WASHINGTON, D.C. - American farmers can't expect antitrust enforcement to solve every problem said Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, in opening comments at today's USDA/Department of Justice competition workshop.
"We know that antitrust enforcement actions will not solve every problem. We know that," Holder said. "But, because of the insights you've provided, when the circumstances warrant legal intervention, I believe we will be better prepared to take the steps necessary to ensure a fair and competitive agricultural marketplace – for both producers and consumers."
Today's session, spotlighting farm and retail margins, concluded a series of five workshops that began in Iowa last March, focusing on seed, dairy, livestock and poultry.
American farmers want market transparency, market fairness and robust competition, Holder said. "In my view, and in President Obama's view, that is exactly what they deserve."
In earlier workshops a number of themes emerged, said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Producers want to maintain or have marketing options," he said. "They want transparency. They face challenges in accessing capital. They just want to be treated fairly. Most important of all, they care about the future of Ag, which is why we have seen so much attendance at these workshops."
The workshop in Washington had about 500 in attendance, mostly farmers and ranchers.
"What's been clear throughout this workshop series – and in the thousands of public comments we received over the past year – is that America's farmers and producers work hard," said Holder. "They are not asking for a handout. What they want is a level playing field – nothing more, nothing less."
The goal of the workshops, he added, was to ensure fairness and make sure agriculture was "as profitable as it can be," and that "we put as much transparency into the system as possible.
"Our pledge is to continue to listen," he concluded. "We have thoughts and ideas but we know we don't have all of the answers. That has been one of the values of these workshops."