Food prices are back on the march, and the powerful U.S. farm lobby faces a day of reckoning on Wednesday as the Obama administration wraps up a yearlong study into competition and consolidation in the agricultural sector.
The Departments of Justice and Agriculture are holding their fifth and final workshop to review the competitive landscape in food production and livestock rearing after a unique collaboration that has left some of the industry’s largest players looking nervously over their shoulders.
Monsanto Co. is already embroiled in a Justice Department investigation into alleged anticompetitive practices linked to the sale and distribution of genetically modified seeds that dominate U.S. farming. Dean Foods Inc., the country’s largest milk producer, has also seen antitrust officials move to block a small acquisition.
Lawmakers already have had to wrestle with external forces on the sector, such as the rise of speculative funds that critics contend have inflated prices. The latest run-up in commodity prices has also reawakened the long-running food-versus-fuel debate as Congress decides whether to renew subsidies to the ethanol industry.