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Consumer Reports testifies at U.S. Senate hearing on competition concerns in food supply chain

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports is testifying today before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing entitled “Beefing up Competition: Examining America’s Food Supply Chain.”

 George Slover, Consumer Reports senior policy counsel, describes how competition problems in the food supply chain illustrate similar problems occurring throughout the economy. 

Slover says there is excessive corporate concentration in numerous parts of the food supply chain — including meat packers and processors, distributors and big-box retailers, as well as farm and ranch inputs  like seed, feed, fertilizer, and farm equipment.  This makes the marketplace dysfunctional, hurting both farmers and ranchers, and the consumers they serve.   

 Slover says this market concentration can compromise quality, variety, safety, and innovation in our food supply, and lead to higher prices and fewer good choices for consumers.

 Slover adds that many consumers, particularly in remote rural and marginalized urban areas, lack food options that are accessible and affordable – a problem aggravated by over-concentration in grocery retail that has created food deserts.

Recent jolts to our food supply chain — first COVID, and then a ransomware cyber attack — have caused widespread temporary shutdowns of meatpacking plants, highlighting the vulnerability of a supply chain that is too dependent on just a handful of options at any point in the chain.

 “Improving competition can give consumers more and better food choices, at more affordable prices, and spur more innovation to create even better food choices.  And it can give us a more reliable and resilient food supply chain that can better weather the storms, foreseen and unforeseen,” Slover says.

 To address the competition problems in our economy, Consumer Reports is supporting the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act (S. 225), a Senate bill with reforms that include reinvigorating the prohibition against anticompetitive mergers, and strengthening the prohibition against anti-competitive exclusionary conduct by a dominant corporation to freeze out competitors.  This bill would strengthen competition across the economy, including agriculture.

CR is also supporting the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act (S. 228) to strengthen antitrust enforcement resources by increasing pre-merger filing fees for the largest corporate mergers. Slover also says a newly introduced bill, the TEAM Act (S. 2039), contains a number of proposals that should be part of bipartisan discussions on strengthening our antitrust laws.

“The problems with insufficient competition in agriculture are present throughout our economy,” Slover says. “Competition is key to having a marketplace that works for consumers, by giving us the power of choice, the ability to look elsewhere for a better deal. That spurs businesses to listen to consumers and work to give us better choices at more affordable prices.”

Slover’s formal written testimony is available here.


Contact: David Butler, david.butler@consumer.org