Producers Press for More Competition

[imgbelt img=omahabuffalo530.jpg]Farmers and ranchers meet with union representatives and lawyers in Omaha, to discuss the future and the federal laws that will make or break their livelihoods.

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Editor’s Note: The Organization for Competitive Markets meets this Tuesday and Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska. The Daily Yonder’s Bill Bishop and Richard Oswald will be live-blogging from Omaha. (Find more reports from the OCM meeting here.)

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9 p.m./Tuesday: Washington, D.C. writer Barry Lynn, OCM’s evening speaker, made an interesting point about America’s long-standing fear of monopoly.

The country was founded by people who wanted freedom from monopoly, Lynn said. They rejected the monopoly of faith that came with a state religion. They rejected the monopoly power of a monarch. And they fought against monopoly of commerce.

The original Tea Party wasn’t formed to fight against taxes but to protest the monopoly of trade in tea. “What they (the first tea partiers) were fighting was monopolization of commerce,” Lynn said.
And what they sought in their new government and country was to “distribute power as widely as possible.”

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4:30 p.m./Tuesday: A union representative said that his members, mostly workers in packing plants, are being asked by the companies to tell the USDA that they oppose the new Packers & Stockyards Act regulations. He asked those at the OCM meeting what he should say to men and women who are under pressure to comment on the regulations governing farmers and ranchers.
There wasn’t a good answer, except that monopoly in the food industry reduces competition for labor and, in turn, reduces wages.

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3:30 pm/Tuesday: Economist Neal Harl said the problems discussed at the OCM conference are really part of a larger trend that began more than 30 years ago with the deregulation of the airlines. Harl described how piece after piece of the economy was deregulated in the belief that market forces were more powerful — and beneficial — than government, law and bureaucracy.

“I believe we are looking at something that has been going on for 30 or 40 years, that started with airlines and really reached avalanche proportions after the 1994 elections,” Harl said. The effect of deregulation, according to Harl, was to give the strongest players in each deregulated market even greater power. It was true with the airlines, Harl said, and in minerals management and in commodities. The biggest companies do better in part, Harl said, “because they can spray money all over Washington, D.C.”

Antitrust activity has been in decline since 1981, in the rush to deregulate. And federal agencies that showed signs of being harsh regulators had their budgets cut in this era of great faith in the power of markets.

“Deregulation opened the gates of each (economic) sector to be dominated by the biggest company,” Harl said.

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