Minnesota Farmers Union members testify in support of antitrust proposals

ST. PAUL – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Gary Wertish and MFU member Brad Kluver of Lakeville today testified in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee in support of bills designed to improve and update Minnesota’s antitrust tools.

“Over the years, consolidation and market power concentration has caused many family farmers to quit farming,” President Wertish said. “The loss of family farmers has been felt on small town Main Streets as there are less people going to buy products from their local hardware store, sending children to their local schools or supporting other local businesses. A lot of this goes back to lax enforcement of antitrust laws at the federal level. If there’s a business out there that uses their market power to take advantage of the market situation, the Attorney General doesn’t have the ability to stop it. That’s the importance of getting these bills passed.”

HF4143, sponsored by Rep. Steve Elkins, DFL-Bloomington, defines monopoly power as a seller’s power to control prices, control market supply or exclude or suppress competition. It also defines monopsony power as a buyer’s power to control prices, to control market demand or exclude or suppress competition for input.

HF4142, also sponsored by Elkins, would strengthen Minnesota’s price discrimination statue, similar to the federal Robinson Patman Act, which prohibits certain types of price discrimination.

These bills were first proposed by Minnesota’s Attorney General, who testified in support of the legislation.

“Fair competition is supposed to be the backbone of markets,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “When markets don’t have fair competition, costs can go up, while quality, choice and innovation can go down. Consolidation of markets and decreased competition make it harder for all Minnesotans to afford their lives. Fair markets, on the other hand, help everyone in our economy do better.”

Kluver, whose family raises corn, soybeans and hogs in Dakota County, spoke to the importance of fair markets.

“Having a robust cash or negotiated market is imperative to my farm and the profitability of farmers moving forward,” he said. “As we look at farms and profitability, despite raising more livestock, the margin per animal raised continues to narrow every year. And by having more consolidation on the buying side, it leads to less opportunity to negotiate that cash price on the hogs I raise.”

The bills were laid over.

This effort to support strengthening Minnesota’s antitrust legislation is part of a broader Fairness for Farmers campaign launched by National Farmers Union. Learn more about the campaign at https://nfu.org/fairness-for-farmers/.

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).