Bayer Monsanto Merger Threatens a Plague for Family Farmers
Farming is by far one of America’s oldest occupations, and one of the toughest. We farmers face a multitude of challenges that no other way of life has to confront as a whole. Mother Nature is our best friend but also can be our worst enemy. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts—any or all can hit us unpredictably. Plus, we are now losing the old reliable method of timing our tasks by the seasons. Climate change has shifted the times of year when we plant our crops.
Today, though, it’s a man-made plague that causes farmers even greater concern: Agriculture industry mergers. These mergers shrink the pool of farmers, creating an issue that will trouble us for decades to come. The coupling of these big companies will give us a mighty high fence to climb in trying to keep our land productive and expenses manageable. These mergers include the Syngenta/chemchina $43 billion deal and the Dow/Dupont merger for $59 billion all-stock deal.
For family farmers though, I see as even more disturbing the Bayer/Monsanto deal for $66 Billion, which includes Bayer acquiring Monsanto debt. For years, Monsanto has concentrated on purchasing smaller seed companies. The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) has noted time and time again how such mergers in the seed industry hurt small family farmers.
As I noted in 2007 in an NBFA protest letter to Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee., the merger between Monsanto and Delta Pine & Land was a dangerous deal for the U.S. cotton industry. http://www.kansasfarmer.com/story-national-black-farmers-association-protests-monsanto-merger-8-10179 When we warned that the merger “would create a virtual monopoly on the American cotton industry," Monsanto said it would divest its Stoneville cottonseed business's U.S. assets in order to satisfy government antitrust concerns. My letter took exception to the risk presented by share of the biotechnology used in the seed market and Delta and Pine Land's market share. We at the NBFA worried that "a merger between the two would easily create fewer choices for black farmers and less competition which would stifle innovation in the industry."
Today, the issue at hand is the Bayer/Monsanto merger. If given the green light by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) it would clearly create a duopoly as it relates to Soy Bean seeds. There will basically be two companies Dow/ Dupont and Bayer/Monsanto. These types of mergers in the past have led to higher seed prices and higher herbicide and pesticide prices for American farmers.
What does this all mean for African American farmers? It means more of the same but worse! Currently there is NO oversight after the merger process is approved by (DOJ). Since the new administration took office, there have been NO Congressional hearings on either merger, in either the House of Representatives or the United States Senate.
I have been farming for over thirty years I know well that competition is good for American agriculture. Monsanto will argue the mergers will create more innovation and technology. But how many times do we as farmers have to pay, through higher prices for agricultural supplies, for the same technology? Roundup ready seeds have been on the market for years now. I would like to see more seed availability for a conventional non (GMO) “genetically modified organisms” seed at local seed dealerships. This will never happen as long as there are just two seed companies who control the market in selling GMO seeds to American farmers.
Just as I have raised these issues for years with the Department of Justice, I again raised the same issues recently in a meeting with DOJ attorneys working on the Monsanto/Bayer merger. These companies show little respect for farmers’ organizations like the NBFA. They refuse to participate in our annual conference to even discuss the merger and how it will affect the NBFA membership. This represents total disrespect for their captive customers, the farmers.
The recent mergers have received very little press by mainstream media outlets. It appears as though President Trump’s tweets are far more important than issues vital to farmers, such as a seed merger. Consumers should be alarmed. We should all be reminded of the saying “No farmers, No food,”? If farmers can’t afford to stay in business, smaller numbers of food growers will lead to higher food prices at local grocery stores for all.
This year alone my purchase of Bayer soybean seed was up to 61 bucks for a fifty pound sack of seeds, in the 90’s I could purchase the same fifty sack of conventional soybean seeds for 9 bucks. More and more farmers will go out of business with the steady rise in costs for seeds. There is little to no chance of changing this merger pattern in the agriculture industry unless all farmers ban together and say enough is enough. Today, I am calling on everyone who buys groceries or consumes groceries to join our campaign to stop the Bayer/Monsanto merger!