Testimony on House Concurrent Resolution No. 3009 (Merger of Cargill and Continental Grain)

To: Members of the Senate and House Agriculture CommitteesFrom: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: House Concurrent Resolution No. 3009
(Merger of Cargill and Continental Grain)
Date: January 8, 1999

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports House Concurrent Resolution No. 3009.

There is little doubt that a merger of Cargill, Incorporated with Continental Grain Company will greatly increase concentration in the agricultural sector. In addition to its economic consequences - such as the reduction of competitive markets, and its legal consequences - such as the possible anti-trust violations, the proposed merger has social justice consequences.

Such extreme concentration threatens real access to markets, fair and just pricing, true competition, and even private ownership of property. Consequently, such developments threaten the ability of farmers and ranchers to engage in their vocation with dignity and the very health of our rural communities.

Our concern about concentration in ownership is rooted in the call to respect and defend the life and dignity of the human person, is reflected in the Old Testament's Jubilee tradition, and is developed Catholic social teaching concerning the universal destination of goods. More recently, the Vatican, the United States Catholic bishops, and other state Catholic conferences have expressed concern about concentration in agriculture. Only last November, Bishop James Sullivan of the Fargo Diocese and Bishop Paul Zipfel of the Bismarck Diocese released a statement on rural issues (copy of which is attached) stating that policies should "foster wide distribution of ownership in agriculture rather than concentration, whether in land, animals, technology, seed, genetic make-up, processing, or production."

It is, therefore, appropriate that Congress review the proposed merger of Cargill and Continental Grain. In fact, more is needed that a congressional review. We recommend that HCR 3009 be amended to urge the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission investigate the merger and conduct vigorous enforcement of whatever federal laws it might violate. Moreover, we recommend that the resolution list more of the potential problems that could result from the merger, such as the aggregation of inside information on world grain markets and the impact on livestock producers.

For these reasons, the North Dakota Catholic Conference urges a Do Pass
recommendation, with the suggested amendments, on HCR 3009.