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Leaders from DOJ and Competitive Markets Orgs Highlight Antitrust Issues at Consumer Federation of America Conference as Sen. Mike Lee Files New Checkoff Reform Amendment

— October 16, 2023

Antitrust enforcement in the agricultural marketplace discussed at Food Policy Conference.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 46th Annual National Food Policy Conference held on September 12 in Washington D.C. featured an exciting line-up of keynote speakers and panel discussions. This year’s event explored an array of important food policy issues facing consumers and the food industry, including front-of-package labeling, the Farm Bill, and antitrust enforcement. Coordinated by the Consumer Federation of America, the National Food Policy Conference is a unique collaboration between consumer advocates, the food industry, and government, and a key national gathering for anyone interested in agriculture, food, and nutrition policy.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ), Michael Kades, and Marty Irby, President and CEO of Competitive Markets Action, and Board Secretary at the Organization for Competitive Markets, co-hosted a fireside chat on the need for more enforcement against anti-monopolistic practices throughout the agriculture sector.

Antitrust laws are based on the notion that competitive market forces should play the primary role in determining the structure and functioning of our economy.  The role of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division is to stop anticompetitive mergers or conduct from harming the agricultural marketplace, whether it is buyers or sellers who are harmed in the first instance.

On the legislative side of the issue, there are a number of federal bills aiming to reform the agriculture marketplace to benefit independent American producers, most notably the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, H.R.1249/S.557, which is being led by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), with support from Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Leading in the House are U.S. Representatives, Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Dina Titus (D-NV). OFF aims to to increase transparency and reduce conflicts of interest in the agricultural industry. If enacted, OFF would also prevent checkoff funds from going to organizations that lobby on agricultural issues and would prohibit anti-competitive practices in the programs.

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And on the same day, Sen. Lee, filed an amendment (S.Amdt.1097 to S.Amdt.1092) to H.R.4366 — Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024 that mirrors the OFF Act that is supported by CMA, OCM, FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation, Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, R-CALF, and more than 200,000 farmers and ranchers across America.

“I’m honored to present at the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference, and appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Cades on these critical issues,” said Marty Irby, President at Competitive Markets Action, and Board Secretary at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “USDA’s commodity checkoff programs remain under fire because of their lack of transparency, misuse of funds, and damaging anti-competitive practices that have bankrupted millions of American farmers, and we applaud Sen. Lee for fearlessly champion the movement for checkoff reform.”

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of non-profit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization’s Board of Directors.

Competitive Markets Action (CMA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that was formed with the mission of shaping policy to promote more regenerative and sustainable agriculture, and competitive markets in the U.S., and to defend against attacks on states’ rights by the federal government. CMA works to raise awareness of the harm caused by multinational conglomerates to the American family farmer, the consumer and our U.S. economy as a whole in an effort to bring about legislative and regulatory reforms.

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Lincoln, Nebraska. The foundation of the Organization for Competitive Markets is to fight for competitive markets in agriculture for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. True competition reduces the need for economic regulation. Our mission, and our duty, is to define and advocate the proper role of government in the agricultural economy as a regulator and enforcer of rules necessary for markets that are fair, honest, accessible and competitive for all citizens.

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