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Attorney General Ellison applauds new federal funds to increase antitrust enforcement in agriculture

 

September 29, 2022



Announcement of $15M available for state AGs to partner with USDA on agriculture competition issues follows bipartisan letter to Sec. Vilsack AG Ellison led recommending funding and increased partnership with AGs

September 27, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today applauded President Biden’s announcement Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making $15 million available to state attorneys general to increase collaboration with USDA on antitrust enforcement. State attorneys general will be able to submit requests for funding and partner with USDA to secure America’s food systems through more rigorous enforcement of competition laws. President Biden made this announcement yesterday at a meeting of the White House Competition Council.

This news follows a December 21, 2021 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack from a bipartisan coalition of 16 attorneys general that Attorney General Ellison led that offered recommendations for improve competition in the livestock industry. One of Attorney General Ellison’s recommendations was to allow state attorneys general to seek some of the funds appropriated by Congress for food and agriculture supply-chain resilience toward supporting state antitrust enforcement efforts and increase partnership opportunities between state attorneys general and federal agencies. Secretary Vilsack replied to Attorney General Ellison and the bipartisan coalition in a letter Monday as well.

“One of the main reasons the cost of living is so high is corporate profiteering, and one of the ways corporations keep profits high at consumers’ expense is by creating unfair markets where there’s no meaningful competition,” Attorney General Ellison said. “This is especially true in agriculture, where farms and farming communities often face artificially high prices and struggle to afford their lives because antitrust behavior by Big Ag deliberately leaves them with few choices. I’m grateful to President Biden and Secretary Vilsack for granting my request for new resources for state attorneys general to partner with the Administration to hold these corporations accountable and help bring down the high cost of living for our farmers, their families, and their communities. Every Minnesotan in every part of our state will benefit.”

The new partnerships that this funding will facilitate will assist state AGs in tackling anticompetitive practices in the agricultural sector and related industries that are contributing to heightened inflationary pressures, lack of choices for consumers and farmers, and conflicts of interest and anticompetitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains.

Specifically, this initiative will improve state AG capacity to conduct on-the-ground investigations of agricultural competition issues, enhance coordination between federal and state agriculture and competition enforcement authorities, and create new and more independent research programs.

Attorney General Ellison’s record in fighting antitrust behavior and increasing fair competition in agriculture

Attorney General Ellison has a strong interest in antitrust work as a tool for lowering the cost of living and helping people afford their lives, increasing competition and consumer choice, and strengthening democracy, and has expanded the antitrust work of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Ellison has taken several steps to fight antritrust behavior and increase fair competition in agriculture:

• In August 2022, Minnesota Attorney General Ellison led a bipartisan group of 10 attorneys general in submitting a comment in support of the USDA proposed rule to increase transparency in poultry processing, which is intended to make it easier for small farmers to compete for fair pricing terms from large processors.

• In May 2020, Attorney General Ellison joined a bipartisan coalition of 11 attorneys general in asking the Department of Justice to pursue a federal investigation into market competition and potential anticompetitive practices by meat packers in the cattle industry. The DOJ issued subpoenas in the matter.

• Earlier this year, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office hosted a virtual seminar discussing right-to-repair issues related to agricultural equipment and consumer electronics. Attorney General Ellison has supported right-to-repair legislation.

Minnesota ranks 5th in the nation in agriculture production at $16.7 billion. Minnesota’s agriculture industry exports $7.1 billion worth of goods each year. Agricultural production and processing industries generate over $112 billion annually in total economic impact and support more than 431,000 jobs.

Joining Attorney General Ellison in the December 2021 letter to Secretary Vilsack were Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill, who co-led the letter; Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller with whom Attorneys General Ellison and Hill worked closely in drafting the letter; and the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Utah.

 

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