NFU tells US Senate Committee farmers worse off due to corporate power

Family farmers and ranchers have suffered fewer choices, less innovation, lower prices, and poorer treatment due to “domination and market manipulation of multinational meat companies,” National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew today told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
calendar icon 30 July 2021
clock icon 2 minute read

In verbal testimony presented during a hearing titled “Beefing Up Competition: Examining America’s Food Supply Chain,” Larew discussed the extent of corporate consolidation in the livestock industry and its ramifications for food producers.

“The four largest companies in each sector of the meat industry have grown dramatically in the last few decades,” he said, noting that just four companies control 85 percent of beef packing, 70 percent of pork processing, and 54 percent of broiler chicken processing.

This level of corporate power has enabled anticompetitive practices like price fixing, both to depress prices paid to farmers and inflate those paid by consumers.

Beyond its economic implications, uncompetitive livestock markets can also undermine food security.

“This was made clear in the first few months of the pandemic,” Larew said, when “closures or slowdowns at meatpacking plants resulted in lost markets for farmers, endangered our food supply and the health of workers, and led to higher prices for consumers.”

Similar disruptions have been observed recently as a result of natural disasters and cyberattacks.

“These corporate entities are too big, and when they fail or take advantage of their power, we all suffer,” Larew told the committee.

He urged Congress and the administration to take several steps to “support a food supply chain that is competitive and resilient,” such as providing additional protections for farmers from corporate abuse, improving transparency in price reporting, investing in local and regional food systems, and more thoroughly scrutinizing mergers and acquisitions in the food and agriculture sector.

Read Rob's verbal testimony here and his written testimony here.

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