AAI Encourages USDA to Take More Aggressive Role in Crafting Competition Policies to Combat Concentration and Supply Chain Instability in Food and Agriculture

The American Antitrust Institute filed comments in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) proceeding Supply Chains for the Production of Agricultural Commodities and Food Products (Docket: AMS-TM-21-0034). The integrity and stability of the food system is a matter of national health, safety, and security. Disruption of any food and agriculture supply chains is potentially catastrophic, as became apparent during the COVID pandemic. As the economic recovery puts increased pressure on demand for agricultural commodities and food products, those risks remain very real.

AAI’s comments in the USDA proceeding highlight a lack of competition as a major cause of instability and lack of resilience in U.S. food supply chains. They address the harmful effects of rollbacks of important regulations under the Trump administration, pervasive “bottlenecks” in the food supply chains that result from concentration, and challenges facing public and private enforcement in policing anticompetitive mergers and conduct in the food system. AAI suggests four areas where USDA can be more proactive in addressing concentration and supply chain problems in food and agriculture, including interagency coordination, facilitating price transparency, working to limit or prohibit vertical integration, and food labeling to foster competition on quality and consumer choice.

AAI has a more than 20-year history of research, education, and advocacy on the importance of vigorous antitrust enforcement and constructive competition policy in the food and agricultural sectors. AAI has provided legal, economic, business, and institutional analysis of the adverse effects of consolidation and concentration on producers, consumers, independent business, and the stability and security of the food supply chains. This work spans various sectors, including agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, crop traits, and seed; protein and grain processing; food manufacturing; broadline food distribution; and retail grocery.