Can Food Processors Use Contracts To Influence Farm Cash Prices? The Competitive Implications Of Top-Of-The-Market And Related Pricing Clauses
When contract production is marketed contemporaneously with production sold through a spot market, it is conveninet to specify the contract price in terms of the subsequent cash price. This paper examines the competitive implications of such pricing arrangements, focusing in particular upon so-called "top-of-the-market (TOMP) pricing in cattle procurement, wherein the contract guarantees the producer the highest cash price prevailing at the time of delivery. We show that these contracts have anticompetitive consequences when the same buyers who purchase cattle with the TOMP clause also compete to procure cattle in the subsequent spot market. By committing to purchase cattle at a price to be determined later, beef packers' incentives to compete aggressively in the spot market are attenuated. Although TOMP pricing is not in producers' collective interest, rational sellers may nonetheless sign these contracts, in some cases with little or no financial inducement.
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