Poll: Farmers Overwhelmingly Oppose Bayer-Monsanto Merger, Call For Antitrust Division to Reject Bid

Patrick Davis

(Edi­tor’s note: At the time of this post­ing Mon­san­to (NYSE:MON) shares were down four per­cent on news that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s antitrust divi­sion had fur­ther ques­tions regard­ing the pro­posed $66 bil­lion merg­er with Bay­er, a Ger­man multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and life sci­ences com­pa­ny — a merg­er that, if approved, would make the con­sol­i­dat­ed com­pa­ny the world’s largest man­u­fac­tur­er and sell­er of her­bi­cides as well as the world’s largest hold­er of veg­etable seed patents.)

An over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of sur­veyed farm­ers are con­cerned about the pro­posed Bay­er-Mon­san­to merg­er and believe it will have a neg­a­tive impact on inde­pen­dent farm­ers and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties, a poll released on March 6 has found. 

Accord­ing to the poll, of the farm­ers who responded: 

  • 93.7 per­cent are con­cerned about the pro­posed merg­er of Bay­er and Mon­san­to (82.8 per­cent are very concerned/10.9 per­cent some­what concerned);
  • 93.7 per­cent of farm­ers are con­cerned that the pro­posed Bay­er-Mon­san­to merg­er will neg­a­tive­ly impact inde­pen­dent farm­ers and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties (83.9 per­cent are very concerned/9.8 per­cent some­what concerned);

The farmer’s top three con­cerns of the merg­er are:

  • 91.9 per­cent of farm­ers are con­cerned that the merged com­pa­ny will use its dom­i­nance in one prod­uct to push sales of oth­er prod­ucts (79.6 per­cent very concerned/12.3 per­cent some­what concerned);
  • 91.7 per­cent of farm­ers are con­cerned that Bayer/​Monsanto will con­trol data about farm prac­tices (79.5 per­cent very concerned/12.2 per­cent some­what concerned)
  • 89.0 per­cent of farm­ers think the merg­er will result in increased pres­sure for chem­i­cal­ly depen­dent farm­ing (77.1 per­cent very concerned/11.9 per­cent some­what concerned).

The poll also found a high lev­el of con­cern amongst farm­ers sur­veyed that the merged com­pa­ny will con­trol data about farm prac­tices, will increase prices, dimin­ish qual­i­ty, choice and seed vari­eties includ­ing avail­abil­i­ty of region­al­ly adap­tive seed, which farm­ers iden­ti­fied as crit­i­cal giv­en increas­ing cli­mate variability. 

The new poll, field­ed by a coali­tion of farm groups, comes as the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice is review­ing the merg­er between chem­i­cal giant Bay­er (NYSE:BAYN) and agro­chem­i­cal giant Mon­san­to (NYSE: MON). If the Bay­er-Mon­san­to merg­er is approved, the new com­pa­ny would be the world’s largest veg­etable seed com­pa­ny, world’s largest cot­ton­seed com­pa­ny, world’s largest man­u­fac­tur­er and sell­er of her­bi­cides, and the world’s largest own­er of intel­lec­tu­al property/​patents for her­bi­cide tol­er­ant traits. 

A white paper, pre­pared by the Konkur­renz Group, exam­ines why the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice’s Antitrust Divi­sion should not accept Bayer’s pro­posed divesti­ture and behav­ioral reme­dies. Rely­ing on the sur­vey find­ings and oth­er evi­dence, the white paper exam­ines why the like­ly com­plex behav­ioral and struc­tur­al reme­dies will not like­ly restore com­pe­ti­tion in the seed, trait, and pes­ti­cide industries. 

This sur­vey under­scores what we’ve been hear­ing from our farm fam­i­ly mem­bers for decades — that over­whelm­ing con­sol­i­da­tion has sub­stan­tial­ly elim­i­nat­ed com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place. Four or five firms dic­tate the prices that farm­ers pay for their inputs. Fam­i­ly farm­ers deserve fair prices, choic­es in what they plant, and the type of mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion that incen­tivizes firms to com­pete and inno­vate for their busi­ness. A Bay­er-Mon­san­to merg­er stands to move each of these fac­tors in the wrong direc­tion, and that is away from com­pet­i­tive mar­kets. Our sur­vey makes it pret­ty clear that farm­ers want the merg­er blocked,” says Roger John­son, Pres­i­dent of Nation­al Farm­ers Union.

The Amer­i­can Dream is built on the core val­ue that fam­i­ly farm­ers and busi­ness men and women should have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to take their ideas, inge­nu­ity, hard work and resources to the mar­ket and have a fair chance at being suc­cess­ful in their endeav­ors. If allowed, this merg­er will deny farm­ers and busi­ness­es the abil­i­ty to have access to seed traits and chem­i­cals that would allow them to dif­fer­en­ti­ate their prod­ucts in the mar­ket, deny­ing con­sumers the choic­es they are demand­ing,” says Joe Maxwell, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Orga­ni­za­tion for Com­pet­i­tive Markets.

The chem­i­cal-inten­sive agri­cul­ture these cor­po­ra­tions pro­mote has giv­en rise to super­weeds and a reliance on even more potent, and poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous, chem­i­cals,” says Farm Aid com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor Jen­nifer Fahy. The pro­posed merg­er of Mon­san­to and Bay­er fur­ther strength­ens their abil­i­ty to threat­en the devel­op­ment of a sus­tain­able food sys­tem that sup­ports inde­pen­dent fam­i­ly farm­ers and rur­al economies, meets the grow­ing demand of con­cerned eaters, and pro­tects our soil and water. If we care about our food and our plan­et, the time to enforce antitrust laws is now!”

This merg­er will fur­ther con­cen­trate own­er­ship of our seed sup­ply, inevitably lead­ing to few­er seed vari­ety options in the mar­ket­place, less genet­ic diver­si­ty in our fields and high­er seed prices for farm­ers,” says Kiki Hub­bard of Organ­ic Seed Alliance. Seed prices have near­ly quadru­pled in the past 20 years, even though yield and the prices farm­ers receive for their crops have not. His­to­ry shows us that merg­ers of this mag­ni­tude also reduce rather than inspire inno­va­tion. Merg­ers of this mag­ni­tude there­fore affect all farm­ers, regard­less of how they farm, where they farm, and what they grow.” 

A merg­er between Bay­er and Mon­san­to would be a mas­sive threat to food sup­ply and farm­ers around the world,” says Anne Isakow­itsch, Cam­paign Man­ag­er at SumO­fUs. Now that Mon­san­to and Bay­er are clos­er than ever to this poten­tial­ly dis­as­trous takeover of our glob­al agri­cul­tur­al sys­tem, we must all step up our efforts and speak out. The future of farm­ing and food safe­ty depend on it. This deal has the capa­bil­i­ty to ush­er in a new era of ster­ile crops soaked in dan­ger­ous pes­ti­cides around the world; we sim­ply can­not allow this to happen.”

The evi­dence is over­whelm­ing­ly clear that divesti­tures or reme­dies will fail farm­ers and con­sumers,” says Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures cam­paign­er, Friends of the Earth. We urge the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to lis­ten to farm­ers and the more than 1 mil­lion Amer­i­cans call­ing on the depart­ment to block the Bay­er-Mon­san­to merg­er. The only answer to this merg­er is NO.”

The unprece­dent­ed poll of farmer’s opin­ions was con­duct­ed between Jan­u­ary 26 and Feb­ru­ary 12, 2018 by a coali­tion of farm groups who col­lect­ed 957 respons­es from farm­ers in 48 states. Cumu­la­tive­ly, the farm­ers who respond­ed to the poll cul­ti­vate close to 2 mil­lion acres, and rep­re­sent all sec­tors of farming. 

The fol­low­ing orga­ni­za­tions admin­is­tered the sur­vey to their mem­bers or net­works: Agri­cul­tur­al Jus­tice Project, Cal­i­for­nia Farm­ers Guild, Cen­ter for Rur­al Affairs, City Seed, Com­mu­ni­ty Alliance with Fam­i­ly Farm­ers, Domes­tic Fair Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, Farm­work­er Asso­ci­a­tion of Flori­da, Fam­i­ly Farm Defend­ers, Farm Aid, Farm and Ranch Free­dom Alliance, Farm­work­er Asso­ci­a­tion of Flori­da, Flori­da Organ­ic Grow­ers, Friends of Fam­i­ly Farm­ers, Hawai’i Farm­ers Union Unit­ed, Hawai’i Trop­i­cal Fruit Grow­ers, Iowa Farm­ers Union, Inter­na­tion­al Fed­er­a­tion of Organ­ic Agri­cul­ture Move­ments, Kansas Rur­al Cen­ter, Maine Organ­ic Farm­ers and Gar­den­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, Min­neso­ta Farm­ers Union, Mis­souri Coali­tion for the Envi­ron­ment, Nation­al Fam­i­ly Farm Coali­tion, Nation­al Farm­ers Union, Nation­al Lati­no Farm­ers and Ranch­ers Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, Nat­ur­al Born Tillers, New Britain ROOTS, North­east Organ­ic Dairy Pro­duc­ers Alliance, North­east Organ­ic Farm­ing Asso­ci­a­tion of Con­necti­cut, North­east Organ­ic Farm­ing Asso­ci­a­tion of Mass­a­chu­setts, Organ­ic Farm­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, Organ­ic Farm­ing Research Foun­da­tion, Organ­ic Seed Alliance, Organ­ic Seed Grow­ers and Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, Orga­ni­za­tion for Com­pet­i­tive Mar­kets, Our Fam­i­ly Farms, Pes­ti­cide Action Net­work North Amer­i­ca, Prac­ti­cal Farm­ers of Iowa, Ranch­ers-Cat­tle­men Action Legal Fund, Unit­ed Stock­grow­ers of Amer­i­ca, Rur­al Coali­tion, Rur­al Ver­mont, Sus­tain­able Food Cen­ter, Texas Organ­ic Farm­ers and Gar­den­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, The Cor­nu­copia Insti­tute, Vili­cus Farms, West­ern Orga­ni­za­tion of Resource Coun­cils, and the Women Food and Agri­cul­ture Network.

The full results and white paper, which demon­strates that the Depart­ment of Justice’s Antitrust Divi­sion should reject Bayer’s pro­posed divesti­tures and behav­ioral reme­dies and say NO to this merg­er, are avail­able here.

(This sum­ma­ry was first pub­lished by Friends of the Earth, an inter­na­tion­al net­work of envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions in 74 coun­tries, and is repost­ed on Rur­al Amer­i­ca In These Times with per­mis­sion. For more infor­ma­tion about their work, click here.)

Patrick Davis is a Press Offi­cer at Friends of the Earth, where he man­ages exter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions and rapid response for the organization’s cam­paign teams. Pri­or to join­ing Friends of the Earth, Patrick served as a Press Sec­re­tary on Capi­tol Hill and worked on Mary­land Gov­er­nor Mar­tin O’Malley’s pres­i­den­tial bid.
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