BILLINGS, Mont., Dec. 19, 2023 – Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released their new final 2023 Merger Guidelines. The guidelines are meant to promote fair, open and competitive markets by preventing mergers that would substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly.
R-CALF USA offered input since the agencies began the process to update the federal merger guidelines in January 2022. The group initially stated that the previous merger guidelines did not adequately address buyer power upstream in the supply chain and far too much emphasis was put on market efficiencies, which has dismantled the competitive marketing channels within the U.S. cattle supply chain.
In the earlier merger guidelines issued in the 90s, the agencies were encouraged to consider expected economic efficiencies when they determined whether to challenge a merger. But many organizations, including R-CALF USA, argued the old guidelines improperly allowed mergers of companies that would result in reduced market competition provided the companies could show an increase in efficiencies.
The new guidelines establish that protecting competition, even when efficiencies are claimed, is a primary objective of the nation’s antitrust laws.
“Decades of lax antitrust enforcement, due in large part to favoring efficiencies over competition, has destroyed rural economies, and pushed hundreds of thousands of American farmers and ranchers out of business,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “We must restore and strengthen competition and these merger guidelines are a meaningful step toward that.”
R-CALF USA submitted comprehensive comments last year urging the DOJ and FTC to investigate the vertical integration of cattle feedlots. In September, the organization joined with Food & Water Watch and several other groups in comments that expressed its strong support of the proposed merger guideline updates that followed President Biden’s Executive Order on Competition.