Working to Fight the Monopoly Crisis in American Agriculture
Decades of consolidation in the agriculture industry have devastated family agriculture.
Every family farmer and rancher can talk personally about how corporate monopolies have negatively impacted their family, their business, and their local community. National Farmers Union is working to ensure America’s family farmers are heard by those in positions to force change.
Through the Fairness for Farmers campaign, National Farmers Union advocates for fair agriculture markets and supports specific policy actions including:
- Reforming the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA)
- Improving price discovery in cattle markets
- Allowing for the Right to Repair equipment
- Diversifying marketing opportunities and antitrust enforcement.
Fairness for Farmers Policy Priorities
For the first time in decades, Congress, regulators and the Administration are paying attention and taking action to bring fairness back into America’s agriculture markets.
Livestock markets are highly consolidated, with just four companies controlling 85 percent of processing of fed cattle. These companies prevent farmers and ranchers from getting a fair price for their livestock while they overcharge consumers and rake in massive profits. Increased transparency and robust price discovery will bring about greater fairness in cattle markets.
The Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) became law in 1921 to protect livestock and poultry producers from unfair, deceptive, and monopolistic practices in the marketplace. But for the last few decades, USDA has not fully enforced these important protections for farmers and ranchers, which has led to rampant consolidation in the livestock industry, reduced transparency in the marketplace, the rise of unfair contract terms, and depressed prices paid to farmers. Without strong enforcement of the PSA, farmers and ranchers will continue to face an unfair marketplace and abuses of power by corporate monopolies.
NFU supports conspicuous, mandatory, and uniform labeling for food products throughout the processing chain and calls for reauthorization and full implementation of mandatory country-of origin labeling (COOL) for agricultural, aquaculture, and wild-caught seafood products.
This legislation would promote a fairer, more competitive market for America’s cattle farmers and ranchers and quality family-sustaining jobs for meat processing workers. Consumers have been paying high prices for beef at the grocery store while cattle producers continue receiving artificially depressed prices for their cattle. A consolidated and uncompetitive beef packing industry is exploiting consumers, workers, and ranchers alike. American consumers deserve the right to choose, American cattle farmers and ranchers deserve the right to compete for the consumers’ favor in their domestic market, and meat processing workers deserve quality jobs.
Most modern farm equipment, such as tractors and combines, are technologically advanced and contain computers and sensors. As a result, software tools are often necessary to complete repairs. However, most equipment manufacturers refuse to make those tools fully available to farmers and independent mechanics, leaving farmers no choice but to take their broken equipment to a licensed dealership. This leads to lack of competition in the repair market, inflated service prices, and long delays during tight planting or harvest windows.
Federal legislation has been introduced that would ensure that farm equipment owners and independent mechanics have access to the documentation, parts, and software tools required to diagnose, repair, and maintain equipment. Right to repair bills are being considered in state capitals across the country.
The USDA and the Department of Justice opened an online portal for reporting illegal anticompetitive practices by corporate monopolies in the livestock and poultry sector. The site, www.usda.gov/farmerfairness, allows individual farmers and ranchers to submit tips to the USDA Packers and Stockyards division and the DOJ. This information can be provided either anonymously or with contact information, in keeping with privacy and confidentiality policies.
Fairness for Farmers Video Playlist
About the Campaign
NFU’s Fairness for Farmers campaign brings the devastating impact monopolies have had on family agriculture into the national spotlight. Launched in September 2021, the campaign calls for actions including reforming the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), improving price discovery, diversifying marketing opportunities and antitrust enforcement.
Every family farmer and rancher can talk personally about how corporate consolidation has negatively impacted their family, their business, and their local community. NFU has dedicated time and resources to collect these stories across the country and ensure they are heard by those in positions to force change.
NFU has given a voice to family farmers and ranchers, and they are being heard. For the first time in decades, Congress, regulators and the Administration are paying attention and taking action.
Industry consolidation and monopolies have resulted in:
- Excessive costs for farm inputs, including seeds and fertilizer
- Supply chain vulnerabilities
- Higher consumer prices
- Limited options for meat processing
- Increased farm equipment costs and reduced repair options
- The devastation of rural communities
Due in part to corporate consolidation, the farmer's share of every dollar consumers spend on food has fallen from 50 percent in 1952 to less than 16 percent today. The people doing the hard work of growing and harvesting our food see scant returns from their labors.
How Monopolies Impact Consumers
The strain felt by farmers and ranchers is directly placed on consumers, as they see higher prices and fewer options. And in some cases, like during the pandemic, empty shelves.
With less diversity across the agriculture industry, multinational corporations have too much control over pricing and offerings. This makes the food supply chain vulnerable to bottlenecks and breakdowns. With limited protection against supply chain shocks, in dire times like the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were met with companies being unable to meet demand. Competition in the industry keeps our supply chains resilient and our food fairly priced.
How Monopolies Impact Rural Communities
Corporate monopolies are slowly erasing our rural communities. If family farms and ranches can’t stay in operation, their loss will impact everyone in that rural area. After all, family farmers and ranchers:
What Can Be Done to Advocate for Fairness for Farmers?
- Strengthen and enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA)
- Improve price discovery and transparency in agricultural markets
- Increase competition by creating more diverse market opportunities
- Reinvigorate antitrust enforcement
Fairness for Farmers news
Tell Us Your Story
Corporate consolidation is devastating our agriculture industry and your voice can make all the difference in bringing positive change. Please fill out the form below to share your story or upload a testimonial of how consolidation has directly impacted you and your community. We appreciate your support in our efforts to bring the power back to consumers and those who produce, process and package their food.