Family farmers need more choices in the marketplace
July 28, 2021
ST. PAUL – Family farmers and ranchers have suffered fewer choices, less innovation, lower prices, and poorer treatment as a result of “domination and market manipulation of multinational meat companies,” National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew today told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
In verbal testimony presented during a hearing, “Beefing Up Competition: Examining America’s Food Supply Chain,” Larew discussed the extent of corporate consolidation in the livestock industry and its ramifications for food producers. “The four largest companies in each sector of the meat industry have grown dramatically in the last few decades,” he said, noting that just four companies control 85 percent of beef packing, 70 percent of pork processing, and 54 percent of broiler chicken processing. This level of corporate power has enabled anticompetitive practices like price fixing, both to depress prices paid to farmers and inflate those paid by consumers.
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) members, frustrated by anticompetitive practices, passed two special orders at their annual convention last fall aimed at reducing consolidation and concentration and increasing opportunities for farmers and ranchers. The orders call for supporting resilient agricultural markets and expanding meat and poultry processing.
“Our farmers need a fair marketplace,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “With four packers controlling 85% of the beef processing industry and three processors controlling 63% of the pork processing industry, there is little room for competition and a lot of room for big companies to undercut their smaller competitors. We applaud the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for holding this hearing and look forward to working with the Biden administration as promotes competition in the U.S. marketplace”
Uncompetitive livestock markets don’t only have implications for farmers and ranchers, they can also undermine food security.
“These corporate entities are too big, and when they fail or take advantage of their power, we all suffer,” Larew told the committee. He urged them, Congress, and the administration to take several steps to “support a food supply chain that is competitive and resilient,” such as providing additional protections for farmers from corporate abuse, improving transparency in price reporting, investing in local and regional food systems, and more thoroughly scrutinizing mergers and acquisitions in the food and agriculture sector.
About Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org, and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)