Vilsack: NFU ‘architect and designer’ of USDA’s work
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of the National Farmers Union on Monday that “in many respects, the National Farmers Union has been the architect and the designer in terms of the work we are doing in this administration in rural American and farm country,” DTN/The Progressive Farmer reported.
Vilsack made the statement at a briefing for NFU members at USDA during NFU’s fly-in to Washington.
After meeting with USDA, some members of NFU, which is Democratic-leaning, met with Jonathan Kanter, assistant U.S. attorney general, and several other staff members from the Department of Justice to discuss antitrust issues, DTN reported.
Jeff Kippley, NFU vice president, who farms in South Dakota, told DTN he was a little surprised how much DOJ officials didn’t know about the cattle markets and the questions they asked.
“They have been working on it a long time, and they didn’t seem to know a lot of things,” Kippley said. “They really wanted to follow up with us to learn more, which is exciting.”
In a news release today, the Justice Department noted that Kanter had met with 30 NFU members.
“Yesterday’s meeting builds on the division’s ramped-up efforts to combat anticompetitive practices and advocate for competition in agricultural markets,” the press release said. “The division has brought all of its tools to bear.”
“Competition in agriculture is critical. Too often, farmers and livestock producers have too few suppliers to buy from and too few buyers to sell to. Farmers and their families work incredibly hard and deserve to see the fruits of their labor and the American dream,” Kanter said in the release. “Yesterday, we heard from farmers about how monopolies, collusion, and other anticompetitive conduct threatens their livelihood and their communities. Protecting competition and the rule of law in agricultural markets is core to the work of the Antitrust Division, and we will vigorously enforce the antitrust laws in this area.”
In the release, the Justice Department noted, “Over the last year, the Antitrust Division has put special focus on competition in agriculture, including by suing to block U.S. Sugar from acquiring its rival, Imperial Sugar Company. In addition, this summer, the division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against a data consulting firm and its president, as well as three poultry processors, to end a long-running conspiracy to exchange information about wages and benefits for poultry processing plant workers. The proposed consent decree with defendant poultry processors Cargill, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms would prohibit them from sharing competitively sensitive information about poultry.
“This effort — in cooperation with the USDA — built on other interagency partnerships with the USDA, including the Farmer Fairness reporting portal, which allows farmers and ranchers to report anticompetitive practices online.”
Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have introduced a bill to double USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program funding.
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