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Booker Introduces Bill to Place Moratorium on Ag Mergers

Bill targets massive consolidation in ag industry that hurts small farmers, rural communities, workers

August 29, 2018
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today announced the introduction of a bill that would put an 18-month moratorium on large agribusiness, food and beverage manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers and acquisitions.  S.3404, The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018, is aimed at the unprecedented concentration in the agriculture and food sectors, which is squeezing small family farmers, driving down wages for workers, and hurting rural communities.

In just the past two years, chemical and seed company acquisitions and mergers have allowed just three companies to control two-thirds of the crop seed and nearly 70 percent of the agriculture chemical markets. Meanwhile, net farm income for US farmers has fallen by more than half in just five years.

“Today, a small number of giant companies control every link of our food chain,” Booker said. “Consolidation has now reached a point where the top four firms in almost every sector of the food and agriculture economy have acquired abusive levels of market power. As a result, the U.S. is losing farmers at an alarming rate, agricultural jobs and wages are drying up, and rural communities are disappearing.”

“These challenges can be mitigated by more active use of our antitrust laws, and allowing an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers to compete in fair and open markets,” Booker continued. “This bill would put a much-needed pause on the largest, most consequential acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector, and give Congress an opportunity to update our antitrust laws in order to better protect America’s farmers, workers, consumers, and rural communities who are being harmed by the ever-increasing levels of corporate concentration.”

The bill, modeled after a similar proposal introduced 20 years ago by the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, would also establish a commission to study ways to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors and recommend improvements to merger enforcement.

Booker has been a fierce advocate in the Senate for cracking down on monopolistic corporate practices that hurt consumers and workers. Earlier this year, he introduced the Worker Dividend Act, targeting the increasing trend of corporations using profits for stock buybacks instead of using them to raise wages for workers. In February, he and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a bill to crack down on collusive “no poaching” clauses that are often used by large franchisors to prohibit franchisees from hiring each other’s workers (End Employer Collusion Act). In larger part due to their efforts, several large fast-food chains have recently announced plans to end such clauses.

Last year, Booker introduced a bill targeting companies that outsource much of their labor costs to contractors and temp workers rather than hiring direct employees. He also pressed antitrust regulators on corporate concentration and the increasing trend of “monopsony” power, which limits worker mobility and depresses wages.

The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act is endorsed by the following organizations:

ActionAid USA

Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association

Alliance for Democracy

American Agriculture Movement

American Grassfed Association

Animal Wellness Action

Appetite for Change (MN)

Beyond Pesticides

California Dairy Campaign

California Farmers Union

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment

Cattle Producers of Louisiana

Center for Food Safety

Community Farm Alliance (KY)

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

The Cornucopia Institute

Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)

Dakota Rural Action of SD

Dallas Farmers Market Friends

Family Farm Action

Family Farm Defenders (WI)

Farm Aid

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm Women United

Farmworker Association of Florida

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund

Food & Water Watch

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food for Maine's Future

Food Policy Council of San Antonio

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Government Accountability Project

GROW North Texas

HEAL Food Alliance

Idaho Organization of Resource Councils

Illinois Farmers Union

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Iowa Farmers Union

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)

Kansas Farmers Union

Land Stewardship Project (MN)

Michigan Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farmers Organization

National Farmers Union

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Women Involved in Farm Economics

Nebraska Farmers Union

North Dakota Farmers Union

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - MA

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NY

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - VT

Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association

Oklahoma Stewardship Council

Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)

Organic Seed Alliance

Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA)

Organization for Competitive Markets

PCC Community Markets (WA)

Pennsylvania Farmers Union

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rural Advancement Foundation International - USA (RAFI-USA)

Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural

Rural Vermont

Slow Food Dallas-Ft. Worth

South Dakota Farmers Union

Southern Colorado Livestock Association

Western Colorado Alliance

Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)

Wisconsin Farmers Union