Supply Chain Snags Garner DOJ Attention

DOJ Announces Initiative to Monitor for Price Collusion Amid Supply Chain Woes

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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With agriculture input prices on the rise, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday it was stepping up investigative efforts aimed at companies that may exploit supply chain disruptions to engage in collusive conduct. (DTN file photo by Matthew Wilde)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- As agriculture and other industries continue to fight supply chain difficulties, the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday said it was stepping up efforts to monitor for companies that "exploit supply chain disruptions to engage in collusive conduct."

The DOJ announcement comes a day after U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told state agriculture officials at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture winter meeting in Arlington, Virginia, the DOJ should be investigating ag input price increases such higher seed or chemical costs. (See https://www.dtnpf.com/…)

Vilsack was asked what USDA was doing to address supply chain issues and he responded, "And then -- and I think it's fair to say I've been asked this question, and we are asking it of the Justice Department -- are all of these increases absolutely justified?" he said.

The DOJ said on Thursday it was undertaking a new initiative aimed at making sure companies aren't taking advantage of the supply chain snags by raising prices on consumers.

"Transportation constraints, disruptions to routine business operations and difficulty in obtaining raw materials have all led to increased costs of production and shipment, which in turn have resulted in higher prices for consumers," the DOJ said in a news release.

"Supply chain disruptions have been broad in scope, affecting a variety of industries ranging from agriculture to health care."

The DOJ said it was "prioritizing any existing investigations where competitors may be exploiting supply chain disruptions for illicit profit."

DOJ announced the formation of a working group to help focus investigative efforts on "global supply chain collusion," to include the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Canadian Competition Bureau, the New Zealand Commerce Commission and the United Kingdom Competition and Markets Authority.

"The working group is developing and sharing intelligence, utilizing existing international cooperation tools, to detect and combat collusive schemes," the DOJ said in a news release, although it provided no details about the types of schemes of interest.

The DOJ said it would investigate and prosecute "criminal violations of the antitrust laws, including agreements between individuals and businesses to fix prices or wages, rig bids or allocate markets."

The DOJ asks for anyone with information on "price fixing, bid rigging, market-allocation agreements or other anticompetitive conduct" to call the antitrust division's citizen complaint center at 1-888-647-3258, or to visit http://www.justice.gov/….

"Temporary supply chain disruptions should not be allowed to conceal illegal conduct," Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter in the DOJ's antitrust division, said in a news release.

"The antitrust division will not allow companies to collude in order to overcharge consumers under the guise of supply chain disruptions."

For more information on how supply chain disruptions are currently affecting farmers:

"Pesticide Shortages, High Prices Unlikely to Ease in 2022," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Bayer Warns Retailers of Glyphosate Production Disruption," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Most Fertilizer Prices Up From Previous Month During First Full Week of February 2022," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley