Farmers Unite To File Antitrust Suit Against Big Agriculture

A group of farmers has filed a federal antitrust case against several big agricultural companies, contending the companies worked together to ban e-commerce sales in order to keep prices for seeds, fertilizer, and other chemicals artificially high.

The farmers are seeking class-action status and they want a judge to force the companies to give up “unlawful profits” and pay compensation to those impacted by the high prices.

The Idaho farming operations based in Rupert filed the lawsuit seeking class-action status last month. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states. Odessa Hines, a spokesperson for defendant BASF Agricultural Solutions, says the allegations don’t indicate anything except a competitive market.

The lawsuit claims that four major manufacturers worked together with major wholesalers and retailers to deprive farmers of a free and open market in order to artificially inflate the price of of seeds, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other agricultural products used in planting and raising crops. The products are called “crop inputs,” because they are all materials used to start and keep the crop growing, rather than to harvest.

The Idaho farmers said the defendants worked together to create a secretive supply-chain process that effectively prevented farmers from comparison shopping and stopped other retailers from competing. The result, the lawsuit says, is that the cost of crop inputs dramatically outpaces yields, pushing some farms into bankruptcy. The farmers cite the price of seed corn, which rose by 300% over the last 20 years while corn yields increased by roughly 34%, according to the lawsuit.

“The cost of Crop Inputs is increasing at a significantly faster rate than profits from farmers’ crop yields,” the farmers’ attorney, Vaughn Fisher with the Boise law firm Fisher Hudson Shallat, wrote in the lawsuit. “These increases are proving increasingly devastating to farmers, who are now the least profitable level of the American food supply chain and are drowning in hundreds of billions of dollars of operating debt that is forcing them into bankruptcy at a record pace.”

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