McGovern, Warren, Lawmakers to President Biden: Use Executive Authority to Lower Food Prices

  • Fruits & Veggies

WASHINGTON – Congressman James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are leading a group of lawmakers in a letter to President Joe Biden encouraging the Biden-Harris administration to use its executive authority to take robust actions to lower food prices for families. In the letter, the lawmakers note how corporations have been raking in record profits while families are being hit with higher costs for groceries, and they outline several executive actions that the Biden administration should take.

“The federal government should use every possible tool to lower food prices,” wrote the lawmakers. “We believe you can exercise your executive authority to take additional action to address rising food prices without congressional action.”

Americans are facing sky-high food prices, caused by excessive price gouging by food and grocery giants. A small group of players dominate those industries: four grocery retailers account for over a third of national grocery sales and four food companies control more than 60 percent of sales in most grocery categories. As a result, consumers are spending more of their income on food than they have in the past 30 years.

“These companies have raked in record profits in recent years, with CEOs bragging on earnings calls about how their price hikes exceed inflation. Between 2020 and 2021, researchers found that corporate profits accounted for more than 50% of food price increases, whereas they accounted for only 11% of increases in the four decades prior,” the lawmakers wrote.

While some corporations may point to rising inflation, grocery price increases have outpaced inflation, with families paying 25% more for groceries as compared to before the pandemic. These higher prices hit low-income families the hardest: in 2022, the bottom fifth of the income spectrum spent 25% of their income on groceries, compared to less than 3.5% for the highest fifth.

In the letter, the lawmakers urge the administration to leverage the full scope of their executive authority and consider the following proposals:

  1. Encourage the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prohibit exclusionary contracting by dominant firms in the food industry.
  2. Encourage the FTC to issue guidance on potential violations of the Robinson Patman Act and Section 5 of the FTC Act within the food industry, and investigate and take enforcement action where merited.
  3. Work with USDA to increase the number of government contract recipients that are very small businesses.
  4. Work with USDA to ensure that technical factors reflect the long-term costs of food sector consolidation.
  5. Urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FTC to scrutinize, and where appropriate, block mergers and acquisitions in the food and agricultural sectors.
  6. Encourage the DOJ to prosecute actors in the agricultural and food sectors for price fixing and other anticompetitive behavior.
  7. Direct the CFTC and FTC to form a joint task force to investigate food price manipulation throughout the supply chain.

“Americans across the political spectrum have pointed to the cost of food and groceries as their top concern related to inflation,” wrote the lawmakers. “These proposals are just examples of the additional actions your Administration can take to help families at the grocery store. The American people are relying on your Administration to combat corporate greed and higher food prices.”

This letter is signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Peter Welch (I-Vt.), Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.), Greg Casar (D-Texas.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine.) Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Bonnie M. Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Alexander Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), (Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Susan Wild (D- Penn.), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Chris Deluzio (D-Penn.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), (Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Josh Harder (D-Calif.).

The letter is endorsed by the American Economic Liberties Project, Campaign for Family Farms, Farm Action, Farm Aid, Food and Water Watch, Main Street Alliance, Open Markets Institute, Small Business Majority, Friends of the Earth, P Street, Institute for Local Self-Reliance.