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Economic Cost of Food Monopolies

Updated: Oct 29

New Report Details Economic Cost of Food Monopolies

Report explores the impacts of consolidation in the U.S. grocery industry by Food and Water Watch



Today, the public advocacy group Food & Water Watch released a new report detailing the consolidation crisis present in the U.S. grocery industry and food system. The report, “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Grocery Cartels,” created in collaboration with The Guardian, finds that acute market consolidation funnels wealth from local communities into the hands of corporate shareholders and executives, at the direct expense of small businesses, local economies and consumer choice.


Across the country, consolidation has resulted in the loss of regional slaughterhouses, dairy plants and other processors that once supported nearby farms and boosted rural economies. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Iowa lost 50% of their rural grocery stores since 1994, mirroring the trends in declining farm economies, where more than 40% of farm jobs statewide were lost from 1982-2007. In the wake, super stores like Dollar General, which often lack fresh food options, have moved in. According to the SEC, the retail chain opened 100 stores across Iowa in the last five years — an increase of 50% over that period. Rural revitalization must include action on the food system consolidation crisis.


Critical reform is needed to transition our food system to a more resilient model that invests in rural communities, local economies and workers. From strengthening and enforcing antitrust laws to providing public incentives to help regional food hubs take root, the report offers a clear-eyed description of the crisis we face and shows the way out.


“Over the past century, food giants have been quietly consolidating their power, stripping out the resilience baked into more diversified, regional food systems, and cutting local economies out of the picture,” said lead researcher Amanda Starbuck, Senior Food Researcher & Policy Analyst at Food & Water Watch. “We envision a U.S. food system more resilient, just and sustainable than the one we have today. To get there, we must strengthen and enforce antitrust laws, break up monopolies, and invest in the grocery cooperatives, regional food hubs and local food processors that can rebuild our food system from the ground up.”


“Iowa sells itself as a beacon of small town, agricultural America. But in reality, our communities are being carved out by corporate America — and the first thing to go is the grocery store,” said Emma Schmit, Iowa Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Two years ago, my town’s last and only grocery store closed. It was one of the few places in the county to buy groceries, and when it shut down, we were left with only a dollar store and gas station to shop for food. We must stop this trend and bring food system diversity back to our local economies.”


QUOTE FROM IOWA ALLY


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