LEAP and TAP to Cohost Conference on Antitrust and the Food System on January 16

On Saturday, January 16, 2021, Yale School of Management’s Thurman Arnold Project and Yale Law School’s Law, Ethics & Animals Program will cohost an online conference examining the role of antitrust and competition policy in creating and potentially improving today’s food system.

Critics decry the present concentration of power in the U.S. food system. The four largest U.S. pork producers, beef producers, soybean processors, and wet corn processors control over 70 percent of their markets, while the four largest grain companies control over 90 percent of theirs. Agrochemical, farm equipment, livestock genetics, seed, and many consumer product industries are likewise now controlled by just a few mega-sized firms.

Yale’s day-long event will explore how this concentration of power contributes to labor exploitation, malnutrition, rural degradation, animal cruelty, climate change, pollution, racial inequity, and other problems of modern agriculture, as well as how competition policy reforms can address these harms. The Big-Ag & Antitrust Conference will feature a keynote address and panels focused on farming and labor, the meat and dairy industries, intellectual property, animal welfare, government regulation, and agricultural reforms.

The conference will feature 18 original papers exploring these questions. Scheduled for one week before the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden, the conference aims to help catalyze positive change in the food system by generating new ideas for policy reforms, sparking further research, inspiring heightened enforcement and attention to the harms of agricultural consolidation, and forging ties among academics, advocates, lawyers, journalists, and policymakers.

“These papers illuminate the sources and mechanisms of power that operate on the agricultural industry and explain how they harm consumers, producers, workers, and animal welfare,” said conference co-chair Melody Wang ’21. “Beyond their diagnoses, these authors are also proposing provocative interventions in regimes ranging from GIPSA rulemaking to the enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the problems associated with the concentration of power in industrial animal agriculture,” said conference co-chair Manny Rutinel ’22. “Large agribusiness has leveraged its economic power into a political power that bends the market further in its favor. I hope the proposals and insight from this conference have a profound effect on the environment, workers, public health, and animal welfare concerns associated with this outdated industry.”

The conference is free and open to the public. To attend the conference and receive updates, please register here. The conference schedule, with panel topics and research abstracts, is available here.