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Justice Department To Investigate Big Agricultural Companies

Starting this Friday in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, the U.S. Department of Justice will be examining whether or not there is an an imbalance of power in the food industry – and, if so, whether remedying the imbalance will require any legal action.

A Series of Hearings

This examination will take place in a series of hearings entitled Agriculture and AntiTrust Enforcement Issues In Our 21st Century Economy.

The workshops will feature panels led by USDA secretary Tom Vilsack, Assistant Attorney General for Anti-Trust Christine Varney, farmers, and officials from some of the major agriculture corporations.

The corporations that are the subject of the investigation include grain processing companies Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Cargill, Inc., meat companies such as Tyson Foods Inc., and the biotech seed giant Monsanto.

Opponents Anticipate Outcomes

Farmers groups and food activists are grateful that attention is finally be paid to their concerns over the concentration of power in the agriculture industry, according to a NY Times article on the hearings.

But, according to Slow Food U.S.A., another set of farmer and consumer groups will be organizing a parallel set of hearings called the People's Anti-Trust Hearings because they are skeptical that the Department of Justice will conduct the official hearings without showing favoritism towards large corporate interests.

The American Meat Industry refutes accusations that the food market is not competitive and blames government regulation for the increase in size of agricultural corporations.

This weekend's workshops are the first in a series of gatherings to occur over the next few months.

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