a temporary moratorium on large agribusiness and food industry mergers. The bill is a companion to legislation introduced last month in the Senate by New Jersey’s Cory Booker.
Tyson to buy fast-food supplier Keystone Foods in $2-billion deal
Tyson, the largest U.S. meat company, will buy Keystone Foods for $2.16 billion. Keystone's prior owner, Marfrig Global Foods, announced the brand was up for sale earlier this year. The deal will face regulatory review in at least the U.S. and China.
Private equity firms are buying up your favorite food brands
Last week, the private equity firm High Bluff Capital Partners bought Quiznos’ parent company for an undisclosed sum. Quiznos joins the dozens of popular fast-casual chains that have been bought by private equity firms in recent years. The quickening pace of private equity buys in the food sector is bringing greater scrutiny to an opaque business model and its ramifications for companies’ workers. No paywall
Kraft Heinz’ iconic products face changing consumer tastes
Thousands of workers have been laid off and several factories shuttered since the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital helped facilitate Kraft’s acquisition of Heinz in 2015. Now, at the end of the trademark cost-cutting cycle that follows many 3G deals, Kraft Heinz must grapple with changing consumer preferences, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Consolidation may be factor in low rural wages
As farms got bigger over the years, so did the equipment that farms use to cover the land. Farm equipment dealerships also got bigger, buying or pushing out competitors, and that may explain the problem of stagnant wages in rural areas: When there are fewer employers, wages show less growth, reports the New York Times.
Merger proposal would shorten the grain trade’s ABCD to three letters
The largest U.S. grain processor, ADM, is pursuing a takeover of Bunge, another of the giants of the grain trade that collectively are known as ABCD — ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus, an unnamed source told Reuters. Due to low prices engendered by a string of bumper crops worldwide, margins are tight in the grain trade.
Key U.S. panel sees no national security barriers to Bayer takeover of Monsanto
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.
Justice Dept. approves Dow–DuPont merger, with conditions
Dow Chemical and E.I. DuPont can carry out their planned $130 billion merger if they agree to sell off some of their pesticide and petrochemical business, said the Justice Department. Justice’s antitrust division said the divestitures would preserve competition in the ag chemical sector.
Smithfield gets into the organ-transplant business
Smithfield Farms, the world’s largest pork producer, is launching a bioscience arm to ramp up company sales of pig parts for medical procedures. The $14-billion subsidiary of China’s WH Group hopes to one day offer pig organs for human transplants.
EU and U.S. regulators approve ChemChina takeover of Syngenta
The $43 billion purchase of Swiss-based Syngenta by state-owned ChemChina has the approval of U.S. and EU regulators, keeping in motion a wave of consolidation in the seed and ag chemical sector. ChemChina agreed to divest a large part of its European pesticide operations to satisfy the competition concerns of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic.