Coalition Letter Endorsing Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

November 1, 2018

Re: Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018

Dear Senators and Representatives:

The undersigned 213 farm, food, rural, community, consumer, faith and other advocacy organizations wholeheartedly endorse the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 (Sen. Booker S. 3404/Rep. Pocan H.R. 6800) and urge you to co-sponsor this landmark legislation.

Since the end of the recession, there has been a wave of food and agribusiness mega-mergers that have further consolidated one of the most concentrated sectors in the U.S. economy. These mergers have included farm inputs (seeds and fertilizer), agricultural commodity processors (pork packers, flour millers and more), food manufacturing and supermarkets and retailers. This hyper-consolidation has contributed to declining farm incomes, loss of choice of inputs for farmers, stagnant wages and increased layoffs for workers, higher grocery prices and fewer choices for consumers, the erosion of rural economic vitality and a less resilient food system overall.

The Booker-Pocan Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 (S.3404/H.R. 6800) would offer a much needed strategic pause in food and agribusiness merger-mania in order to assess the impact corporate consolidation has on farmers, workers, consumers and communities and recommend improvements to antitrust enforcement.

Corporate consolidation throughout the food chain has already had substantial and growing negative economic impacts. These trends would only worsen as the corporate tax cuts spur even more mega-mergers.

Few firms dominate farm business landscape: Only a few firms control almost all the supplies farmers buy such as seeds, fertilizer and farm equipment, raising prices and reducing farmers’ choices. Recent seed and fertilizer company mergers threaten to further raise operating costs for farmers. At the same time, farmers sell into very concentrated markets where four firms control almost the entire market and can push down the prices farmers receive for their crops and livestock. For example, the top four firms control 86 percent of corn processing, 85 percent of cattle slaughter, 71 percent of pork packing and 79 percent of soybean crushing.

Independent farm income harmed by growing consolidation: Consolidation has contributed to the rising prices farmers pay for supplies and the declining prices farmers receive for their crops and livestock. Farmers now only receive about 14 cents for every dollar spent at the grocery store. Net farm income has declined by half since 2013 and now half of all farmers have negative on-farm income — which means that costs of production now exceeds farm earnings.

ATTN: Agriculture/Antitrust Leg. Staff

Corporate domination of farming through unfair contracts: The newer model of vertical integration — where companies own multiple, successive links in the food chain — coerces farmers to surrender their independence to large companies through contracts that direct how farmers run their operations. Companies can and have used these increasingly common contracts to impose unfair, deceptive or even abusive practices on farmers.

Food prices are rising faster than typical wages and families have fewer meaningful food choices:

Food prices at the supermarket have risen faster than earnings for typical workers. Since 2008, the annual increase in real prices have jumped nearly three times faster than typical earnings. At the same time, merger- mania has left fewer firms in control of more supermarket shelves. Consumers have the illusion of choice at the grocery store, with many products and varieties sold by a dwindling number of companies that can more easily raise prices.

Consolidation across the food chain is harming workers and exacerbating income inequality: There is growing consensus that economic concentration is contributing to widening economic inequality as bigger monopolistic firms fail to raise wages and benefits for their workers. Larger food and agribusiness companies can extract economic value from the food system by pushing down on wages, benefits and working conditions. Mergers often involve substantial layoffs as partnering companies shutter factories and facilities to generate cost savings to be passed onto investors.

Food and agribusiness consolidation erodes rural economic vitality: Fewer, larger food and agribusiness companies have sapped economic activity in rural areas, contributing to the declining number of independent farmers and main street businesses. These farms and small businesses are the economic engine of rural America. The loss of this local economic activity ripples across communities, eroding the stability and sustainability of religious congregations, schools, hospitals and other community institutions.

The unabated consolidation in the food and agribusiness industries has only accelerated in recent years. We urge you to co-sponsor the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 to give America’s farmers, workers, consumers and communities a needed break from the merger-mania that has undermined economic security for so many families.

Sincerely,

ActionAid USA
Advocates for Urban Agriculture (IL)
Agriculture & Land Based Training Association (CA) Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
Alaska Farmers Union
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
American Agriculture Movement
American Grassfed Association
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Assoc. (WI) Angelic Organics Learning Center and Farm (IL) Arizona Consumers Council Foundation
Arkansas Farmers Union
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake County Farmers' Union (OH) Berks Gas Truth (PA)
Bioregional Strategies
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (NC)

Black Farmers and Ranchers of New Mexico Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)
Bull Mountain Land Alliance (MT) California Dairy Campaign

California Farmers Union
California Institute for Rural Studies
Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment Carbon County Resource Council (MT)
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Cattle Producers of Washington
Center for Media and Democracy's Food Rights Network
Center for Rural Affairs
Central Maryland Beekeepers Assoc. Central Montana Resource Council
Central Plains Organic Farmers Association

Church Women United in New York State Citizens for Sanity.Com, Inc. (FL)
Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA) Community Alliance with Family Farmers Community Farm Alliance (KY)

Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (MT) Community Food and Justice Coalition (CA) Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias The Cornucopia Institute
Cottage House Inc. (AL)
Cuatro Puertas (NM)

Dakota Resource Council (ND) Dakota Rural Action (SD) Dawson Resource Council (MT) DC Greens

Dr. Bronner's
Endangered Habitats League (CA)
Equal Exchange
Fair World Project (OR)
Family Farm Action
Family Farm Defenders
Farm Aid
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm Women United
Farms Not Factories (WI)
Farmworker Association of Florida
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
Food & Water Watch
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Food for Maine's Future
Food Works (IL)
Franciscan Action Network
Friends of the Earth U.S.
GMO-Free Florida
The Good Food Brigade
Government Accountability Project Grassroots International
Green Gate Farms (TX)
GROW North Texas
Hanover Co-op Food Stores (NH) Hawaii Farmers Union
HEAL Food Alliance
Health Care Without Harm
Hempstead Project Heart (WI)
Hmong National Development, Inc. Idaho Organization of Resource Councils Illinois Farmers Union
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Indian Nations Conservation Alliance Indiana Farmers Union
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy The Institute for Rural America (IA)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Iowa Farmers Union

Island Grown Initiative
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD) Kansas Cattlemen’s Association
Kansas Farmers Union
Kansas Rural Center
The Land Connection (IL)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Main Street Alliance
Main Street Cheese, LLC (NH)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Mainstreet Project (MN)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Midwest Environmental Advocates (WI)
Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota National Farmers Organization
Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri National Association for the Advancement of

Colored People
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative Montana Farmers Union
Murray County Independent Cattlemen's

Association (OK)
National Consumers League
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Organization
National Farmers Union
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc.
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association National Organic Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Women Involved in Farm Economics National Young Farmers Coalition
Nature Abounds
Nebraska Farmers Union
Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics Nevada Live Stock Association
New England Farmers Union
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
New Hampshire Right to Know GMO
New York Women Involved in Farm Economics
Next 7 (CO)

North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project

North Dakota Farmers Union
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - CT Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - MA Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NH Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NJ
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NY Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - VT Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate

Council
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers Assoc. Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)
Northwest Forest Worker Alliance (CA, OR & WA) Ohio Conference on Fair Trade
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Ohio Farmers Union
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association Oklahoma Stewardship Council
Open Markets Institute
Oregon Rural Action
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Farmers Association
Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing Organic Producers Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota

(OPINS) Co-op
Organic Seed Alliance
Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association Organization for Competitive Markets
PCC Community Markets (WA)
Pesticide Action Network North America
Pesticide Free Zone (CA)
PLBA Housing Development Corporation (AL) Pollinator Stewardship Council
Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)
Public Citizen
R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America
Ranch Foods Direct (CO)
Raritan Headwaters Association (NJ)
Renewing the Countryside (MN)
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Roots of Change (CA)
Rosebud Protective Association (MT)
Rural Advancement Foundation International - USA Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers

Fund (SC)
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Rural Development Leadership Network (NY) Rural Vermont
Save New Mexico Seeds

Small Planet Institute
Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
South Dakota Farmers Union
Southern Colorado Livestock Association
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Spokane County Cattlemen (WA)
Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network
Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville
Sustainable Food Center (TX)
Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.
Toxic Free NC
Toxics Information Project
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Utah Farmers Union
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
Waller County Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative (TX) Waterkeeper Alliance
Weiser River Resource Council (ID)
Western Colorado Alliance
Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) WhyHunger
Winston County Self Help Cooperative (MS)
Wisconsin Organic Marketing Alliance
Wisconsin Farmers Union

farm billRural Coalition