Momentous White House Executive Order Aims to Break the Corporate Stranglehold in Food and Farming

Today, President Biden issued a sweeping Executive Order directing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies to revive antitrust enforcement and promote competition throughout the U.S. economy. Key provisions from this Executive Order were drawn from Family Farm Action’s playbook for the Biden administration, Build Back Better: Our Call to Action and Roadmap for Rural America.

The Order aims to break up abusive monopoly power in food and agriculture by issuing directives to multiple agencies. The USDA is to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act, clarify “Product of the USA” label standards, and invest in competitive markets through local and regional meat processing capabilities; the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must implement merger guidelines to their full extent, even challenging past problematic agrifood corporation mergers; and the FTC is to regulate Right to Repair rules in such a way as to allow farmers to fix their own equipment. 

The Order also requires USDA to issue a report on the impact of market concentration in seeds and other agriculture inputs, and requires the FTC and USDA to jointly issue a report on the impact of concentration on the retail grocery sector.

Joe Maxwell, President of Family Farm Action Alliance, a Missouri farmer, and former Lieutenant Governor, said: “We thank President Biden for his bold and decisive actions today on behalf of family farmers and the American people. Family Farm Action Alliance and other food and farm organizations have worked tirelessly for the changes Biden has ordered. Not since Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt has a President taken on corporate power to this extent. This will likely be Biden’s legacy as it was theirs. We look forward to working with the administration to get these issues across the finish line.”

According to our research, four companies currently control 85% of beef processing, 80% of soybean processing, and 67% of pork processing. No greater concentration of corporate power, monopolistic practices, and exclusion of economic prosperity exists than in the food and agriculture markets. Because our government has failed to do its job, a handful of transnational corporations and their overpaid CEOs control our farm and food system, driving family farmers off the land, abusing workers, degrading our environment, and leaving consumers without healthy and safe food choices. 

Today’s Order is one of several recent signs that the tide may be turning, coming as it does on the heels of actions by the USDA and FTC to rein in corporate power. On June 11, the USDA’s spring regulatory agenda contained critical changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act, most notably with regard to competitive injury. Then, at a public meeting on July 1, the FTC passed the “Made in the USA” (MUSA) Rule, which requires all meat and meat products to be 100% “born, raised, and slaughtered” in the U.S. Hours later, the USDA announced a complementary initiative to heighten transparency for meat and meat products using the “Product of USA” label. In tandem, both labeling rules will protect honest companies and consumers from the misleading practices of meatpacking companies. Thanks to bold actions like these, the balance of power in our food and agriculture system is tipping toward farmers, ranchers, and the American people. 

The White House has published a Fact Sheet, Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.

Media Contact: Joe Maxwell, jmaxwell@farmactionalliance.org

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