No longer just a parlor game, monopoly is what’s for dinner. Practically every commodity and every step in producing our families’ most essential consumer purchase is in the tight grip of four or fewer global conglomerates:
Four chemical giants control more than two-thirds of the world market for commercial seeds.
Tyson Foods and three other meatpackers control 60 percent of the US poultry market, while just three global packers control 85 percent of the US beef market and 71 percent of the pork market.
Four multinational grain trading powers control 90 percent of all grain (corn, wheat, rice, etc.) marketed in the world.
John Deere and an Italian conglomerate control nearly half of the US market for tractors and other farm machinery.
The biggest buyers of farmland are multibillion-dollar Wall Street speculators, jacking up per-acre prices beyond what family farmers (especially young people trying to get into farming) can pay; indeed, the largest owner of US ag land is super-rich tech mogul Bill Gates, who holds land in a dozen states that would amount to nearly a 400-square mile farm (bigger than four Seattles, the sprawling metropolis where he lives).
President Biden has been a lifelong policy minimalist, but when running for president he at least recognized the need to “combat corporate power,” promising to “make sure farmers and producers have access to fair markets.” Rhetoric aside, though, there is at this point no sense that he and his inside team grasp the structural enormity of what’s at stake, nor have they come up with proposals to do the heavy lifting necessary to free America from the monopoly yoke.
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Nonetheless, farm, labor, consumer, environmental, and other progressive advocates should move a broad, aggressive anti-monopoly initiative to the top tier of our change agenda, because it can produce big positive results for nearly every grassroots constituency.