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Minnesota Farmers Union Urges Congressional Action to Preserve DOJ Antitrust Funding

 |  March 11, 2024

The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) has implored members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to rectify what they perceive as a grievous undermining of funding for the Antitrust Division at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The call to action comes in response to language embedded within the recently unveiled federal budget agreement, which the MFU contends would jeopardize strides made towards revitalizing antitrust enforcement efforts.

MFU’s President Gary Wertish underscored the significance of preserving the Antitrust Division’s capabilities, emphasizing its pivotal role not only in safeguarding the interests of farmers and the agricultural sector but also in fortifying rural communities and nurturing the broader economic and democratic fabric of Minnesota.

At the heart of the issue lies the stark disparity between the proposed allocation for the Antitrust Division in the federal budget agreement and the funding imperatives outlined by President Biden and estimated by the Congressional Budget Office. While the agreement allots $233 million, notably below both the President’s recommendation of $325 million and the projected $278 million generated from merger filing fees, concerns mount over the potentially crippling effect of this shortfall.

Related: DOJ Indicts 4 Companies For Price Fixing DVDs & Blu-Ray Discs On Amazon Marketplace

Central to the funding conundrum are the merger filing fees, which were bolstered through the bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act championed by Senator Amy Klobuchar. The Act, enacted in 2022, aimed to enhance antitrust enforcement by recalibrating these fees for the first time in over two decades.

However, the proposed budget agreement not only falls short of leveraging these augmented fees but also introduces constraints that could impede the Antitrust Division’s ability to harness them fully, exacerbating a shortfall that could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars over time.

Wertish underscored the paradox between the intended objectives of the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act and the current budgetary provisions, characterizing them as antithetical to President Biden’s vision outlined in the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.

The urgency of the MFU’s appeal is underscored by recent developments, including the Antitrust Division’s vigorous pursuit of justice in Minnesota. Last year, the Division filed a landmark antitrust lawsuit against Agri Stats, alleging they had facilitated price-fixing among major meat processors through expansive data exchanges that shed a light on the harms of market consolidation, with a handful of companies having extensive control over beef, pork, and poultry processing.

Source: MFU