Below is a reprint from Food Democracy Now with a call to action to let the USDA and Department of Justice know that our local farmers must be protected. Watch out for corporate control of your food! And, please consider a contribution to Food Democracy Now! They offer a balanced perspective on the agriculture industry and work diligently on our behalf to keep the US food supply safe and healthy. The quality of the food we eat is one of the most important components to health and well-being.
The evidence is in: America’s food system is broken. Every week we read about record-breaking food safety recalls, a spiraling childhood obesity epidemic, and the continued loss of independent family farmers.
All of these problems can be traced back to one thing: excessive consolidation by Big, corporate food. But change may be on the way.
Recently, the Departments of Justice and Agriculture held their first joint workshop here in Iowa to gather evidence of antitrust violations in food and agriculture.(1) We were encouraged by the workshop, the first of five to be held this year,(2) but also concerned that the same companies that have caused these problems were well represented on the panels, while the family farmers most negatively impacted by corporate food monopolies were only given the opportunity to speak after public officials had left the building.
Even though these workshops are an important first step, real family farmers must have a seat at the table. It will take all our voices to ensure that the Justice department holds giant agribusiness accountable.
Please join us and tell the Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that it’s time to break up America’s corporate food monopolies before they do more harm.
The aisles of most American grocery stores give an overwhelming illusion of choice when it comes to our food. A closer look, however, quickly reveals that most of the meat, grain, milk — and even the grocery stores themselves — are all owned and controlled by just a few corporations.
The figures are startling:
• A single company (Monsanto) controls the seeds of 93% of soybeans and 80% of the corn grown in the U.S.(3)
• 4 companies (Tyson, Cargill, Swift & National Beef Packing Co.) control 83% of the beef packing industry(4)
• 4 companies (Smithfield, Tyson, Swift & Cargill) control 66% of the pork packing industry
For too long now, food and agricultural production has been consolidated into the hands of a few agribusiness giants. These companies dictate to us how our food is produced, how much farmers are paid for their crops and livestock and how much consumers pay for food.
Food Democracy Now! participated in last week’s workshop. We heard Attorney General Eric Holder talk about the “reckless deregulation that has restricted competition in agriculture” and promise that the Department of Justice, under his watch, was committed to “vigorous enforcement” of U.S. antitrust laws.
But given the power of the companies on the other side, we know that the change we need will not come easily. We must stand together and make our voices heard in favor of a fair and democratic food system!
Please support Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder as they move forward. Join them today in pushing for real enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws and an end to America’s food monopolies. It only takes a moment. And after you’ve signed the petition, please ask your friends and family to do the same.
P.S. The next hearing will be in Normal, Alabama on May 21st 2010, and will focus on the poultry industry, followed by a hearing on the notoriously concentrated dairy industry in Madison, Wisconsin on June 7th. We’ll be sure to keep you informed.
1. US pledges to probe, bust agribusiness monopolies, Reuters, March 12, 2010
2. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Public Workshops, Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy
3. Monsanto’s dominance draws antitrust inquiry, Patented seeds are go-to for farmers, who decry their fast-growing price, The Washington Post, November 29, 2009
4. 2007 Concentration of Agricultural Markets report, compiled by Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan of University of Missouri Department of Rural Sociology.