Archives For ag/antitrust workshop

UPDATE:  Trying to find the right hash tag for the event, I’ve changed the title of this post and we’ll follow the convention for our live blogging today–posts from the Workshop will all have “#agworkshop” in the title.

Later this week Mike Sykuta and I will be winging our way to Iowa on behalf of the ICLE to attend the first of the year-long series of DOJ/USDA Workshops on Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues.  You can find the agenda for the first workshop, to be held Friday, March 12 in Ankeny, Iowa, here.  Intrepid reporters, we, our plan is to “live blog” the event for those of you unable to attend.  This first workshop, in addition to introducing the series, will focus on farming, which means seeds, which means the dispute between DuPont and Monsanto over licensing terms and everyone’s perennial favorite: industry concentration.

The agenda clearly reflects the highly-politicized nature of the issues under discussion, and, for example, a few news reports have suggested that the agenda has changed in response to pressure from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.  Regardless, we expect a lively and interesting discussion.

For ease of reference all of our blogs from the workshop will be categorized under “ag/antitrust workshop,” and each post will have “DOJ/USDA Workshop” in the title.

TOTM is no stranger to the issues, and Mike and I have blogged a few times about the antitrust/licensing issues involved.  See:

Competition in Agriculture Redux (Manne, Kieff and Wright)

Competition in Agriculture (Sykuta)

Monsanto’s Licensing Case Victory (Manne)

Yet More Evidence Against the DOJ’s Antitrust Plantings (Sykuta)

The Seeds of an Antitrust Disaster (Manne)

DOJ Disconnect: Do We Really Need a Roadshow? (Sykuta)

Together with Scott Kieff and Joshua Wright, we also submitted a comment to the DOJ on the topic, “Comment on Intellectual Property, Concentration and the Limits of Antitrust in the Biotech Seed Industry,” available here (SSRN) or here (if you prefer to get it directly from the DOJ website).

The news has also been covering the seed industry antitrust issues, the DOJ/USDA workshops and agricultural antitrust issues more generally, and you can find a host of relevant news articles here.

We’re looking forward to the workshops and to your comments on the day’s events.

Heritage Of A Taco

Michael Sykuta —  9 March 2010

Thanks to Peter Klein over at O&M for bringing attention to this image created by a group of California design students showing the network of suppliers necessary to produce the taco enjoyed at their favorite local taco truck.

While the purpose of their picture is to illustrate the ecological footprint (“tacoshed”) of their favorite tacos, the image illustrates just how complex is the nature of the food supply system.  It also illustrates why agribusiness firms (and other suppliers to the food system) have comprised a larger share of the average food dollar over the past several decades (relative to the farm level), as supply chains have lengthened to various corners of the globe.

In light of the DOJ/USDA antitrust workshops that begin later this week in Ankeny, IA, this picture illustrates what many participants in the program will likely ignore: the US food system is intricately intertwined with international markets and linked together by the same (large) agribusinesses that are under attack by populist farmer groups. While that is not a defense against competition concerns, it does suggest the nature of competition is much more complex (and hence more complicated to understand) than the simple “big is bad” finger pointing promised by the composition of the DOJ’s “discussion” panels.