The Food System: Concentration and Its Impacts

The Food System: Concentration and Its Impacts is a special report commissioned by Farm Action (formerly Family Farm Action Alliance) and written by leading food system experts Mary K. Hendrickson, Philip H. Howard, Emily M. Miller, and Douglas H. Constance. This report provides the latest updated data on the state of concentration in the agrifood system, and outlines what happens when a few hands control the way billions of consumers, farmers, and farmworkers work and eat. It includes bold proposals for decentralizing our agrifood system to move power out of the control of just a few. 

This report is founded on the premise that monopolistic control is no longer about accumulating capital or profits, but rather amassing and protecting power.

Downloadable Report Graphics: Global Concentration | U.S. Livestock Consolidation

Vertical, horizontal, and backward integration of the food system is happening from local to global levels. As the frailty of unbridled capitalism becomes more apparent, corporations can no longer count on accumulating profits. We see mergers and acquisitions no longer as money making tactics, but rather as an effort to accumulate and protect power – which corporations wield disproportionately over populations who have been systemically discriminated against and exploited based on race, gender, queer identity, ethnicity, or nationality.

Practically, concentration in our food system looks like:

  • Farmers trapped in production treadmills and unfair payment schemes that harm their bottom lines and the land.
  • Farm workers exploited in dangerous and precarious employment conditions.
  • Farmland degraded from extensive monocropping and chemical inputs.
  • Consumers left navigating disrupted food supply, deceptive marketing, and limited choices on the grocery shelves.

To transform our agrifood system from one that is monopolized and brittle to one that is democratic, equitable, ecological and resilient will take many solutions and experiments across all scales and sectors of food production and consumption. Based on the conclusions of this report, Farm Action developed a comprehensive toolkit for Congress to tackle the dangerous levels of consolidation in our food system

Our toolkit sets out a course of action for Congress to implement change based on six key points of intervention from the report:

  1. Curbing globalized concentration
  2. Implementing anti-racist food and farm policy
  3. Prioritizing resilience, not efficiency
  4. Redefining the status quo
  5. Supporting local and regional food systems; and
  6. Transitioning to a just and resilient agrifood system

It’s time to address the corporate consolidation crisis. Our research provides Congress with evidence of why they must take swift action to bring justice to our food system, and our policy toolkit leaves no room for inaction.