Bust the Agribusiness Trust
By Brad Wilson at May 13, 2012
Antitrust legislation and implementation, like GIPSA (the Grain Inspectors, Packers and Stockyards Act,) was been weakened over the years what remains has been poorly enforced. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) recently joined for a series of antitrust hearings against agribusiness concentration and exploitation. It really sounded to some progressives like they were going to do something. Firsst, the process of the hearings was stacked, and many people were not allowed to speak. Then they were slow to act. Then Congress gutted the proposed rule changes.
In the end, out of 15 key provisions, 11 were rejected, (ie. in favor of giant packers and contractors,) and only 4 were acted upon. This is explained matter of factly in 2 columns by ag economist Daryl Ray:
Overview: USDA's analysis of costs and benefits of Packers and Stockyards rule, by Daryll E. Ray & Harwood D. Schaffer, APAC, U. of Tenn., 1/13/12.
List of 11: Eleven proposed GIPSA rules did not make the final cut, by Daryll E. Ray & Harwood D. Schaffer, APAC, U. of Tenn.,12/23/11.
The list of 11 (or only 4 out of 15) makes a strong, simple case to present to Congress, the Obama Administration, and Mitt Romney about exploitation by giant agribusiness. The list is described below.
The corporate report, "An Adaptive Program for Agriculture," 1962, called for running farmers out of business, "one third in a period of not more than five years." The 1979 slide show, "Hamburger USA" showed the problems with concentration in meat, grain, vegetables, & dairy.
DOJ/USDA rejected needed changes: We must:
1. end misuse of value-added premiums;
2. require packer recordkeeping on price decisions;
3. strengthen, enforce rules on packer-packer packer-dealer issues
4. define criteria on capital investment violations
5. Define "competitive injury" and it's likelihood.
6. bring back the section "applicability of contracts"
7. Enable farmers to sue for unfair practices without requiring "harm to competition" Farmers should be able to watch their animals weighed.
8. Add the list of unfair practices back in (relates to #6 & Secton 202(a) and (b).
9. Put specified criteria for unfair practices, as in # 6, back in.
10. Improve transparency for poultry contracts. Require that samples of each type of contract be published.
11. Prohibit growers from paying farmers less than "base pay" in "tournament systems," and from ranking farm systems unfairly.
For More Information:
Videos: “MegaAgBiz Vs Antitrust,” (playlist,) A Regeneration of Culture, FireweedFarm, YouTube.
Daryll E. Ray & Harwood D. Schaffer, “GIPSA issues final rule on suspension of bird deliveries,” APAC, U. of Tenn., 12/30/11. (On the politics of antitrust, bureaucrats vs. Congress)
More APAC columns on these issues.