Today, Farm Action and Open Markets Institute released their second annual report card grading the Biden administration’s progress towards a July 2021 executive order, which directed multiple federal agencies to revive antitrust enforcement and promote competition throughout the U.S. economy.
The groups released “A 2023 Review of the Biden Administration’s Commitment to Food System Competition” just prior to a live virtual event highlighting the urgency of competition reform in the 17 months remaining in Biden’s current term.
The groups issued the following grades after assessing the agencies’ progress since last year:
- DOJ’s grade improved from a B- to a B, reflecting that while the Department has not yet issued new merger guidelines or finished its investigation into cattle markets, it did bring new cases against agricultural monopolists and secured a substantial settlement from meatpacking giants that will reform poultry payment systems for 15% of the industry.
- FTC’s grade improved from a B- to a B. The agency revived important and underused enforcement authorities, but has not yet completed its merger guidelines. The agency could also do much more to challenge grocery giants’ abusive buyer power and ban more unfair methods of competition that plague the food industry, such as exclusive dealing.
- USDA’s grade improved from a D+ to a C. The Department excelled on the “Product of U.S.A” rulemaking, but failed outright on others. Critical delays in the Packers and Stockyards Act rulemakings and the Department’s underwhelming progress on its procurement policies prevented the Department from scoring better marks.
“The American people know corporate power consolidation of food and farming is bad for the wellbeing of consumers, farmers, the environment, and even our democracy,” said Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Open Markets Institute. “President Biden has launched the most important fight against monopoly power in decades and has called on every agency in government to play a role. These next 17 months are critical to making lasting change – and now is the time for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to prove he understands the mission.”
“Breaking up concentrated power in food and agriculture markets is one of the most critical issues of our time,” said Angela Huffman, President of Farm Action. “President Biden’s executive order on competition was historic, but the real test is whether his agencies will deliver on his promises. As today’s report card shows, the USDA must act urgently to prevent falling short. America’s farmers and ranchers do not deserve, nor can they afford, failure from this administration.”
More information can be found here, and a recording will be available at the event’s conclusion.