Suzanne Potter, Producer
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Attorneys general from more than 30 states, including Michigan, just announced a bipartisan effort to bring down costs and create more choices at the supermarket.
State law enforcement agencies are pledging to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Agricultural Competition Partnership to investigate price gouging in the food industry.
Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog with the Public Interest Research Group, said while recent inflation spikes have been a factor, it is worth taking a closer look.
“We very much believe in a free market,” Murray stated. “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.”
Beyond price structures, the USDA noted states will also be on the lookout for conflicts of interest, misuse of intellectual property, and anticompetitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose the move, calling it an “overreach.”
Murray pointed out 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? What are the supply-chain costs? What are the distribution costs?” Murray outlined. “And then where, at the end, is there a profit, and is anybody along the way taking advantage of the situation?”
Murray added there is no real federal statute addressing price gouging, so state enforcement will be important. Michigan law makes it a crime to price gouge during an emergency, but not all states have similar protections.