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SD Among States Working with Feds on Food Price Crackdown

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023   

South Dakota is part of a bipartisan effort among law enforcement leaders around the U.S. to crack down on anti-trust activity within the nation's food system. The move comes amid lingering questions about whether consumers are getting a fair shake. 31 attorneys general are working with the USDA to ultimately bring down food costs and create more choices at the supermarket. While recent inflation spikes have been a factor, officials said part of the focus is the possibility of price gouging. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said it is also about helping people who produce the food, not just shoppers.

"If you look and you're a producer here in South Dakota, as an example, you're spending more on your corn, you're spending more on your grass and your grass rent, and you've got added, built-in costs - but you're not getting a profit back from that," Jackley said.

Beyond price structures, the USDA noted states will also be on the lookout for conflicts of interest, misuse of intellectual property, and anti-competitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains. Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose the move, calling it an "overreach."

Public Interest Research Group consumer watchdog Teresa Murray said, while her group supports a free market, this is a worthwhile effort. She cautioned even though these are legitimate concerns, it is hard to go into a grocery store, see higher prices, and know for sure whether corporate greed is at play.

"What are the manufacturing costs? What are the labor costs - which probably have gone up, you know," she said. "What are the supply chain costs? What are the distribution costs? And then, where at the end is there a profit, and is anybody along the way taking advantage of the situation?"

Murray said this large group joining forces speaks volumes about the desire to protect consumers, and added there is no real federal statute addressing price gouging, so state enforcement will be important. South Dakota is not among the group of states that do have price-gouging laws on the books, but state leaders insist they still have tools to use in going after bad actors.


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