Agriculture Committee Reviews Agribusiness Consolidation

Feb 11, 1999


Washington, D.C. - Today, the House Agriculture Committee held its second hearing to review the state of the farm economy and focused on the impact of the ongoing structural consolidation of the agricultural community.

"Even a casual observer can't help but be bewildered by the dizzying pace of mergers, acquisitions and restructuring going on in our economy today.  Overnight a Jeep becomes a Mercedes and a Volvo a Ford.  But this activity isn't limited to automobile manufacturers, petroleum companies or the financial world, similar activity is occurring in the agriculture sector,"  said Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX).  "Since these changes will undoubtedly cause anxiety among farmers, ranchers and residents in rural America, this Committee has a responsibility to examine its potential impacts."

Today's hearing provided the Committee with a wide range of testimony underscoring the complex nature of agribusiness consolidation.  It is clear that this ongoing economic trend presents both challenges and opportunities for producers, processors, consumers, and people living in rural America.  While some witnesses encouraged aggressive government oversight of consolidation, others cautioned the Committee about the pitfalls interventionist policies.

"It has been said so many times in this room and elsewhere that it has become a truism:  American farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality, lowest cost food and fiber products in the world," said Combest.  "We are rightfully proud of the food production system that has evolved in the United States.  However, the competitive nature of the world economy will lead to continued change in the farm sector and this Committee has a responsibility to monitor this change to ensure that the truism remains true."

"As we look at consolidation trends within the agricultural economy, we must seriously take into consideration the effects that these trends have on not only our producers but also on rural America in general.  The future of rural America will be greatly influenced by these trends," said Charlie Stenholm, the Committee's Ranking Member.  "This hearing is a good starting point in helping us determine what we can do to help our producers survive and our rural communities adapt in these times of ever-increasing consolidation in the agricultural sector."