Battery died and so was off for a bit. We had a good panel with state Attorney Generals who seem quite geared up on these issues. They also admit their limitations, that they rely on interpretations from judiciary to prosecute potential infractions. They pointed to several victories – including the cessation of the JBS merger in cattle (where 2 of the top 4 cattle processors were trying to merge) and a recent rejection of a Dean Foods acquisition in dairy. But, Montana AG Steve Bullock also pointed out that it would be easy to be skeptical and pessimistic and feel we have been here before. He pointed to competition hearings in 1999 that talked about many of these same issues (particularly concentration in livestock), and yet from 1999 to 2010 we didn’t see much done about antitrust and plenty of consolidation. Steve believes we are in a different situation this time; that there is a new strong partnership between two agencies (DOJ and USDA), that never before have the head of these two agencies met to discuss these issues (as they did today), and that we have a particularly strong antitrust division in DOJ (as Christine exemplified this morning).
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