Antitrust and competition in America's heartland.

Author:Horton, Thomas J.

On behalf of the University of South Dakota School of Law, the South Dakota Law Review, and myself, I would like to welcome you to the annual Symposium issue of the Law Review. Each year, the South Dakota Law Review selects a topic based on timeliness, importance to legal scholarship, a lack of significant scholarship on the topic, and the importance of the topic to South Dakota and the region. This year, the chosen topic merges the worlds of antitrust law and agriculture, bringing together legal scholars and practitioners from both fields to discuss "Antitrust and Competition in America's Heartland."

An academic discussion on antitrust in agriculture and new approaches to antitrust could not happen at a better time. Farmers and ranchers throughout South Dakota and the rest of America's heartland increasingly are experiencing feelings of economic powerlessness. At the Symposium event, David Balto distributed a National Farmers Union handout showing that a farmer today receives only $0.18 for a loaf of bread that retails for $2.99; $2.00 for a pound of top sirloin steak that sells for $7.99; and $1.67 for a gallon of milk that sells for $4.12 at the grocery store. Bill Bullard similarly showed how by 2010, four firms had come to control 85% of America's meatpacking industry. One result has been a precipitous loss of independent livestock operators.

Seemingly responding to these pressures on farmers and ranchers, in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Justice held five joint public workshops on agriculture and antitrust enforcement. (1) The two agencies set out to the heartland to listen to comments from stakeholders on competition in agriculture markets. Unfortunately, these public workshops did not lead to any firm changes in policy from the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Justice. One of the goals of this Symposium is to continue to push for reevaluation of antitrust law and policy, particularly in the area of agriculture.

The University of South Dakota School of Law is the perfect venue for such a symposium. South Dakota played a leading role in the progressive agricultural revolution in the late nineteenth century that led to the passage of the Sherman Act in 1890 and the Clayton and Federal Trade Commission Acts in 1914. Indeed, South Dakota passed its own state antitrust law during the first month of its statehood. (2)

Today, South Dakota's agricultural producers continue to contribute...

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