After yet another decade of accelerated market concentration, there are fewer companies controlling our food system than at any time in history. The groundswell of energy and excitement for local foods and “growing our own” has been inspiring, but excess corporate control of our food system limits how much this movement can grow. This year, we’ll have a chance to tell government regulators what we think.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Justice are holding a series of workshops around the country on concentration in agriculture. The first workshop will be in Iowa on March 12 and will focus on the seed industry and other issues of concern for farmers. Other workshops will cover the poultry, dairy and livestock industries as well as margins (the difference between what farmers are paid and what consumers pay in the supermarket).
The workshops have already stirred things up in the seed industry. In an 18 page report submitted to the USDA, DuPont/Pioneer charged that Monsanto has monopoly control over the sector. Monsanto responds to the general allegations here. Firing back, IATP submitted comments to the USDA and Department of Justice outlining key points we hope the workshops will consider, including the role of trade policies in driving corporate concentration. We also signed onto a comment by over 25 farm and food organizations focusing in on the problems of corporate control in the poultry sector.
A year-long series of workshops doesn’t oblige the government to act. It’s going to take a ton of political pressure to give government the backbone to take on the Monsanto, Cargill, ADM and others. But the workshops are an opportunity to start building the political momentum necessary for a better food system that fairly rewards farmers and workers, protects the environment and provides enough healthy food for all.