OAKLAND – Joining a bipartisan coalition of 32 attorneys general, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced his participation in the Agricultural Competition Partnership, an effort launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to tackle anticompetitive market structures in agriculture and related industries that are raising prices and limiting choices for consumers and producers. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack unveiled the partnership at the White House Competition Council meeting, which marked the second anniversary of President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition.
“When it comes to preventing anticompetitive practices and protecting consumers, the Biden-Harris Administration isn’t just talking the talk; it is also walking the walk,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “I’m proud to be participating in USDA’s Agricultural Competition Partnership. Agriculture is a critical part of the California economy, and I am pleased to have USDA and the Biden-Harris Administration as a partner in addressing threats to competition in this sector.”
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing corporate consolidation and its negative effects on the U.S. economy, such as unfair competition and increased prices,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By placing necessary resources where they are needed most and helping states identify and address anticompetitive and anti-consumer behavior, in partnership with federal authorities, through these cooperative agreements we can ensure a more robust and competitive agricultural sector. I’m pleased to see that a bipartisan group of states have committed to joining USDA in better protecting the fair and competitive markets that are a critical cornerstone of the American economy.”
On December 21, 2021, Attorney General Bonta joined more than a dozen attorneys general in writing USDA to provide information and insights regarding various issues in the agriculture sector. In that letter, the attorneys general recommended that USDA establish a grant that state antitrust enforcers could access to support their efforts to investigate and bring antitrust actions in agricultural markets. On September 26, 2022, USDA issued a challenge for states to partner with USDA on competition in food and agriculture. Today’s announcement formally establishes that partnership.
Under the partnership, USDA is utilizing funds from the Consolidated Appropriations Act to provide enduring and sustainable support for attorneys general to vigorously enforce the antitrust laws for the benefits of consumers, producers, and workers in the agricultural space. Specifically, this initiative will enhance the capacity of attorneys general to conduct on-the-ground assessments of competition and consumer issues, enhance coordination between federal and state agriculture and competition authorities, create new and more independent research programs, and ultimately result in fairer and more competitive markets, and more resilient supply chains.
Focus areas of the Agricultural Competition Partnership include:
USDA is partnering with the Center for State Enforcement of Antitrust and Consumer Protection Laws, a neutral, nonpartisan organization that provides similar support to the states. The State Center is establishing the necessary mechanisms for the attorneys general to cooperate with USDA. Additionally, USDA has engaged the American Antitrust Institute to be a resource for the states on this project.