DES MOINES – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders today called on the U.S. Department of Justice to block National Beef—one of the “big four” meatpackers that control over 85% of the beef market—from purchasing Iowa Premium, a firm known for providing producers more competitive prices.
“This is a blatant move by a massive corporate power to further monopolize the market and the Department of Justice must step in to stop National Beef from targeting Iowa Premium,” said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. “As President, I will stand up for our family farmers and ranchers by aggressively breaking up the agribusiness monopolies that are leaving them high and dry.”
On May 5th in Osage, Iowa, Sanders unveiled his comprehensive agriculture and rural investment policy platform. In his plan, Sanders outlined multiple policy solutions to address corporate control over agriculture, including imposing an immediate moratorium on large agribusiness mergers and nominating an Attorney General who will break-up existing agribusiness monopolies:
- Enact and enforce Roosevelt-style trust-busting laws to stop monopolization of markets and break-up existing massive agribusinesses; Place a moratorium on future mergers of large agribusiness corporations and break-up existing massive agribusinesses. According to Food & Water Watch, “consolidation in the pork packing industry has contributed to the 82% decline in the number of hog farms in Iowa between 1982 and 2007.” In our country, just four companies slaughter 85% of beef cattle. USDA reports that between 2000 and 2015 “soybean sales from the largest four sellers rose from 51 to 76%.” Additionally, after the Bayer-Monsanto merger, the two largest conglomerates now control 78% of the corn seed market. If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, you know what he would say to these behemoth agribusiness companies: He would say, break them up. And, working together, that is exactly what we are going to do.
- Place a moratorium on vertical integration of large agribusiness corporations. As Food & Water Watch details “Pork packers often secure livestock through contract marketing arrangements with farmers. Farmers agree to deliver a certain number of hogs at a future date. These contracts give farmers a guaranteed market for their hogs, but large contract buyers can extract lower prices and distort and conceal prices.” According to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, 42% of hogs and 96% of chickens in the US were grown under production contracts where the farmer never owns the animal. We must impose an immediate moratorium on agribusiness mergers.
- Reestablish and strengthen the Grain Inspectors, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), the agency that oversees antitrust in the packing industry. Lobbyists and the Trump administration have gutted GIPSA and blocked rules helping farmers. As the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition details, “The 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to write regulations to empower GIPSA to provide basic protections for farmers who do business with these companies. But when USDA tried to write the regulations, the meat and poultry industries launched a full-scale attack to get GOP lawmakers to pass appropriations riders to block USDA from finalizing those farmer protections.” Working together, we will restore the agency that enforces antitrust laws in the meatpacking industry – an agency that Trump eliminated.
- Allow meat slaughtered at a state-inspected facility to be sold across state lines. Foreign meat that has “equivalent” inspection standards as our federal standards can be sold across state lines freely in the United States, while state inspected beef cannot, even when those state standards meet or exceed federal standards. This puts domestic producers at a disadvantage. We must level the playing field.