New Report Highlights the Scale of Industry Concentration in Agriculture

Brian German Agri-Business

A new report from the Open Market Institute examines the extent of industry concentration in agriculture.  The report, Food and Power: Addressing Monopolization in America’s Food System, provides insight on the degree to which the farm sector has become more concentrated over the previous 40 years.  Some of the areas with the most consolidation were highlighted to provide a better understanding of the issue.

industry concentration Between 1986 and 2015 the market share for the four largest poultry processing businesses grew from 35 percent to 58 percent.  The biggest four hog processors grew their market share from 33 percent to 70 percent between 1976 and 2015.  The beef market has experienced the largest industry concentration in the past four decades.  The largest four beef packing companies have seen their market share grow from 25 percent in 1977, to 85 percent in 2015.  The dairy industry has also seen larger operations grow their market presence, with the overall number of dairy farms dropping from close to 650,000 in 1970 to approximately 40,000 now.

The report also makes note of consolidation within the farm input sector.  Market share for the largest four U.S. corn seed companies grew from 59 percent in 1975 to 85 percent in 2015.  The biggest U.S. soybean seed businesses increased their market share from 42 percent to 76 percent between 1988 and 2015.  There was a significant shift in market share for the four biggest global herbicide and pesticide firms in just nine years; growing from 59 percent in 2008 to 84 percent in 2017.

The impact of industry concentration on food service management was also highlighted in the report, as well as a list of potential solutions to help address the issue.  The report suggests things such as better enforcement of antitrust laws to prevent future agribusiness mergers from further concentrating the industry, along with better prosecution of predatory pricing tactics.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West