ARA Members: Help Keep Mergers Appropriate

The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) Board of Directors is very concerned about continued consolidation in the crop nutrient production industry. Now ARA is asking its members for help with this issue.

The Board adopted a motion last week after many ARA directors expressed concern in an independent third-party survey about further consolidation in crop nutrient production. The motion directed ARA to educate association members on the avenues available “to express their opinions to the appropriate federal agencies and officials.”

ARA’s release explains that the federal government’s role is to pursue potential cases of unfair competition or violations of antitrust laws. The two basic antitrust laws in the U.S. — the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act — are enforceable either by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or private persons alleging economic injury caused by violation of either of them. In addition, ARA notes, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Robinson-Patman Act may also be utilized by FTC and private persons. These statutes spell out the conduct and activities prohibited in economic, market transactions.

The Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act requires notification to DOJ and FTC of proposed mergers or acquisitions that meet certain size requirements, ARA states in the press release. The parties may not close their deal until the waiting period outlined in the HSR Act has passed (usually 30 days or in the case of a cash tender offer or bankruptcy sale it is 15 days), or the government has granted early termination of the waiting period.

“It is important for ARA members to keep in mind that antitrust laws are concerned with the functioning of the marketplace — i.e. competition and NOT protection of any individual competitor,” the press release states.

According to an ARA press release, “it remains unclear what effects further concentration, control, and consolidation within the crop nutrient industry will have on crop nutrient product prices, distribution access, transportation costs, and competition in key marketplaces throughout the U.S.”

And that’s where ARA members come in — to help clarify any effects on the marketplace.

ARA members’ options are to contact FTC, DOJ, or their U.S. representative and/or senator. The association notes that any ARA member contacting FTC, DOJ, or Congress is a voluntary action on the part of the member’s company or individual employees. For assistance related to this matter, contact Richard Gupton, ARA vice president of Legislative Policy & Counsel at 202-457-0825 or richard@aradc.org.

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