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Comment Number: AGW-13675
|Sent:||Tuesday, December 29, 2009 12:11 PM|
|Subject:||Public hearings on consolidated agricultural control|
Legal Policy Section
U.S. Depart. of Justice
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments for next year's Department of Justice and USDA hearings, which are a sorely-needed first step to address concentration of ownership in American agriculture. As a grower of fruit, vegetables and nuts and culinary and medicinal herbs, certified organic since 1999 and as a person who has worked in a natural foods consumer owned cooperative for 25 years I have witnessed first-hand the consolidation and control of our food supply in the hands of a few corporations and its effects on food quality and price for over two decades.
Your hearings should address the broad implications of anti-competitive practices that are causing loss of family farms and destroying our rural economies and well as depriving farmers and consumers of their freedom of choice. Also it is one of the greatest threats both to the health and wellbeing of all Americans and the security of our food supply. A combination of vigorous enforcement, regulation, and legislation will be needed to restore competition and level the playing field. These hearing could be a first step in that positive direction.
Our food supply, from seed to grocery store shelf, essentially belongs to a handful of companies among them Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, ADM on the agricultural side and in grocery industry Dean, Kraft, and others. As a result, prices are rising, research and innovation are restricted, fair contracts are difficult to negotiate, and farmers' and consumers' choices are limited The problem is worsening. The effects of concentration are widespread, from seed research to meat processing.
- Costs of seed and other inputs are rising to historic highs while the prices farmers receive are falling.
- Farmers are losing their right to save seed, and independent seed companies are disappearing. More than 200 have disappeared since 1996.
- Farmers do not have the explicit right to bargain collectively, which they need in order to level the playing field and negotiate fair contracts.
- Patents and licensing agreements severely restrict plant breeders' and researchers' access to genetic material and prevent researchers from testing existing varieties.
- Programs at public universities are increasingly dependent on funding from private companies instead of public funds. As a result, publicly-owned seeds and breeds are dwindling, and innovation is declining.
- Manufacturers of GE crops are not held liable for contamination of farmers' crops. In fact, farmers are held liable, even when the GE content provides no economic benefit.
- Contracts often leave farmers with little financial or legal control over their situations and take away their right to privacy.
- The Packers and Stockyards Act prohibits unfair practices in the poultry industry, but it is rarely enforced because enforcement authority is split between the USDA and the Justice Department.
- Lack of regional competition and tacit collusion between poultry companies restrict contract farmers' options.
- The ranking system for contract poultry farmers is not based on true competition, and farmers who lose poultry contracts are not able to recapture their initial investments.
Farmers and consumers deserve an open and fair marketplace. Family farmers, independent companies, and public research are vital to the future of agriculture. These hearings can be an important step as the Justice Department and the USDA work to restore fairness and competition. Please accept these comments and additionally, use them for establishing the scope of your upcoming hearings.
If you require any other comments or information please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for taking action on this most important issue.
Gail Robin Seydel
1940 poplar Lane SW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87105
3361 Columbia NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87107