The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the dates and locations of joint public workshops that will explore competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry.

A June 7 workshop will focus on dairy.

The workshops, which were first announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Aug. 5, 2009, are the first joint Department of Justice/USDA workshops ever to be held to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The all-day workshops, which will begin in March 2010, will be held in Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin.

The goals of the workshops are to promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with respect to the appropriate legal and economic analyses of these issues, as well as to listen to and learn from parties with experience in the agriculture sector.

The current schedule for the workshops is as follows:

March 12, 2010 - Issues of Concern to Farmers - Ankeny, Iowa

This event will serve as an introduction to the series of workshops, but also will focus specifically on issues facing crop farmers. Specific areas of focus may include seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power.

FFA Enrichment Center. 1055 Southwest Prairie Trail Parkway, Ankeny, Iowa 

May 21, 2010 - Poultry Industry - Normal, Ala.

Specific areas of focus may include production contracts in the poultry industry, concentration and buyer power.

Alabama A&M University Auditorium, James I. Dawson Cooperative Extension Building, 4900 Meridian St., Normal, Ala. 

June 7, 2010 - Dairy Industry - Madison, Wis.

Specific areas of focus may include concentration, marketplace transparency and vertical integration in the dairy industry.

University of Wisconsin, Great Hall, Memorial Union. 800 Langdon St. , Madison, Wis. 

Aug. 26, 2010 - Livestock Industry - Fort Collins, Colo.

Specific areas of focus will address beef, hog and other animal sectors and may include enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and concentration.

Colorado State University. Fort Collins, Colo.

Dec. 8, 2010 - Margins - Washington, D.C.

This workshop will look at the discrepancies between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers. As a concluding event, discussions from previous workshops will be incorporated into the analysis of agriculture markets nationally.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jefferson Auditorium, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C.

Each workshop may feature keynote speakers, general expert panels, and break-out panels that will address more narrowly-focused issues. At each workshop, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.

The attendance and participation of the public is encouraged throughout the series of workshops. With the goals of generating further dialogue and understanding the issues, the workshops will involve farmers, ranchers, processors, consumer groups, agribusinesses, government officials, and academics. This collection of stakeholders will create a forum for discussion and will ensure various industry perspectives.

The Department of Justice and USDA are also asking for comments in advance of the workshops. Interested parties should submit written comments in both paper and electronic form to the Department of Justice no later than Dec. 31, 2009. All comments received will be publicly posted. Two paper copies should be addressed to the Legal Policy Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 5th Street, NW, Suite 11700, Washington, D.C. 20001. The electronic version of each comment should be submitted to agriculturalworkshops@usdoj.gov.

Additional updates and information, including agendas and speakers, will be posted on the Antitrust Division's events website at www.usdoj.gov/atr/events.htm.