Spiders in the Web: A Social Network Analysis of Dependency in U.S. Industrial Agriculture

Grants and Contracts Details


Title: Monopolizing the Web of Relations: A Social Network Analysis of Dependency in U.S. Industrial Agriculture Investigators: Loka Ashwood (PI, University of Kentucky), Mary Hendrickson (Co-PI, University of Missouri), Phil Howard (Co-PI, Michigan State University), and Andy Pilny (Co- PI, University of Kentucky). Abstract Drastic consolidation and corporatization has defined the trajectory of U.S. agriculture over the last century. The outcomes for rural communities are stark. Vertical and horizontal integration unearthed local economies and markets (Hendrickson and Heffernan 2002). The law continues to largely exempt industrial agriculture from common law and regulatory standards (Ashwood, Diamond and Walker 2019). Today, rural antipathy toward the government grows in tandem with the recognition that the government has created policies, markets, and property rights that benefit the few at the expense of the many (Ashwood 2018). While many of these outcomes are increasingly recognized, pinpointing the lexicon of power that enables agricultural consolidation remains elusive. Consolidation happens across financial, productive, processing and sales sectors, making its nodes of power difficult to identify. However this intersectoral consolidation also offers a unique opportunity, as it is innately relational. Such process cannot unfold with relationships between firms and financiers that allow for acquisitions and commodity exchange (Ribot and Peluso; Christman 1994). We propose utilizing Social Network Analysis to examine the web of relations across key agricultural sectors – grain, hogs, beef, and poultry – to identify the key weavers of this web. We do so by using Nexis to create a dataset based on business reports that identify the key business associates, corporate relatives, locations, and creditors exerting control in this system (Ashwood, Canfield, Fairbairn, and De Master Forthcoming). We apply network exchange theory to our findings, and in doing so merge our methodological attention to finance and credit with a potentially new approach to studying monopoly power (James, Hendrickson and Howard 2013).
Effective start/end date10/1/214/30/23


  • Economic Security Project Action Incorporated: $46,500.00


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