South Dakota Farmers Union Says Competition & Fairness Are Needed to Keep Farmers and Ranchers in Business
HURON, S.D. – Monday, June 21, 2021 South Dakota Farmers Union urged the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to strengthen the nation’s food supply chain by restoring competition and fairness in markets that are dominated by a handful of multinational companies.
In comments submitted to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Farmers Union called for greater antitrust enforcement and outlined instances of growing concentration in agriculture and food supply chains that have jeopardized our nation’s food system resilience.
The most egregious event occurred during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing meatpacking plant closures that resulted in major financial losses to ranchers when the spread between fed cattle and boxed beef prices soared by more than 300 percent.
“Throughout my entire farming career, this has been an issue,” said Doug Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle producer and President of South Dakota Farmers Union. “I know that Congress has held hearings on this topic. But even after 40 years of hearings, we still have not moved the needle. The time for restoring competition and fairness in today’s food supply is now. The consumer is being gouged and the producers are facing price fixing. We believe there is strong evidence to support an independent investigation by the Department of Justice – with subpoena power.”
Sombke points out that today, 85 percent of all foods processed in the United States, are processed through two foreign-owned companies. “We need to take a hard look at this for food security reasons,” Sombke said.
For decades, South Dakota Farmers Union members’ grassroots policy has called for USDA to take antitrust action against anticompetitive behavior in consolidated ag markets. While Farmers Union continues to urge USDA to act, it also is calling for expanded local and regional processing and supply chains, stronger truth-in-labeling laws, and relaxed barriers to intrastate and interstate sales of meat.
Additionally, Farmers Union is calling on USDA to immediately leverage existing rural development programs for investment in local and regional processing projects, and greater support for farmer-owned cooperatives.
“If we want our state’s number one industry of agriculture to succeed – if we want our nations’ food supply to remain safe and strong, our farmers and ranchers need to be able to make a living raising food. Young people need to see a financial future if they return to their family’s farms and ranches,” Sombke said.
To learn more, read the comments SDFU submitted to the USDA here.