A joint venture between USDA and bipartisan attorneys general in 31 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to a framework that would improve competition and protect consumers in food and agricultural markets in areas such as grocery, meat and poultry processing, and agriculture. The partnership will assist state attorneys general in tackling anticompetitive market structures in agriculture and related industries that are raising prices and limiting choices for consumers and producers, USDA said in a statement.
The initiative is designed to enhance the capacity of state attorneys general to conduct on-the-ground assessments of competition and consumer issues, improve coordination between federal and state agriculture and competition authorities, and bring about more independent research programs, all in the hopes of establishing fairer and competitive markets and improved supply chains.
As part of the partnership, USDA will create an oversight committee to establish the project governance and transparency standards for the partnership, as well as a project selection advisory committee that is tasked with reviewing project requests and recommending approval. One focus for the agency will be to week out anticompetitive market structures and practices, price gouging and other anti-consumer practices in food and agriculture industries.
“Food security is not a luxury, and for many Maryland families the rising costs of groceries creates considerable insecurity,” Anthony G. Brown, Maryland’s attorney general, tells Food Quality & Safety. “In joining this collaborative effort, we are increasing our capacity to investigate and tackle anti-consumer behavior that drives up food prices, limits options, and disrupts a key supply chain.”
Additionally, USDA stated that it would finalize new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act, a century-old antitrust law meant to protect farmers from anticompetitive conduct, before the end of the year.