Fort Collins, CO - The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) held the fourth of five joint public workshops to explore the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in American agriculture. The workshop, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, examined competition in the livestock industry and featured panel discussions on trends in the livestock industry, market consolidation and market transparency. The workshop also included opportunities for public comments.
Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder began the workshop with opening remarks before leading a roundtable discussion, in which Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, participated with other federal and state officials, on competition issues in agriculture and the livestock industry.
The conference was the fourth in a series of workshops intended to promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with a diverse group of stakeholders regarding competition and regulatory issues in the agricultural marketplace. These workshops are the first-ever to be held by the Department of Justice and the USDA to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. Additional information about the workshops can be found at http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.html.
"Ultimately, today's conversation is about much more than simply last year's trends or this year's challenges. It's about livelihoods, families, this region's economy and our centuries-old American way of life," said Attorney General Holder. "We've made these workshops a cabinet-level priority so that we can most effectively and efficiently determine how to ensure a fairer, more competitive marketplace for producers and consumers alike."
After the roundtable discussion, a panel of producers and feeders from throughout the country shared their first-hand experiences and perspectives on the industry.
In the afternoon, another panel discussed trends in the livestock industry, including issues associated with contracting, price transparency and the effects of concentration. David A. Domina, a lawyer with Domina Law Group pc llo and a prominent proponent of the need for price transparency in all markets, discussed the danger of four (4) corporations controlling over 80% of America’s beef market.
Domina asked the audience of 2000, “Who here feels more safe as an American knowing only six (6) financial institutions control greater than 60% of all bank deposits in the US,” and when not one person raised their hand Domina concluded, “so why does it make any sense at all for Americans to allow fewer companies to control a greater percentage of our food supply?”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented on the current market conditions by stating, "Given the consolidation that has taken place in the livestock industry over the past decades, it is critical to ensure a fair market still exists to give all players an honest chance at success." Vilsack continued, "a fair and competitive marketplace is important not only for producers, but also for consumers, and today's open and transparent dialogue with ranchers, farmers, academics and other industry stakeholders will provide us with a understanding of the complex issues in this important industry."
Videos and transcripts from today's workshop will be available for review at a later date on the Antitrust Division's website at www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.htm#dates
Individuals seeking more information on the workshops should contact
More Links about the USDA-DOJ Workshops
Photographs from USDA-DOJ Fort Collins, CO Workshop
Report From Fort Collins: Beef, the Law and Rural Communities