The Thurman Arnold Project at Yale (TAP @ Yale) and the Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School are delighted to co-host “Big Ag & Antitrust: Competition Policy for a Sustainable and Humane Food System,” a virtual conference on the role and power of antitrust and competition law and policy in shaping the American food system. The conference will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2021. The conference is free and open to the public. Register as an attendee here: https://bit.ly/30cZPHw

About the Conference


Since the mid-20th century, a handful of corporations have grown to dominate America’s farm and food sectors. Today, the country’s four largest pork producers, beef producers, soybean processors, and wet corn processors control over 70 percent of their respective markets. Four companies control 90 percent of the global grain trade. Agrochemical, seed, and many consumer product industries are likewise now controlled by just a few mega-sized firms. The implications of these corporations’ consolidated market power -- and in turn their consolidated political power -- are profound for people, animals, the environment, and our democracy alike.

In recent years, a growing tide of scholars, lawmakers, and members of the public at large have expressed increasing concern that food- and agribusiness corporations have become too big and too powerful. Many critics have called for a revival of stricter antitrust enforcement, more assertive antitrust authorities, and a general rebalancing of economic power.

The aim of this conference is to explore the role of antitrust and competition policy in creating America’s food system and its potential for improving it. We hope the conference will help spark future research, heightened enforcement attention, and new ideas for policy reforms toward achieving more competitive, sustainable, and humane agriculture markets.

The conference strives to serve as a focal point for academics, enforcers, policymakers, practitioners, journalists, and beyond to convene and share ideas for how to jointly address concentration in agriculture. The conference will discuss what kinds of reforms are needed in antitrust enforcement and regulation to address problems in the food system and how these changes should be designed. It will also consider the relationship between competition policy and broader concerns associated with industrial agriculture—including climate change, animal welfare, sustainability, public health, and inequalities facing workers, farmers, and rural communities. In addition, the conference will consider policy recommendations, including changes in the interpretation of antitrust laws and doctrines, new legislation, regulations, enforcement practices, and the institutional organization of agencies.

The authors of selected papers will be invited to present their work at a virtual conference on Saturday, January 16, 2021.

Call for Abstracts


We welcome submissions that consider (1) antitrust law and competition policy, (2) the impacts of agribusiness on the living world, and (3) related legal, economic, regulatory, or policy discussions. Potential research questions include, but are not limited to:  

  • What harms to workers, farmers, animals, and the public are caused by concentration in industries such as meatpacking?
  • What new antitrust concerns do today’s agribusinesses present? What new ways of thinking or tools are needed to tackle these concerns? 
  • What policies contributed to consolidation in the agriculture sector (e.g., USDA policies, trade agreements, etc.)?
  • Even if competition policy cannot directly fix problems in inequality, sustainability, and climate change, how would more vigorous promotion of competition in rural markets have an impact in these areas?
    • What is the relationship between competition policy and animal welfare?
    • What is the relationship between competition policy and working conditions?
    • What is the relationship between competition policy and food system resiliency?
    • What is the relationship between competition policy and local rural economies?
    • What is the relationship between competition policy and systemic racism?
  • What horizontal and vertical changes would increase the resiliency of the food system?
  • Which institutions are best equipped, and what institutional set-up would best contribute to, promoting competitiveness in the economy? What institutional reforms might be needed at existing bodies?
  • How has COVID-19 illuminated the risks of consolidation in the food system?

How to Participate


Please submit an abstract of up to 500 words to austin.frerick@yale.edu by November 6, 2020. If your abstract is selected, your final paper will be due January 4, 2020.

We welcome submissions from legal scholars and lawyers, economists, sociologists, political scientists, historians, and other academics, as well as current graduate and professional school students, government officials, and individuals affiliated with advocacy organizations, think tanks, and non-profits.

For further questions, please contact Thurman Arnold Project Deputy Director Austin Frerick (austin.frerick@yale.edu).

Sponsoring Organizations


The Thurman Arnold Project (TAP@Yale) launched in fall 2019 in response to the growing interest in competition enforcement by scholars, students, and the general public. The project is named in honor of Thurman Arnold, Yale Law Professor and head of the Antitrust Division from 1938-43, to capture the intellectual and enforcement tradition he represented, as well as his zeal for achieving competitive markets for the people of the United States. The project was founded by Professor Fiona Scott Morton, an economist at the School of Management, and is designed to bring together Yale scholars and students who are interested in antitrust to engage with one another and create rigorous antitrust research and policy, disseminate it, and enable links to enforcement and regulatory policy.

The Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School, also launched in fall 2019, is a multidisciplinary think-and-do tank at Yale dedicated to: (1) drawing the attention of leading thinkers and doers to the deep questions of conscience and law that human-animal relationships and industrialized animal cruelty raise; and (2) empowering Yale University scholars and students to produce positive legal and political change for animals, people, and the environment upon which they depend.

Student conference co-chairs:

Melody Wang ’21

Manny Rutinel ’22

Alexander Weiss ’22

Questions:

Please contact Thurman Arnold Project Deputy Director Austin Frerick with questions: austin.frerick@yale.edu.