Activists Submit 240,000 Petitions Demanding Action to Curb Food Monopolies WASHINGTON – On the eve of the final Department of Justice/USDA public workshop examining the effects of corporate concentration in food and agriculture, a coalition of farm and food activists submitted almost a quarter of a million (nearly 240,000) petitions calling on both the Justice Department and USDA to take swift action to curb the abusive market power that a handful of corporations exert over farmers and consumers.
“While we’re encouraged by the administration’s year-long investigation, it’s time to fulfill President Obama’s 2008 election promise to end big food’s antitrust abuses,” said Dave Murphy of Food Democracy Now! “Hundreds of thousands of Americans from across the country stand behind this administration to reign in excessive concentration in agriculture and we expect real action to be taken to break up the biggest offenders.”
“The way the current food system operates benefits big agricultural corporations, which are getting bigger all the time—at the expense of ordinary people and the environment,” said Nikhil Aziz of Grassroots International. “Small farmers, farm workers and consumers alike are asserting their rights, which ultimately will ensure a more equitable food system and a cooler planet,” he added.
Over the past year, thousands of family farmers and consumers have packed the workshops on“Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy,” hosted jointly by the two Departments. From Ankeny, Iowa, and Normal, Alabama, to Madison, Wisconsin, and Fort Collins, Colorado, ordinary people have come forward to testify on panels and speak out about the handful of companies that control our food supply. The workshops have appropriately focused on farmers and livestock producers, but they are supported by thousands of consumers, food activists, antihunger advocates, and others who want a fair and equitable food system.
“300 million consumers are separated from 2 million farmers by a handful of powerful agribusinesses that call all the shots,” said Bill Ayres of WhyHunger. “Breaking the stranglehold a few dominant companies have on our food system is essential to curbing hunger, improving our citizens’ health, and growing strong local economies.”
USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program and the White House’s “Let’s Move” initiative seek to promote Americans’ access to healthy and local foods. “These promising new initiatives can’t get very far if family farmers continue to be driven out of business by big corporations who wield unchecked power over the market,” said Carolyn Mugar of Farm Aid. "The companies that dominate control of processing, meatpacking, and retailing largely determine what farmers are paid for their products and the prices people pay at the grocery store. It's time we leveled the playing field, bringing fairness to family farmers and eaters alike."
“There is a broad-based, grassroots movement in America that is hungry for change in the food system,” concluded Marcia Ishii-Eiteman from Pesticide Action Network – North America. “Decisive action by the Justice Department and USDA to restore balance to the food system is needed today.”