This Justice Department speech caught our eye for several reasons: Hometown (St. Louis), agriculture and antitrust. Three of our favorite things.
It’s been a while since we’ve considered agriculture in terms of antitrust enforcement, and we’re happy to do so now. On Friday, Philip J. Weiser, a telecommunications-law expert who was appointed deputy assistant attorney general in April, told a group of farmers (in Missouri!) that antitrust regulators are taking a hard look at the level of competition in several agribusiness sectors.
As the WSJ notes, Washington has often sided with farmers who find themselves selling their commodities to fewer and larger processors. But the Obama administration is taking it a step further. Weiser said Antitrust has plans for workshops, in cooperation with the USDA, that will focus on a number of issues.
- Evaluating the state and nature of competition in a range of agricultural markets
- The impact of vertical integration
- Concerns about “buyer power”
- Relevant regulatory regimes
- The nature of transparency in the marketplace
Weiser, speaking in the hometown of St. Louis crop-biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., didn’t point any fingers during his speech at the annual convention of the Organization for Competitive Markets, a Nebraska-based non-profit that bills itself as “the only national think tank focusing strictly on antitrust and trade policy in agriculture.” Its Web site says it is funded by crop and livestock producers. OCM has complained about Monsanto’s dominance over genetically modified seeds.
Scott Kilman and Evan Perez report:
The vast majority of the genetically modified crops grown in the U.S. farm belt contains at least one gene from Monsanto. Its success has made the company a formidable rival of DuPont Co.’s Pioneer Hi-Bred seed unit, which has accused Monsanto of being a monopolist.
DuPont spokesman Dan Turner told the WSJ that the company has backed the OCM for years, but that it didn’t sponsor Friday’s meeting. A Monsanto spokesman told the newspaper that DuPont’s support for OCM was “extremely disappointing, because they are aligning themselves with an organization that is spreading false and misleading information about our business.”
This post contains information added after its original publication date of Aug. 8.