Iowa Public Radio
By Amy Mayer
Independent farmers who question the consolidation of farming are finding support from an unexpected ally.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a bill calling for an 18-month moratorium on mergers and acquisitions in the food and agribusiness sector.
North Iowa farmer Chris Petersen says most farmers don’t get any benefits when the large seed and chemical companies pair-up. During several recent marriages, the companies suggested prices for their products would come down, but that has not materialized. Petersen says most costs continue to go up, while the prices farmers get for their crops and livestock have been falling.
“Right now, with some of the record lows being set over the last few years with (prices for) corn and beans, the squeeze is on here,” Petersen says. “We could have a huge crisis after the crops are out, starting already.”
Petersen, who is semi-retired but still raises specialty-market pigs and grows hay, says the proposed law would put the brakes on future mergers, which he hopes would lead to a more thorough look at exactly what goes on when the companies combine.
“Is there any hanky-panky going on in setting prices, whether it’s on the input side or the other side? I don’t know,” he says. “Nobody knows. But there needs to be an investigation of what’s going on.”
The Organization for Competitive Markets and Food and Water Watch, both liberal-leaning advocates for smaller farms, support Booker’s bill.
Petersen says he’s hopeful Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has been skeptical of some of the mergers and acquisitons, will support the bill and that it will soon be introduced in the House as well.