Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Who said that executive agency people are not subject to political pressure to the legislative branch? After some strong political pressure by members of Congress, more small farmers (a politically powerful and well organized group) have been invited to participate in the Iowa program, as DOJ unveiled its new speakers list today. This shows how in one important way, agriculture is different from other areas of antitrust. At recent DOJ/FTC antitrust hearings in other areas, it has been a more practitioner and academic oriented crowd. This of course begs the question of why not also expand the hearings to have some individual consumers of agricultural products also (like people who shop at supermarkets) describe what matters for them in terms of agriculture. I suspect that we might have a wide variety of opinions from "price is everything" to "I care about sustainability in agriculture". At least the new speakers will help make the event a more high profile one within the US news media.
As I have argued before, can we begin by asking every single panelist who has a financial stake in their presentation? Similarly, for those that represent interest groups, can we get a sense of which deep pockets with an interest in the proceedings fund those groups? At least the top 10 donors? Increased transparency in the hearings among speakers would be better because it would allow us to better understand some of the biases that might emerge in the panels. This is not to suggest that people might not have already had these biases. Rather, it merely allows us to take some of their claims with a grain of salt.