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ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., says its newly proposed grain-milling joint venture would spur competition and innovation in the industry and would not itself bring about lower prices for wheat farmers. Paul Maass, ConAgra’s president of the commercial foods division, says the Ardent Mills venture—which is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division and a number of wheat-producing states—would be able to better serve its flour customers and ultimately food consumers through new efficiencies.
“It will be a more efficient model that will help us be more competitive as we buy wheat, and also as you sell the flour,” Maass states.
Ardent Mills, which would have just more than one-third of the total U.S. flour milling capacity, won’t be large enough on its own to cut wheat prices for growers, Maass explains.
The American Antitrust Institute, which asked for a Justice Department investigation, reports that the merger could impair wheat growers’ ability to obtain competitive prices and would decrease competition. According to institute vice president Diana Moss, there are concerns about a concentration of both buyer market power and seller market power if the merger is approved.