President Biden Signs Executive Order Geared Toward Competition
President Biden recently signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The order states that corporate consolidation has been accelerating. In over 75% of U.S. industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did twenty years ago. This is true across healthcare, financial services, agriculture and more.
The order focuses on numerous areas of the economy across all sectors. The focus is not only on sector industries and businesses but also consumers as well.
Some initiatives include:
- lower prescription drug prices by supporting state and tribal programs that will import safe and cheaper drugs from Canada.
- Save Americans with hearing loss thousands of dollars by allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drug stores.
- Make it easier for people to get refunds from airlines and to comparison shop for flights by requiring clear upfront disclosure of add-on fees.
- Make it easier and cheaper to repair items you own by limiting manufacturers from barring self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products.
Specifically with regard to agriculture, the order states that over the past few decades, key agricultural markets have become more concentrated and less competitive. The markets for seeds, equipment, feed, and fertilizer are now dominated by just a few large companies, meaning family farmers and ranchers now have to pay more for these inputs. For example, just four companies control most of the world’s seeds, and corn seed prices have gone up as much as 30% annually.
In the Order, the President:
- Directs USDA to consider issuing new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act making it easier for farmers to bring and win claims, stopping chicken processors from exploiting and underpaying chicken farmers, and adopting anti-retaliation protections for farmers who speak out about bad practices.
- Directs USDA to consider issuing new rules defining when meat can bear “Product of USA” labels, so that consumers have accurate, transparent labels that enable them to choose products made here.
- Directs USDA to develop a plan to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return, including supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmers markets and developing standards and labels so that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers fairly.
- Encourages the FTC to limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops or DIY repairs—such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors.
Finally, the order also encourages the leading antitrust agencies to focus enforcement efforts on problems in key markets and coordinates other agencies’ ongoing response to corporate consolidation.
- Calls on the leading antitrust agencies, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to enforce the antitrust laws vigorously and recognizes that the law allows them to challenge prior bad mergers that past Administrations did not previously challenge.
- Announces a policy that enforcement should focus in particular on labor markets, agricultural markets, healthcare markets (which includes prescription drugs, hospital consolidation, and insurance), and the tech sector.
- Establishes a White House Competition Council, led by the Director of the National Economic Council, to monitor progress on finalizing the initiatives in the Order and to coordinate the federal government’s response to the rising power of large corporations in the economy.