Major Policy Wins in 2023

Inflation and increasing costs are top concerns amongst rural voters. And while rural people are reeling from the pain of rising costs, giant corporations are reaping record profits. Yet, the problem is deeper than just consumer prices. When a few companies control an industry, they also drive down wages for workers and squeeze local businesses, which sets off a chain reaction that hollows out local economies and disrupts communities.

Farm Action and Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) help people understand the connections between cost and corporate greed, as well as the other dangers of monopoly power. In 2023, Farm Action published research on how corporations drive up egg prices and fertilizer costs. That same year, ILSR reported big retailers use their market control to increase grocery costs. These two Rural Democracy Initiative grantees garnered over 4,000 media stories in 2023, including local coverage in rural communities and features in prominent national outlets.

In addition to pivotal research and publicity, Farm Action and ILSR organized influential coalitions and mobilized people to take action. They played leading roles in several 2023 policy and enforcement victories. The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit to ensure chicken growers have leverage with giant meatpacking corporations. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a landmark lawsuit against Amazon, alleging the company exploits small businesses. With the expert testimony from ILSR, a rural court established the important precedent that municipalities can consider public health and well-being when evaluating whether to approve corporate retailers.

Building on Farm Action and ILSR’s advocacy, The FTC and DOJ issued new guidelines for corporate mergers that recognize the risks of monopoly power and the importance of building strong local economies. These guidelines reverse a 1982 policy that enabled the corporate overreach and “greedflation” we see today. ILSR organized 27 small business groups to submit comments in support of strong anti-merger provisions, and FTC Chair Khan thanked Farm Action for their publicly submitted comments. 

In parallel to policies to limit corporate overreach, Farm Action and ILSR supported action to equip small businesses with the tools they need. ILSR partnered with the U.S. Economic Development Administration on a program to steer more capital to small businesses in struggling communities. The USDA committed $500 million to expand domestic fertilizer production and lower fertilizer costs. It’s also launching new initiatives for farmers to grow healthy food rather than just industrial feed grains.

Corporate dominance can seem inevitable, but recent progress supported by our grantees demonstrates that we can win when we organize. They will leverage this momentum to safeguard the power of workers, small businesses, and family farmers to build a good life.