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Attorney General Mark Vargo applauds USDA’s move to increase competition enforcement in agriculture

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2022
CONTACT: Stewart Huntington, 605-773-6878

PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Mark Vargo today applauded the news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making $15 million available to state attorneys general to increase collaboration with USDA on antitrust enforcement. State attorneys general will be able to submit requests for funding and partner with USDA to secure America’s food systems through more rigorous enforcement of competition laws. President Biden made this announcement Monday at a meeting of the White House Competition Council.

This news follows a December 21, 2021, letter that the South Dakota Attorney General, as part of a bipartisan coalition of 16 attorneys general, sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with recommendations to improve competition in the livestock industry. One of the recommendations was to allow state attorneys general to seek some of the funds appropriated by Congress for food and agriculture supply-chain resilience toward supporting state antitrust enforcement efforts and increase partnership opportunities between state attorneys general and federal agencies.

“Agriculture is our state’s largest industry and we believe keeping it competitive is key to keeping it vibrant,” said Vargo. “I’m glad that USDA agreed to free up resources to enforce anti-competition laws.”

The new partnerships that this funding will facilitate will assist state AGs in tackling anticompetitive practices in the agricultural sector and related industries that are contributing to heightened inflationary pressures, lack of choices for consumers and farmers, and conflicts of interest and anticompetitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains.

Specifically, this initiative will improve and enhance coordination between federal and state agriculture and competition enforcement authorities and create new and more independent research programs.

Agriculture is South Dakota’s largest industry. In 2020, South Dakota generated around $8.8 billion in agricultural cash receipts with the highest valued commodities being cattle and calves, soybeans, and corn. That same year, the value of South Dakota’s agricultural production and processing industries represented 9.0 percent of total state GDP.

Joining South Dakota’s Attorney General in the December 2021 letter to Sec. Vilsack, which led to the announcement of new funding for state attorneys general to partner with USDA on antitrust enforcement in agriculture, were Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill, working in close collaboration with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, and the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah.