Business Strategies

Bill Would Halt Big Food M&A

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

May 29, 2019

A bill introduced in Congress would put a moratorium on large mergers in agribusiness and food processing and retailing.

The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and in the Senate by Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), would impose an indefinite moratorium on all mergers and acquisitions in “agriculture, food and beverage manufacturing, and grocery retail” where one party is worth $160 million or more and the other is worth at least $16 million.

The bill’s introduction cites concentration in the food industry, including the top four pork packers controlling 71% of the market, the top four beef packers controlling 85%, and the top four flour millers, 64%. As a consequence, it says, net farm income has fallen by more than half since 2013.

Booker originally introduced the bill in August, in a version calling for a six-month moratorium on large mergers. The current version specifies an indefinite one until Congress can pass comprehensive legislation addressing food industry consolidation.

A coalition of more than 200 agricultural, consumer and other groups sent a letter to Washington on Nov. 1 supporting the legislation.

“Corporate consolidation has long been one of the greatest challenges plaguing family farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said in a statement. “By allowing us to step back to evaluate and strengthen the United States’ antitrust framework, the merger moratorium is a meaningful first step in stemming the tide of concentration in the agriculture and food sectors.”