WASHINGTON (B)--Several senators urged the U.S. attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission Sept. 28 to investigate why low farm prices for milk have not been passed along to consumers.

Sens. Mike DeWine, R-OH, Herb Kohl, D-WI, Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and others on the Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust signed off on a letter requesting the investigation from U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky.

The senators stressed their concern that the average price paid to dairy farmers has fallen 26% since last year but average retail prices have fallen only 6% on average in the same time frame.

"The gap between payments to farmers and consumer prices has grown as the dairy as the dairy processing and retailing industries have grown more concentrated," lawmakers said in the letter dated Sept. 28. "An open market with true competition should produce lower prices for consumers and perhaps higher payments for farmers as well. We would like to know if processing and retailing companies are engaging in collusion or otherwise abusing their market power."

Leahy, speaking to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman during a subcommittee hearing Sept. 28, said, "Farmers are getting less and consumers are paying more. Someone is benefiting."

Glickman said he would pass along the message to President Clinton.

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