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Mike Moen, Producer
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Wisconsin is part of a bipartisan effort among law enforcement leaders around the U.S. to beef up and crack down on anti-trust activity within the nation’s food system. The move comes amid lingering questions about whether consumers are getting a fair shake. 31 attorneys general, including Wisconsin’s, are working with the USDA to ultimately bring down food costs and create more choices at the supermarket. While recent inflation spikes have been a factor, part of the focus is the possibility of price gouging.
Teresa Murray, a consumer watchdog with the Public Interest Research Group, said it is important to look more closely at what is happening.
“We very much believe in a free market, but not when it comes to crossing the line of trying to take advantage of individuals and families who are just trying to feed their kids, ” she said.
Beyond price structures, the USDA noted states will also be on the lookout for conflicts of interest, misuse of intellectual property, and anti-competitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains. Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose the move, calling it an “overreach.”
Murray added while there have been rumblings about these issues, it is hard to go into a grocery store, observe higher prices, and know for sure whether corporate greed is at play.
“What are the manufacturing costs? What are the labor costs – which probably have gone up, you know,” she explained. “What are the supply chain costs? What are the distribution costs? And then where, at the end, is there a profit – and is anybody along the way taking advantage of the situation?”
Murray said this large group joining forces speaks volumes about the desire to protect consumers and added there is no real federal statute addressing price gouging, so state enforcement will be important. Wisconsin has a price-gouging law on the books – but not all states do, and some are limited.