Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) Vice President Anne Schwagerl today voiced support for cracking down on anticompetitive mergers and called on farmers to share their experiences in dealing with economic concentration with federal regulators.
“For too long merger enforcement has been too lax and MFU members have seen firsthand the harm this creates. Unchecked merger activity has made it challenging for family farmers to survive,” Schwagerl said. “Farmers need to make their voices heard in this process so that antitrust enforcement agencies understand the conditions on the ground in rural communities and within agriculture. Those stories that can help enable antitrust enforcers to take the actions necessary to protect fair, open and competitive markets.”
Schwagerl’s remarks came during a virtual town hall co-sponsored by MFU and organized by the American Economic Liberties Project titled, “Breaking Down the New Merger Guidelines.” The event featured a discussion with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Jonathan Kanter about the proposed updates to the agencies’ joint merger guidelines, which reflect their interpretation of antitrust law and explain the kinds of mergers the FTC and Department of Justice will challenge.
The first merger guidelines were written in 1968 and have received occasional updates and changes since. The new revisions can be found here and individuals can submit comments on the revisions here. The public comment period closes on Sept. 18.
In recent decades the agricultural industry has become extremely concentrated with just four firms controlling 54 percent to 85 percent of meatpacking, 85 percent of corn seeds and 76 percent of soybean seeds while just three companies make 95 percent of large farm tractors. This consolidation is one reason that farmers have seen their share of each dollar spent on food decline from 50 cents in 1952 to 14.3 cents in 2021, the lowest on record. Mergers and acquisitions have contributed to this industry’s consolidation.
“The draft guidelines help address these challenges by identifying vertical consolidation as a potential threat to competition, recognizing that one merger might be part of a series of acquisitions consolidating an industry, and that mergers in highly concentrated markets can substantially lessen competition,” Schwagerl said.
Minnesota Farmers Union has been a leader in the effort to reign in the power of corporate monopolies. In addition to being a part of the National Farmers Union’s Fairness for Farmers campaign, MFU has worked to pass groundbreaking antitrust legislation. This includes a new law passed during the 2023 legislative session that provides the state Attorney General with new authority to block mergers that would create monopolies, increase prices or reduce access to care.