Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), and John Thune (R-SD) introduced legislation on agricultural competition. The measure would coordinate USDA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) efforts and initiate sharing of expertise and data when considering agribusiness mergers.

The bill would create an Ag Competition Task Force to assist DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in drafting antitrust guidelines for agriculture, examine problems in competition, and coordinate activities to address anti-competitive practices. The task force would consist of representatives of industry, state departments of agriculture, state attorneys general, farmers, ranchers and independent producers, as well as agricultural law and economics experts, USDA, DOJ and FTC.

It would also direct DOJ and FTC, in consultation with a working group of the Ag Competition Task Force, to draft agricultural-specific guidelines to use when reviewing mergers. Other aspects include:

  • Amends antitrust laws to shift the burden of proof in agribusiness mergers to the defendant to prove the merger won't substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly.

  • Requires DOJ and FTC to conduct a post-merger review of certain agribusiness mergers five years after approval.

  • Formalizes USDA's review of mergers with the DOJ and FTC, giving USDA an integral role in anti-trust approval process in every merger.

  • Creates USDA Office of Competition and Fair Practices, headed by Special Counsel for Competition Matters.

  • Creates DOJ Deputy Assistant Attorney General with responsibility for agricultural matters.