Arkansas AG joins USDA partnership on food, agri consumer protection effort

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 758 views 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a partnership between the agency and bipartisan attorneys general in 31 states and the District of Columbia to enhance competition and protect consumers in food and agricultural markets, including in grocery, meat and poultry processing, and other markets.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is one of the AGs participating.

This new partnership will assist state attorneys general in tackling anticompetitive market structures in agriculture and related industries that are raising prices and limiting choices for consumers and producers.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing corporate consolidation and its negative effects on the U.S. economy, such as unfair competition and increased prices,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By placing necessary resources where they are needed most and helping states identify and address anticompetitive and anti-consumer behavior, in partnership with federal authorities, through these cooperative agreements we can ensure a more robust and competitive agricultural sector. I’m pleased to see that a bipartisan group of states have committed to joining USDA in better protecting the fair and competitive markets that are a critical cornerstone of the American economy.”

Under this new Agricultural Competition Partnership, USDA is investing in opportunities to combine state and federal authorities, expertise, and market insights. The agency is also leveraging funds to support complex cases and to jointly support research and academic work for use in future cases.

“I am participating in the USDA’s Agricultural Competition Challenge because this initiative will help Arkansans through the promotion of competition in food and agricultural markets. State attorneys general now have a financial resource to aid in research, investigation and law enforcement in the area of agricultural competition. Strong industry competition makes food more accessible and easier to afford. That’s good for all Arkansans,” Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.

The focus areas of the Agricultural Competition Partnership include:

  • Anticompetitive market structures and practices, as well as price gouging and other anti-consumer practices, in food, retail, meat and poultry processing, and other agriculture industries.
  • Lack of choices for consumers and producers.
  • Conflicts of interest, misuse of intellectual property, and anticompetitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains, such as in seed markets.

At the request of the states, USDA is partnering with the Center for State Enforcement of Antitrust and Consumer Protection Laws, a neutral, nonpartisan organization that provides similar support to the states.

The State Center is establishing the necessary mechanisms for the attorneys general to cooperate with USDA. These mechanisms include an oversight committee to establish the project governance and transparency standards for the partnership, and a project selection advisory committee that will review project requests and recommend approval. Both committees will be composed of participating state attorney general offices. Additionally, USDA has engaged the American Antitrust Institute to be a resource for the states on this project.

USDA also announced the formal establishment of the Farmer Seed Liaison initiative, which aims to enhance transparency and reduce confusion for growers and plant breeders operating in a complex seed system.

The Farmer Seed Liaison initiative launched in March following publication of the report, More and Better Choices for Farmers: Promoting Fair Competition and Innovation in Seeds and Other Agricultural Inputs. USDA continues to implement the report’s recommendations to help make the nation’s seed system more competitive and resilient.

The Farmer Seed Liaison has now been formalized in the form of a coordinated team of USDA staff and academic cooperators who will work together to develop strategies for connecting farmers, plant breeders, seed producers, and other impacted stakeholders with other federal agencies.

As part of the Farmer Seed Liaison efforts, USDA announced the launch of a new web resource to simplify access to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) pending docket of plant patents and plant breeding-related utility patents.