What's more corrupt than Enron? Price fixing in the dairy industry, at least according to one Department of Justice official.
For the past year and a half, America's dairy farmers have faced their worst crisis since the Great Depression all while giant dairy processors have reaped record profits. The current dire situation comes during an unprecedented period of consolidation in the dairy industry. In the past 16 years, half of American dairy farms have gone out of business, and processing and distribution has become dominated by just a few huge organizations, like the Dairy Farmers of America co-op and processor Dean Foods.
Fortunately, these corporate abuses have not gone unnoticed. Just last Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Justice convened a public hearing in Madison, Wisconsin to examine antitrust violations in the dairy industry. While many small farmers and others spoke out against industry consolidation and its disastrous effects, the defenders of big dairy were also there in force.
If the government fails to act, thousands more dairy farmers stand to lose their farms and their livelihoods this year. Excessive consolidation means farmers have fewer choices about where to sell their milk and are less likely to get a fair price for what they produce. In fact, the price farmers receive for their milk has dropped more than 50% since December of 2008.
We can't back down. We're joining forces with our friends at Food Democracy Now! in sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to enforce U.S. antitrust laws to return a fair and level playing field in the food and agricultural sectors. Will you sign on today?
For too long, agribusiness corporations have been allowed to consolidate. Now their market power has created unfair prices that farmers are paid for their goods, the ever-increasing prices that they pay for inputs and the price that consumers pay at the grocery store. Excessive market concentration has also created an overly centralized food system that is prone to massive food safety outbreaks and has empowered mega agribusiness corporations that continue to demonstrate a blatant disregard for environmental and labor laws.
While I am encouraged by the recent Department of Justice suits filed against Dean Foods investigating their excessive market concentration in the dairy industry, these investigations are long overdue. For the past 18 months dairy farmers in America have faced their worst crisis since the Great Depression as the price they are paid for their milk has dropped more than 50% since December 2008. At the same time, giant dairy processors and co-ops have raked in record profits while dairy farmers are losing their farms and struggling to make ends meet just to feed their families.
I encourage you to enforce U.S. antitrust laws to return a fair and level playing field in the food and agricultural sectors and break up corporations that have violated these laws.
America's farmers, specifically our dairy farmers, deserve justice, before it's too late.