Robert Reich: Agricultural 'monopolies are slowly killing rural America'

Robert Reich: Agricultural 'monopolies are slowly killing rural America'
Image via Creative Commons.

Former United States Labor Secretary Robert Reich released a new video on Thursday blasting agricultural conglomerates for decimating American farming.

"Just four firms control 85% of all beef, 66% of all pork, and 54% of all poultry. This degree of monopolization is hurting farmers — and you. "Monopolists control nearly every part of the food production process, from selling feed to farmers, to packaging the meat and poultry for supermarkets. Half of all chicken farmers report having just one or two processors to sell to."

Local food producers are trapped in a cycle of corporate dominance.

READ MORE: Robert Reich delivers brutal reality-check for Dem — and urges 'an agenda of radical democratic reform'

"Farmers are essentially forced to buy from and sell to monopolies at whatever price the corporation wants – often taking on crushing debt to do so. They are trapped in long-term binding contracts, with no way out but losing their livelihood altogether," Reich explained. "Meatpackers used to compete at cattle auctions for what ranchers produced – which helped ranchers get a reasonable return on their investment. Now, with so few buyers, ranchers have no choice but to sign contracts with meatpackers, and sell their cattle for a lower price than if the market were truly competitive."

Subsides that traditionally benefited small farms have been gobbled up by industrial giants.

"In 1980, 62 cents of every dollar consumers spent on beef went to ranchers. Today, only 37 cents do. Most of the profits are going into the pockets of the monopolists," Reich pointed out. "And here’s the kicker: Even though farmers are getting squeezed, the ag monopolists are also charging you higher prices. During the pandemic, beef prices rose nearly 16% — and the four biggest beef companies’ profits rose more than 300 percent."

That, in turn, has resulted in severe price gouging.

READ MORE: Watch: Robert Reich dismantles the 'rubbish' behind minimum wage myths

"These corporations are using their monopoly power to fix prices. Just recently, beef giant JBS settled — without admitting guilt, of course — a beef price-fixing case for $52.5 million," Reich said. "Monopolization is happening across the food sector. In corn, soybeans, dairy, pesticides, and farm machinery. The result is the same: lower pay to farmers, bigger profits for the monopolists, higher prices for you."

Reich concluded that breaking up big agriculture is what is best for the country and its struggling farmers, a handful of whom he quoted:

I'm here to tell the powers at be to enforce the antitrust laws for the world of agriculture.

The laws are on the books. We have to strengthen those laws and do what Teddy Roosevelt did to break up the monopolies.

Don't let these boys who come to Washington with pockets of money set there and bribe our congressman year after year after year.

Who will stand up for me if you don't?
Watch below or at this link.

Why Food Prices Are Rising Even More | Robert Reich

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