Justice, USDA Set Workshop Dates

Article excerpt

The U.S. Department of Justice and USDA have announced the dates and locations of joint public workshops that will explore competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The workshops are the first joint Justice/USDA workshops ever held to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry.

The workshops will address the dynamics of competition in agriculture markets, including buyer power (monopsony) and vertical integration. They will examine legal doctrines and provide an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, consumer groups, processors, agribusiness and other interested parties to provide examples of potentially anti-competitive conduct and to discuss any concerns about the application of the antitrust laws to the agricultural sectors.

Some of the issues to be examined are: the impact of agriculture concentration on food costs; the effect of agricultural regulatory statutes or other applicable laws and programs on competition, and issues relating to patents and intellectual property affecting agricultural marketing or production. Market practices will also be examined, including price spreads, forward contracts, packer ownership of livestock before slaughter, market transparency and increasing retailer concentration

Each workshop will feature keynote speakers, general expert panels and breakout panels that will address more narrowly focused issues. At each workshop, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. The workshop discussions will be transcribed and placed on the public record, along with submissions and written comments received.

Dates and topics for the workshops are:

* March 12, 2010--Issues of Concern to Farmers; Ankeny, Iowa. This session will serve as an introduction to the workshops and focus on issues facing crop farmers, which may include seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power. …