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Groups ask new AG to investigate proposed agribusiness mergersGroups ask new AG to investigate proposed agribusiness mergers

Nearly 325 groups ask new Attorney General Jeff Sessions to enjoin mergers of Dow/DuPont, Monsanto/Bayer and Syngenta/ChemChina.

February 13, 2017

3 Min Read
Groups ask new AG to investigate proposed agribusiness mergers
U.S. President Donald Trump (second from right) watches as Jeff Sessions (left) is sworn in as the new U.S. Attorney General by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (right) in the White House Oval Office on Feb. 9, 2017. Also pictured is Sessions's wife, Mary (second from left).Win McNamee/Getty Images

Nearly 325 farming, beekeeping, farmworker, religious, food safety and conservation advocacy groups urged the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into the proposed mergers of the world’s largest agrochemical and seed companies.

Groups urged Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general, to enjoin the mergers of Dow Chemical Co. with DuPont, Monsanto Corp. with Bayer AG and Syngenta with ChemChina on the grounds that they will drive up food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtail innovation, threaten the health of farmworkers and limit farmer choice. This letter comes on the heels of the Senate’s vote to confirm Sen. Sessions (R., Ala.) to be the head of DOJ. The letter was also delivered Monday to members of Congress and state attorneys general.

The letter points to the adverse and wide-ranging consequences of these mergers, stating, “Conglomerates of such massive scale, breadth and reach, such as those proposed by these mergers, pose a real risk to our economy, to our agricultural sector, to public health, to food security, to the environment and to the general health of the agricultural and food business climate. Dominance of this magnitude can pose both domestic and international consequences that would be irreversible, once set in motion.”

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Sessions about his views on these mergers and his approach to antitrust matters during his confirmation hearings. “His answers were evasive and vague,” according to a press release put out by the groups.

They expressed concern during the confirmation process that Sessions would allow “politics to interfere with the review of these mergers,” especially given President Donald Trump’s meeting with Bayer and Monsanto executives in January and Trump’s appointment of Dow chief executive officer Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturers Council in December.

Farmers and their allies nationwide implored the new attorney general to block the merger.

"Farmers across the country know that these mergers will result in fewer options and higher prices for the inputs we rely on. Already, a third of what a farmer makes for a corn harvest goes to pay for the seed alone; in the end, there is nothing left for the farm family. We’ve seen what happens when too few companies control too much of the market, and these mergers would only make a bad situation worse,” said Mike Weaver, president of the Organization for Competitive Markets.

"The decline in the quality of plant breeding for conventional varieties and the corresponding increase in the use of crop chemicals will continue as the merged companies narrow their interests yet further to a few number of products likely to bring in the greatest profit for those biotech companies. The past two decades have shown us that herbicide-resistant (genetically modified) seeds have been the favorite for companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta because they boost the sale of pesticides, "said Aaron Lehman, a grain farmer and president of the Iowa Farmers Union.

If all three deals were to close, the newly created companies would control nearly 70% of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61% of commercial seed sales and 80% of the U.S. corn seed market.

“A Bayer AG/Monsanto company would control 70% of the Southeast cottonseed market, which would increase the price by over 18%. Soy and corn prices would also rise, putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk even more,” said Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition and representative of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

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