In Minnesota and across the country, increasing attention is being drawn to the animal agriculture industry and the anti-competitive practices that are being used to benefit a small minority of people along the food supply chain.
At the Land Stewardship Project’s Family Farm Breakfast and Lobby Day in April 2023, LSP members held a town hall meeting with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and members of his office to discuss issues of consolidation and anti-competitiveness in the animal agriculture and healthcare industries. At the town hall, Attorney General Ellison heard from LSP farmer-members who shared their experiences of being small, diversified operators who are in competition with the large industrial operations that have consolidated animal agriculture. Ellison reaffirmed his commitment to working with farmers to take on corporate power and promote competition in the animal ag industry and discussed using, when possible, Minnesota’s antitrust rules.
Minnesota’s antitrust rules are there so that, when enforced, the people of Minnesota can combat monopoly power in any industry. When these rules are enforced, it is typically through a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General or a legal team looking at a specific industry. These lawsuits address a specific operation in the industry that has grown so large as to control or manipulate the entire industry. Price gouging rules and lawsuits are in the same category but focus on protecting a group of consumers rather than a group of operations.
Since the breakfast, members of the Attorney General’s office’s antitrust enforcement division have met with LSP staff and members twice to discuss specific ideas related to how the office can use Minnesota’s antitrust and price gouging protective legislation to help farmers get a fair shake in the animal ag industry. This includes addressing processing and price issues faced by both dairy farmers and pork producers, along with taking on the largest operators in the animal agriculture industry.
These conversations come at a time where Minnesota dairy farmers are once again faced with a major milk price slump. During the summer of 2023, dairy farmers in the Upper Midwest Federal Milk Marketing Order Region have been receiving the lowest milk prices in the nation. This has been made worse locally by the sudden closure of local creameries in southeastern Minnesota, leaving many dairy farmers operating at a deficit and forcing them to make tough choices when it comes to the future of their operations. It should be noted that during this same period, consumers in the Upper Midwest region have been paying extremely high prices for their milk.