DOJ Assistant Attorney General visits Minnesota farm
ST. PAUL – Minnesota Farmers Union members Danny and Mary Lundell hosted Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division on their farm Tuesday. Kanter and other division officials heard from community members about how the lack of competition in the marketplace impacts their lives and livelihoods.
“We hosted the event because we want to do what we can to create a better world for our granddaughters,” said Danny Lundell, who farms and runs a small business near Cannon Falls. “Mary and I have seen the impact of consolidation as small businesses die on Main Street and are eaten up by huge monopoly big box stores. We want to encourage a more transparent and honest business climate.”
Deborah Keaveny, who owns Keaveny Drug in Winsted and started ‘MnIndys’ to bring independent pharmacies in Minnesota together in advocacy, was one of the people who shared her comments with Kanter.
“Small, independent pharmacies are closing their doors across Minnesota due to vertical integration, anticompetitive practices and the greed of pharmacy benefit managers,” Keaveny said. “Patient access and quality healthcare is at risk if these practices are not stopped and stopped quickly.”
Between 2010 and 2019, Minnesota lost 30 percent of its small, independently owned pharmacies, according to the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. Chain drugstores have also announced closures in recent weeks, citing lower reimbursement rates for prescription drugs.
Pharmacies aren’t the only health care sectors impacted by consolidation. Deborah Meyer, a retired nurse who is a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association Governmental Affairs Commission, said consolidation is affecting patient care.
“Worthington Regional Hospital was a public facility until it, like many other hospitals in Greater Minnesota, was bought by Sanford Health. Since then, we have watched Sanford close departments and reduce services, putting the needs of big business before the needs of our patients,” said Meyer, of Worthington. “We need more local control of our hospitals by patients, workers and the community, not more corporate control by wealthy healthcare executives.”
Leslie Kaup, a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa, has watched many of the same changes occur at Albert Lea.
“In 1996, Mayo bought the Albert Lea Hospital, promising world-class healthcare services would continue, even expand,” said Kaup, who has lived in the area for 15 years and worked as a cook at the hospital for nine years. “Gradually, Mayo has chipped away at health care in our community. I’ve lost count of how many different health care providers I’ve seen in the past 15 years here. This is not conducive to building a trusting, confidential relationship and leads to poor health outcomes.”
Main Street Alliance was represented during the discussion by Angela Schwesnedl, MSA member and owner of Moon Palace Bookstore in Minneapolis.
This is the first time in recent history that the Assistant Attorney General has met directly with community members on a farm.
About Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org, and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org).