Antitrust Legislation Introduced to Break Up Meatpacking Monopolies

by Colter Brown

Republican Missouri Senator Josh Hawley on Sept. 14, 2023, introduced Strengthening Antitrust Enforcement for Meatpacking Act to empower antitrust enforcers to break up giant meatpacking and poultry monopolies and place power back in the hands of Missouri’s farmers and workers.

The introduction of Senator Hawley’s legislation comes after Tyson Foods announced it will be closing the doors of its poultry plants in southern Missouri, costing the state more than 2,000 jobs.

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said his group “applauds Senator Hawley’s novel approach to addressing the untenable market concentrations faced by America’s cattle and sheep producers.”

“Today’s meatpacking monopolists are making massive profits while shutting down competition,” said Senator Hawley. “Congress must give antitrust prosecutors the power to end anti-competitive behavior without lengthy court battles. It’s time to hold monopolies accountable and empower farmers.”

The Strengthening Antitrust Enforcement for Meatpacking Act would:

  • Amend the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 to establish specific thresholds for market concentration, allowing federal antitrust authorities to more effectively prohibit or unwind acquisitions that concentrate the meatpacking sector.
  • Deter further meatpacking concentration by disincentivizing entrenched meatpacking interests from buying up more competitors.
  • Put more power back in the hands of farmers and workers.

The bill would establish two thresholds for determining the market concentration in the meatpacking industry. Using the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, or HHI, which is a measure of market concentration presently employed by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, the bill would prohibit a merger or acquisition by a meatpacker if the HHI would exceed 1,800, or if a proposed merger or acquisition would increase the meatpacker’s current HHI Index by 100.

The current guidelines consider an HHI below 1,500 to be unconcentrated, an HHI between 1,500 and 2,500 to be moderately concentrated, and an HHI above 2,500 to be a highly concentrated market. The Hawley bill would prohibit mergers currently considered moderately concentrated.

Read the full bill text here.


NAFB/Sen. Hawley

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