Obama’s Game of Chicken

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Photo: The White House/Flickr
Media Outlet: Washington Monthly

Lina Khan wrote in Washington Monthly about consolidation in the poultry industry and the Obama administration's ill-fated efforts to address the issue.

The message seemed to be clear: the highest brass in the Obama administration was listening closely to how America’s independent farmers are pushed around by big companies, and they were no longer going to tolerate it.
For the next seven months, Holder, Vilsack, Varney, and other officials from the Departments of Justice and Agriculture toured the country, hearing from more farmers and rural advocates. Along the way, they learned about concentration in the seed, pig, cattle, and dairy industries, as well as in poultry. During this same period, the USDA also worked on revising and updating the main law that regulates the livestock industries to prevent many of the unfair and deceptive practices that now threaten the dignity and survival of farmers and ranchers. From dairy farms in Wisconsin to cattle ranches in Montana, hopes soared.
But today, two years on, almost nothing has changed. Big processing companies remain free to treat independent poultry, cattle, and dairy producers largely as they please. “You had farmer after farmer after farmer telling the same story, basically pleading for help, and absolutely nothing has come of it,” said Craig Watts, a poultry farmer from Fairmont, North Carolina, who drove 512 miles to attend the hearing in Alabama. Staples agreed. “We had really thought something might change.”

Author:

Lina Khan was a fellow with the Open Markets program at New America, where she researched the concentration of power in America’s political economy and the evolution of antitrust laws.