On May 16, 2012, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a 24-page report on the five public competition-in-agriculture workshops that the DOJ co-sponsored with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010. The report, “Competition and Agriculture: Voices from the Workshops on Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement in Our 21st Century Economy and Thoughts on the Way Forward,” is available at the following DOJ link: www.justice.gov/atr/public/reports/283291.pdf
In Section II of the Report, “What We Heard at the Workshops,” the DOJ summarizes and discusses themes that were heard repeatedly at the workshops, including anticompetitive mergers, high market concentration, monopsony power, price levels, lack of capital, contracting, market transparency and captive supply, market manipulation and genetically modified seeds.
Section III of the report assesses which of the concerns raised during the workshops fall within the scope of the DOJ’s antitrust enforcement powers, and which do not. The report states at p. 16, for example, that as a result of the workshops, “the Division has redoubled its efforts to prevent anticompetitive agricultural mergers and conduct,” but observes elsewhere that the antitrust laws do not empower courts to engineer an idealized economic landscape of small farms and ranches, and modest-sized local grain elevators and packers, or to control price volatility that results from market forces and not from anticompetitive practices. (Report, at 18, 20.)