Bill to Address Merger Problems Introduced

Legislation creates competition task force.

Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Herb Kohl, D-Minn., have introduced legislation to, what they say, will ensure a level playing field for all market participants in the agriculture industry, including the independent producer and family farmer.

"The lack of enforcement and a propensity by the Department of Justice to approve agriculture mega-mergers leads us to believe that we need to beef up our laws to address vertical integration, concentration and predatory business practices," Grassley said.

The Agriculture Competition Enhancement Act of 2009 creates an Agriculture Competition Task Force to assist Justice and the Federal Trade Commission in drafting agriculture antitrust guidelines, examine problems in agriculture competition, and coordinate activities to address anti-competitive practices. It also amends antitrust laws to shift the burden of proof in agribusiness mergers to the defendant to prove that the merger will not substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly in one or more geographic markets.

The bill also provides for several levels of federal review, before and after the fact. And it creates a USDA Office of Competition and Fair Practices, headed by Special Counsel for Competition Matters and a DOJ Deputy Assistant Attorney General with responsibility for agriculture matters.

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