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The United States is losing farmers at an alarming rate. Agricultural jobs and wages are drying up. Rural communities are disappearing. And according to U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), it’s due in large part to “unprecedented” mergers in the nation’s food and agriculture industry.

On Wednesday, Booker – the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey – introduced a bill that he said would “put a much-needed pause” on an out-of-control industry by enacting an 18-month merger moratorium in the U.S. agribusiness, food/beverage manufacturing and grocery retail sectors.

The bill would also would also establish a federal commission to study ways to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors.

The proposed law, S-3404, otherwise dubbed as “The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018,” has gained resounding support from dozens of social justice organizations (see the list below). It was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary for further review on Aug. 28.

According to Booker, in the past two years, chemical and seed company acquisitions and mergers have allowed just three companies to control two-thirds of the crop seed and nearly 70 percent of the agriculture chemical markets. Meanwhile, net income for U.S. farmers has fallen by more than half in just five years.

Today, a small number of giant companies control every link of our food chain, Booker said.

“Consolidation has now reached a point where the top four firms in almost every sector of the food and agriculture economy have acquired abusive levels of market power,” the senator charged.

Hence the introduction of S-3404, which was modeled after a similar proposal introduced 20 years ago by the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.

“These challenges can be mitigated by more active use of our antitrust laws, and allowing an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers to compete in fair and open markets,” Booker stated. “This bill would put a much-needed pause on the largest, most consequential acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector, and give Congress an opportunity to update our antitrust laws in order to better protect America’s farmers, workers, consumers, and rural communities who are being harmed by the ever-increasing levels of corporate concentration.”


On Wednesday, several social justice organizations praised Booker’s bill and said it represents a big step in the fight to put the chill on mergers in big agribusiness.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said that the group “enthusiastically supports” the potential law.

“This legislation is a crucial step to busting up the Foodopoly in which a handful of players drive food policy in the service of Wall Street, not Main Street,” Hauter said.

Public policy research group Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) stated that the bill would “establish a fair marketplace for family farmers and their communities.”

According to the OCM:

“Economists agree that more than 40% consolidation by the top four corporations in a sector indicates a highly concentrated market where abuses are likely. From collusion and price fixing to hike up prices for consumers to predatory and retaliatory practices against farmers and ranchers, we know that corporate abuses are not only likely, they are rampant.”

The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act has been endorsed by the following organizations:

ActionAid USA

Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association

Alliance for Democracy

American Agriculture Movement

American Grassfed Association

Animal Wellness Action

Appetite for Change (MN)

Beyond Pesticides

California Dairy Campaign

California Farmers Union

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment

Cattle Producers of Louisiana

Center for Food Safety

Community Farm Alliance (KY)

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

The Cornucopia Institute

Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)

Dakota Rural Action of SD

Dallas Farmers Market Friends

Family Farm Action

Family Farm Defenders (WI)

Farm Aid

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm Women United

Farmworker Association of Florida

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund

Food & Water Watch

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food for Maine’s Future

Food Policy Council of San Antonio

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Government Accountability Project

GROW North Texas

HEAL Food Alliance

Idaho Organization of Resource Councils

Illinois Farmers Union

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Iowa Farmers Union

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)

Kansas Farmers Union

Land Stewardship Project (MN)

Michigan Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farmers Organization

National Farmers Union

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Women Involved in Farm Economics

Nebraska Farmers Union

North Dakota Farmers Union

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – MA

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NY

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – VT

Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association

Oklahoma Stewardship Council

Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)

Organic Seed Alliance

Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA)

Organization for Competitive Markets

PCC Community Markets (WA)

Pennsylvania Farmers Union

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA)

Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural

Rural Vermont

Slow Food Dallas-Ft. Worth

South Dakota Farmers Union

Southern Colorado Livestock Association

Western Colorado Alliance

Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)

Wisconsin Farmers Union

Eric Kiefer