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For Immediate Release

Contact

Dee Laninga, Farm Action, 202-450-0094, dlaninga@farmaction.us 
Ashley Woolheater, Open Markets Institute, woolheater@openmarketsinstitute.org 

Press Release

Groups Grade Biden Administration's Progress on Food System Competition

WASHINGTON -

Today, Farm Action and Open Markets Institute released a report card titled “A Midterm Review of the Biden Administration's Commitment to Food System Competition” at an in-person and livestreamed event featuring farmers, food system workers, and small business owners. The groups assessed the Biden administration’s progress towards a July 2021 executive order that directed multiple federal agencies to revive antitrust enforcement and promote competition throughout the U.S. economy.

Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Open Markets Institute, said, "Rising prices for basic foods, baby formula shortages, and rampant speculation in global grain supplies all make clear the dangerous results of allowing a few powerful corporations to concentrate control over food production and distribution. President Biden's 2021 executive order to revive federal antitrust laws was a great first step. But agencies' progress has been slow, as our mid-term report card of the administration's work shows. Now’s the time for these agencies to speed their Biden EO implementation. This is especially true of the USDA, which has had years to prepare for this moment.”

Taking stock of work by the DOJ, FTC, and USDA towards addressing monopoly power in the food system, the groups issued the following marks:

  • DOJ received a B- overall, in acknowledgement of the more aggressive nature the Department has taken on broad issues of antitrust enforcement.
  • FTC received a B- overall, in recognition that the Commission has taken action on several initiatives set out in the executive order despite operating with one vacant position. 
  • USDA received a D+ overall, reflecting the Department's disappointing pace and progress toward fulfilling directives from the executive order.

Angela Huffman, Co-founder and Vice President of Farm Action, said, “After failing to deliver on promises to address corporate consolidation in his first term as Agriculture Secretary, our report card makes it clear that Mr. Vilsack is again at the back of the classroom asleep at his desk. However, there is still time to show strong leadership on behalf of America’s farmers and ranchers and shake off the corporate stranglehold on the USDA. We stand ready to provide the Department all the support we can.”

To spotlight the importance and urgency of competition reform, today’s event featured a video of first-person accounts from individuals spanning the country and the food supply chain, testifying to the on-the-ground impacts of food system concentration. Speakers included Kara Brewer Boy of the Lumbee Tribe and Association of American Indian Farmers, Darvin Bentlage of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Maria Payan of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Rosa Saavedra of Rural Coalition and Compañeras Campesinas, Sarah Lloyd of NelDell Farms and the Columbia County Farmers Union, Ed Maltby of Keets Croft Farm and the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Kathryn Bedell of Roan Creek Ranch and the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Kevin O’Reilly of U.S. PIRG, Barbara Shipman of Rural Coalition, Cottage House Incorporation, and RRBG Farm, and Brett Kenzy of Kenzy Backgrounding and R-CALF USA.

Finally, a panel of experts discussed the directives from the executive order most urgently in need of fulfillment and the consequences of continued inaction. The panel was moderated by Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and featured Carrie Balkcom of the American Grassfed Association, John Boyd, Jr. of the National Black Farmers Association, Michael Gay of Food Fresh, and Dennis Olson of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

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The Open Markets Institute works to address threats to our democracy, individual liberties, and our national security from today’s unprecedented levels of corporate concentration and monopoly power. By combining policy, legal, and market structure expertise with sophisticated communications and outreach efforts, Open Markets seeks not only to hold today’s monopolies accountable for abuse of power, but to rebuild an economic system where progress is easier to achieve, because power is far more widely and equitably distributed

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