Ag Antitrust and the Packers & Stockyards Act

Michael Sykuta —  29 April 2010

The theme of the newest issue of the CPI Antitrust Chronicle focuses on agriculture and antitrust. The issue includes a paper by yours truly on the difficulties of effectively using the Packers & Stockyards Act of 1921 as an alternate means for enforcing competition policy in the agriculture sector (see here; also available at SSRN here).  Below is a psuedo-abstract of the paper (since there is not a formal abstract on the publication itself):

Consolidation and increased concentration in the agrifood sector over the past two decades, combined with an increased use of alternative marketing agreements in the poultry and livestock industries, have fueled concerns of anti-competitive behavior among large agribusinesses such as the major meat packing companies. The DOJ and USDA have partnered together in a pledge to strengthen enforcement both of antitrust restrictions and of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (“PSA”). This paper provides a brief overview of the ongoing changes in the meat and livestock industries and the role of the PSA. The paper then outlines several challenges facing the successful and efficient use of the PSA as a competition policy from both theoretical and empirical economic perspectives. I argue that regulators need to tread carefully into their newly launched enforcement partnership given how little is well understood of the factors leading to the existing system and, therefore, the likely consequences associated with more aggressive enforcement in the name of competition.