DOJ: News Release

Bullock Seeks Comments Regarding Competition in Agriculture

Attorney General announces new staffer focused on agriculture issues

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock announced Friday that his office is seeking comments from Montana farmers and ranchers about potentially anti-competitive practices in the agriculture industry.

Bullock is working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in planning public workshops to explore competition issues facing American producers. Bullock will present concerns raised by Montana producers at the workshops, which will be held next year in different regions throughout the country.

“I want to hear directly from folks on the ground about what’s affecting their businesses – from the field to the marketplace – and I’ll take those concerns to federal officials,” Bullock said. “My office is committed to fighting for a level playing field and basic protections for Montana’s top industry, production agriculture.”

Comments may address buyer power, processor and retailer concentration, price spreads, vertical integration, forward contracts, packer ownership of livestock prior to slaughter, market transparency, seed technology, Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement or other market practices.

“As farm and ranch families gather for the holidays, I hope they will take the time to put the concerns they’re discussing around the dinner table down on paper and send them to us,” Bullock added.

Bullock’s office published a report in February finding that a lack of railroad competition in grain shipping has cost Montana producers between $19 – $50 million annually. He also led 20 states in a March 2009 letter to Congress opposing the railroad industry’s exemption from the antitrust laws.

Bullock’s office, along with 16 other states and the U.S. Department of Justice, led the legal efforts to oppose the merger of Brazil-based JBS – the world’s largest beef processor – and National Beef Packing Company by suing in federal district court in October 2008 to block the deal. The deal, which was scrapped, would have concentrated over 80 percent of U.S.-fed cattle processing capacity in just three companies.

Bullock recently filled a new Department of Justice legal position that focuses solely on rural issues – specifically on helping protect family farms and ranches in Montana – with attorney Chuck Munson. After earning his law degree, Munson attended a nationally unique Masters of Law program that specialized in agricultural law at the University of Arkansas. Most recently, Munson worked at the Montana Legal Services Association where his practice focused on consumer law for low income individuals.

Comments should be sent to the Montana Department of Justice via email at cmunson@mt.gov or mailed to:

Montana Department of Justice
c/o Chuck Munson
P.O. Box 201401
Helena, MT 59620

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