Big Food’s M&A Craze Comes at a High Price: What Investors Should Know

Competition becomes almost non-existent

Even though consumers will certainly feel the sting of Big Food’s shift toward consolidation, farmers, some experts worry, are likely to be hit the hardest of all. Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities Inc. said in an interview with USA Today that his biggest concern is that farmers, who make their living supplying livestock, corn and other commodities to major meat and food processors will lose “crucial leverage” in negotiating prices following the further concentration of an already concentrated meat processing industry.

“If you have fewer choices as to sell to, it means you don’t have as much competition, and competition is something that usually helps” to get a better price, Roose added.

“Meat processing is already highly concentrated, and the companies trying to acquire Hillshire are two of the largest processors,” commented Chuck Grassley, a Senate Agriculture and Judiciary committee member. “If an acquisition becomes final, the Justice Department ought to scrutinize details on behalf of both consumers and family farmers with the goal of a competitive marketplace,” he added.

The evidence is in our existing agricultural system. According to the Labor Department, the average age of the American farmer is 55.9. Further, an EPA report notes that just 1 percent of the American population claim farming as their occupation, and of those, just 45 percent claimed farming as their primary occupation. Research has also suggested that between the years 1982-2007, very few young people have jumped in to take their place. Why? Often it’s because industry consolidation means that farmers are reduced to glorified serfs, begrudingly selling their livestock to a small handful of conglomerate processors for whatever price that company chooses.

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