02.09.11

Leahy, Grassley Press DOJ, USDA For Follow Up To Agriculture Competition Workshops

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, seeking follow up on a recent series of competition workshops held by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The conferences, which were held in locations across the country from March 2010 to December 2010, focused on vertical integration, buyer power, market transparency, competition and retail pricing in several agricultural industries, including dairy, seed and poultry.  In 2009, Leahy chaired a Judiciary Committee field hearing in Vermont about competition in the dairy industry, one of several hearings held by the Committee in recent years to examine antitrust issues in the agriculture sector.  Now Leahy and Grassley are seeking information about DOJ and USDA plans for further action to promote competition in agriculture. 

“With the conclusion of the last workshop on December 8, 2010, we would appreciate an update as to what the DOJ and USDA plans for its next steps,” the Senators wrote.  “As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Judiciary, please provide to us an outline of any plans or further action items that DOJ and USDA intend to take in this area.”

The full text of the letter follows.  A PDF is available online.

 

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February 9, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder                                        The Honorable Tom Vilsack

Attorney General                                                        Secretary

U.S. Department of Justice                                        U.S. Department of Agriculture

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW                                  1400 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20530                                              Washington, DC 20250

Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack,

We are writing in regard to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) competition workshops which were held throughout 2010.  From March through December 2010, workshops were held in Iowa, Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, and the District of Columbia covering seed, poultry, dairy, livestock, and price margins.  In addition, written and public comments were also accepted on these topics.

These workshops brought many of the key players on agricultural competition together and we thank you for this proactive step in beginning a dialogue on vertical integration, buyer power, market transparency, concentration, and retail prices. Producers, economists, academics, and government and elected officials were all able to participate in this process.

With the conclusion of the last workshop on December 8, 2010, we would appreciate an update as to what the DOJ and USDA plans for its next steps.  As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Judiciary, please provide to us an outline of any plans or further action items that DOJ and USDA intend to take in this area.  While making the workshop transcripts and comments available to the public has been helpful, we would also like to know what your Departments have learned from this process and whether any additional follow up is warranted.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.

Sincerely,

PATRICK LEAHY                                                     CHARLES E.GRASSLEY
Chairman                                                                    Ranking Member

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