Without a doubt, consolidation and concentration in the agricultural economy has caused decreasing incomes for farmers, ranchers, workers and the rural communities that depend on agriculture. Our rural communities, our food supply and the fate of a major portion of the American economy depend on us fixing this problem. However, we can’t solve this dilemma unless we are willing to look at the whole picture of the American food chain—from the farm to the grocery store shelf.

So summarizes a report on the consolidation of the retail segment of our food chain. As the report details, Walmart’s size, reach and power are unparalleled:

  • The growth of Walmart’s share of U.S. grocery sales has been stratospheric: almost quadrupling since 1998 and showing no signs of slowing.
  • Walmart has more retail grocery sales than its next three largest competitors (Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu) combined.
  • Walmart controls more than a 30% share in 44% of major U.S. grocery markets; while in 29 of those markets, the company controls more than a 50% share.

Another series of reports corresponds to these findings:

  • An Iowa State University study found that in Iowa the number of grocery stores with employees dropped by almost half from 1995 to 2005, from about 1,400 stores in 1995 to slightly over 700 just 10 years later. Meanwhile, “supercenter” grocery stores (Wal-Mart and Target, for example) increased by 175 percent in the 10-year period.
  • In rural Iowa, 43 percent of grocery stores in towns with populations less than 1,000 have closed.
  • According to Kansas State University, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,500 people in Kansas have closed since 2007, and nearly one in five rural grocery stores have gone out of business since 2006. In total, 38 percent of the grocery stores in Kansas towns of less than 2,500 closed between 2006 and 2009.

Makes one wonder why we are providing Wal-mart with millions of subsidies and development incentives.