Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Wednesday took aim at large agriculture and called for a separation of some recent business mergers, charging “consolidation is choking family farms.”
Lax merger enforcement has jeopardized the livelihoods of farmers and enabled agribusiness organizations to become too big, the Democrat maintained at a policy post on Medium. It comes before the Iowa Farmers Union’s Democratic presidential candidate forum set for Saturday.
“I’ll decorate trustbusters to review — and reverse — anti-competitive mergers, including the current Bayer-Monsanto merger which should not have been accepted,” Warren wrote.
Warren also criticized the Dow-Dupont and Syngenta-ChemChina deals, which involve mergers of companies providing seeds and other products to farmers. She said industry consolidation and expansions of agribusiness giants have led companies having “immense market power.”
Dow, Syngenta and Bayer did not respond to a request for comment.
Warren added, “My team will be committed to breaking up big agribusiness that have become vertically integrated and that control more and more of the market. Consolidation in agriculture is just part of a broader trend of consolidation that has hurt family farmers.”
She called out meat processing companies, saying four firms have combined market share of 53 percent. Warren singled out food giant Tyson, which she said “controls just about every aspect of bringing chicken to market” and has intended “chicken farmers have gotten locked into a ‘contract farming’ system in which they take on huge risks.”
Tyson didn’t immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
According to Warren, “bad decisions in Washington have consistently favored the interests of multinational corporations and big business lobbyists over the interests of family farmers.”
The Democrat said family farmers annually obtained “less than 15 cents” for every dollar Americans spent on meals, which makes it the lowest amount since the government began tracking the information in 1993.
“Farmers are caught in a vise, but the squeeze on family farms isn’t inevitable,” she explained. “We can make better policy choices – and we can begin by leveling the playing field for America’s family farmers.”
Andrew Jerome, a spokesman for the National Farmers Union responded to Warren’s proposal Wednesday, stating “We are encouraged by it.” The team represents farmers and ranchers.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm industry organization, however, brushed off Warren’s criticism of major agriculture.
“Our membership hasn’t shown much concern over current market structure,” William Rodger, a spokesman for the federal farm group said via email. “If they change their mind on the issue, you can be sure we will pay close attention.”