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ND Farmers: Antitrust Work Needs to Result in Votes

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021   

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Voices for North Dakota farmers feel they're only at the halfway point in seeing more fairness within agriculture markets. They now want proposals to translate into action, to ensure producers and consumers get a better deal.

The North Dakota Farmers Union said only a handful of companies control between 50% and 80% of markets producers buy from and sell to.

Matt Perdue, government relations director for the group, said there's been more meaningful conversation with policymakers, but he added the next step is still missing.

"With these conversations, obviously there a lot of different proposals that are floating," Perdue explained. "We haven't seen any come to a vote yet."

A recently introduced bill is the "50-14" measure, which requires at least 50% of a meat-packer's weekly volume to be purchased on the market.

That plan saw heavy opposition from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which argues the bill misses the mark in creating fairness. Perdue does credit the U.S. Department of Agriculture for enhancing enforcement, including involvement in a White House task force addressing supply-chain issues.

Perdue argued more transparency and aggressive action would mean consumers wouldn't see shortages or higher prices like they have during the pandemic.

As for farmers, he said even with some COVID relief, there's still a lot of uncertainty.

"Here in North Dakota, our producers are facing a pretty historic drought situation, where many of them are having to sell off part or their entire herds," Perdue observed.

The meat industry and market fairness were discussed in a recent Senate committee hearing, which included U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Lawmakers from both parties have indicated a willingness to tackle competition concerns in ag markets.

Disclosure: North Dakota Farmers Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Rural/Farming issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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