Big agriculture fights back against Sen. Elizabeth Warren's call to break up industry
· "You've got these giant corporations that are making bigger and bigger profits for themselves, for their executives, for their investors, and they're putting the squeeze on family farms, on small farms," Warren says.
· The 2020 presidential candidate also wants to overhaul the government's commodities checkoff program to make it voluntary for farmers to make payments.
· Big agribusiness groups suggest Warren's policy proposals are detached from reality and say what's needed is a focus on growing U.S. exports, not adding regulations.
Jeff Daniels, CNBC
Apr 5, 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Warren's call to break up big agriculture has stirred a debate, but industry groups are fighting back, with one group saying her "proposals seriously miss the mark."
"You've got these giant corporations that are making bigger and bigger profits for themselves, for their executives, for their investors, and they're putting the squeeze on family farms, on small farms," the Democratic presidential hopeful told attendees at the Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, on Saturday. "Twenty years ago, 600 different outfits were selling seed; today it's basically six."
The senator also released a policy post on Medium last week that focused on "leveling the playing field for America's family farmers."
But big agribusiness groups suggest Warren's policy proposals are detached from reality and say what's needed is a focus on growing exports, not adding regulations.
The Massachusetts Democrat has criticized "immense market power" created by mergers and expansion, targeting seed giants, big chicken companies and meat processors. The Democrat also has vowed to install "trustbusters to review — and reverse — anti-competitive mergers."
"We disagree with the premise and the policies outlined," said Jim Monroe, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, a trade group. "The U.S. pork production system is the envy of the world. It is also highly export dependent. What U.S. pork producers and the other American farm families need are expanded export opportunities, not more regulations."
Warren has also been critical of the government's commodity checkoff programs, funded by farmers, that are used to promote products such as soybeans, milk, beef and pork. She backs a bill, reintroduced last week by a bipartisan group of senators, to reform the commodity programs and wants farmer checkoff payments to be voluntary. She said the system is now "rigged against family farmers."
"If Senator Warren's goal is to help cattle farmers and ranchers, her policy proposals seriously miss the mark," said Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a trade group. "The ideas she outlines are nothing more than recycled policies promoted by some of the leading opponents of animal agriculture."
Warren's campaign did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.
Warren also targeted recent mergers involving Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-Dupont and Syngenta-ChemChina — companies supplying seeds and other products to farmers. She singled out those companies last week in her policy post and called for the breakup of big agricultural mergers...