NPR utters the phrase “big milk”

Consolidation station: NPR’s John Burnett shines a spotlight on agribusiness consolidation, the control of the food system by an ever-smaller group of mega-companies. Independent farmers and ranchers are pushing the Obama Administration to take a good, long look at the factors that brought us to where we are today–with 2 percent of farms accounting for half of all farm sales.

Says Burnett, “Frustrated farmers claim the operative philosophy of President Bush’s antitrust division was, ‘Let’s make a deal.’” That led to mergers that created the new Dean Foods, now the nation’s largest milk company; that allowed already giant Smithfield Foods to snap up its #2 competitor, Premium Standard Farms; and that gave the green light to Brazilian beef giant JBS to purchase Smithfield Beef.

But the Obama Administration has signaled a willingness to examine consolidation with a critical eye. The Justice Department will hold hearings around the country next year on anti-competitive practices in agricultural markets. Burnett will be following up on this story with one on the dairy crisis tonight on All Things Considered. (NPR) (The Ethicurean covered the Justice Department’s announcement here.)

More grist for the mill: This is the newest positive sign that the administration is at least skeptical of, if not opposed to, Big Ag monopolies. The first good sign was the appointment of J. Dudley Butler to head the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, the agency in USDA charged with ensuring fairness and fighting anti-competitive practices in grain and meat markets. We reported on his appointment here; columnist Alan Guebert covers him this week on Farm and Food File and hopes that pressure from meat packers won’t send Dudley, um, packing. (Farm and Dairy)

2 Responsesto “NPR utters the phrase “big milk””

  1. Big milk is in bed with school policy makers in Illinois.  A rule that is new this year REQUIRES that a carton of milk be placed on each child’s lunch plate.  The elementary student is not allowed to refuse the milk…not even a lactose-intolerant student.  Juice or water is also available, but the unopened box of milk must be placed into the trash can at the end of the meal.

  2. Jonnypeace says:

    Dairies ARE consolidating at an alarming rate nationally, but it’s been happening for a while in the American West. As dairies industrialized, they headed to the wide open land of the West, which is relatively cheap, with lax land-use regulations. Now, the West leads traditional dairy regions in production, and is far “ahead” in the race to industrialize/consolidate. The result? Environmental damage and a battered workforce: Factory dairies are dangerous places, with few laws to protect workers. Check out this harrowing account: