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HomeRegional NewsMinnesota Farmers Union Urges Congress to Fund DOJ’s Antitrust Work

Minnesota Farmers Union Urges Congress to Fund DOJ’s Antitrust Work

ST. PAUL – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) today senta letterto members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation urging members to work to eliminate language in the recently unveiled federal budget agreement that would undermine funding for the Antitrust Division at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Unfortunately, in the budget deal that was unveiled this weekend, the progress that has been made towards reviving antitrust enforcement would be reversed,” said MFU President Gary Wertish in the letter to Minnesota’s Congressional delegation. “The work of the Antitrust Division is not just important for farmers and the agricultural economy; it is critical for rural communities and the health of Minnesota’s economy and democracy more generally.”

On Sunday, Congressional leaders released proposals to fund parts of the federal government for fiscal year 2024. Contained in that agreement is the appropriation for the Antitrust Division. The $233 million allocated in that agreement is well below the $325 million that President Biden recommended and below the $278 million the Congressional Budget Office has estimated will be generated by merger filing fees, which companies pay when they submit an acquisition for review by the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission.

Those fees were increased in 2022 by the bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act authored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D–Minn., which adjusted the fees for the first time since 2001 with the intention of providing additional funding for antitrust enforcement. The agreement would also restrict the Antitrust Division’s ability to fully collect those fees and potentially cost the agency hundreds of millions of dollars in the long term. The number of staff at the Antitrust Division remains below what it was in 1979.

“These changes to the Antitrust Division’s funding are not only the opposite of what was intended through passage of the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act but is also antithetical to President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” Wertish wrote in the letter.

In October MFU welcomed Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, who heads the Antitrust Division, to Minnesota. Kanter participated in an antitrust symposium at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, met with state legislators and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, and visited a farm in Cannon Falls where he held a roundtable with farmers, workers and small business owners to discuss the challenges corporate monopolies present.

The Antitrust Division filed an antitrust lawsuit last year in Minnesota against the data firm Agri Stats.  The lawsuit alleges that Agri Stats, which runs extensive data exchanges that collect massive amounts of data on producers, has enabled price-fixing among the major meat processors that are given access to that detailed data. Meat processing has become highly consolidated with four companies controlling 85 percent of beef processing, 67 percent of pork processing and 54 percent of poultry processing.

About Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org, and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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