January 10, 2022
US committed to enforcing competition laws to protect agricultural producers
US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland expressed their shared commitment to effectively enforcing federal competition laws that protect farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers and growers from unfair and anticompetitive practices, including antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Justice are already working together to support their respective enforcement efforts under these laws.
The two agencies released a statement of principles and commitments that included the following:
- The Justice Department and USDA promised to prioritise matters impacting competition in agriculture, saying that farmers, ranchers and other producers and growers deserve the benefits of free and fair competition;
- The agencies promised to jointly develop within 30 days a centralised, accessible process for farmers, ranchers and other producers and growers to submit complaints about potential violations of the antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act. The agencies will protect the confidentiality of the complainants if they so request to the fullest extent possible under the law and also commit to supporting relevant whistleblower protections, including newly-applicable protections for criminal antitrust complainants against unlawful retaliation.
- The agencies promised to work together to promote effective information sharing and case cooperation, including processes the agencies will follow to efficiently address a complaint.
- Both agencies committed to vigorously enforcing the laws that protect farmers, ranchers and other producers and growers from unfair, deceptive, discriminatory and anticompetitive practices. As appropriate, USDA said it will make reports or refer potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act to the Justice Department to better enable its Antitrust Division to pursue meritorious competition-related cases and to allow the agencies to collaborate on issues of mutual interest. Additionally, the Justice Department and USDA will work together to identify and highlight areas where the US Congress can help modernise these toolkits.
"Producers all across (the United States) for too long have faced a marketplace that benefits a few large companies over those who are growing our food," said Vilsack. "This means that consumers are paying more and farmers, ranchers and producers see less of the profits."
"The pandemic only further disrupted these challenges across the supply chain, exposing a food system that was rigid, consolidated and fragile," he continued. "Antitrust and market regulatory enforcement is essential to enabling the competition necessary to transform our concentrated supply chains in favour of diversified, resilient food systems. These are complex, difficult areas of law, and our authorities are 100 years old or more, but I'm heartened by reaffirming our shared commitment to tackle these challenges together."
- The Poultry Site