Friday, December 10, 2010

Wal-Mart's rural stranglehold

That provocative phrase is part of the title of a new report released by United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The Daily Yonder discusses the report here, noting that the Departments of Justice and Agriculture held hearings this week on competition in agriculture, including discussions of the growing margins that retail grocers are able to take--in part because of retail consolidation in behemoths--most powerfully Wal-Mart. An excerpt from the executive summary of the UFCW Report follows:
The Department of Justice/Department of Agriculture workshops investigating corporate consolidation in agricultural markets represent an enormous opportunity to rebuild and revitalize rural America by ensuring justice and fairness for working men and women across the food industry. Without a doubt, consolidation and concentration in the agricultural economy has caused decreasing incomes for farmers, ranchers, workers and the rural communities that depend on agriculture.

Our rural communities, our food supply and the fate of a major portion of the American economy depend on us fixing this problem. However, we can’t solve this dilemma unless we are willing to look at the whole picture of the American food chain—from the farm to the grocery store shelf.

Without an adequate investigation into the critical role that consolidation at the retail grocery level—led by the world’s largest retailer, Walmart—we can’t get an accurate or adequate assessment on how to fix our broken agricultural economy. This report provides strong evidence that Walmart exerts unprecedented influence over the meatpacking industry and other agricultural and food sectors. It also shows that Walmart’s relentless quest for lower costs has unfairly squeezed income from meatpacking workers, farmers and ranchers resulting in Walmart receiving a grossly disproportionate share of the retail food dollar at the expense of other stakeholders in the food supply chain.

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