Farmers say no to mega-merger steamroll | Pesticide Action Network
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Farmers say no to mega-merger steamroll

Linda Wells's picture
Farmers on field

Of the Big 6 seed and pesticide giants, there are three proposed mergers in the works: Dow with Dupont, Monsanto with Bayer, and Syngenta with ChemChina. Despite opposition from several farmer organizations, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and other anti-trust agencies around the world seem relatively unconcerned with this ever-increasing concentration in the agrichemical industry.

But it’s not over yet — farmers in Iowa and around the country are ramping up their public opposition to the mergers.

Each merger is being considered individually, with Dow-Dupont first in the queue. That consolidation recently gained European Union (EU) approval with some small stipulations; U.S. approval is quickly approaching and is not expected to be stricter than the EU decision.

Apparently DOJ is unconcerned about market concentration until there are only three or fewer companies in a field, and this round of mega-mergers will take us from a Big 6 to a Big 4. So no problem, right?

Experience tells us . . .

Several farmer organizations, however, are already concerned about pricing and lack of competition. These mergers come during the fourth consecutive year of dropping commodity prices, when many farmers are cutting costs to make it to the next season.

Input prices have already increased in other recently consolidated agriculture sectors, such as meat production and equipment manufacturing. According to Aaron Lehman, President of the Iowa Farmers Union, the food system is suffering for it:

 This consolidation has led to increased costs for farmers, less choice and less competition in the marketplace, less innovation, and increased prices for consumers. In turn, it results in farmland consolidation and a depopulation of rural areas.

Meanwhile, the pesticide companies have pledged that these mergers would allow them to increase their research and development — but we've seen enough to know this outcome is unlikely. From broken promises that genetically modified crops would allow for less pesticide use to proven-false statements that these same pesticides are literally safe to drink, we know to take our lessons from history instead of corporate spin.

Farmers speak out

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has come out against each of the mergers, citing potentially harmful impacts for farmers. Here's NFU President Roger Johnson in an open letter to the Trump Administration:

 The reduction in competition that would be wrought by a Dow-DuPont merger will result in less innovation, higher prices, and less choice for farmers. Given the damaging and lasting effects this merger will have on family farmers and rural America, we urge you to oppose this merger.

In Iowa, the Iowa Farmers Union and other supporters recently lobbied Senator Chuck Grassley and Attorney General Tom Miller to speak out publicly against the mergers. PAN’s Iowa organizer Carmen Black attended these meetings and helped deliver the message that more consolidation is the last thing farmers need:

 We don’t need bigger corporate giants peddling more expensive and chemically-intensive products. We need market competition to produce real solutions that get farmers off the pesticide treadmill that was created by these corporations decades ago.

Add your voice

It's time for our public institutions to differentiate between what is best for agribusiness giants and what is best for our food system. They are not one in the same.

We need room for real diversity and innovation in agriculture, and we need to protect and nurture the farmers and small companies that are leading the way. And, at this moment, we need to convince the DOJ not to approve these mergers. Here's Aaron Lehman again:

 These mergers will lead to fewer choices and higher prices at a time when farmers are already tightening their belts. We need congress and the U.S. Department of Justice to take action now.”

Please use this guide to call the DOJ — whether you're a farmer or consumer — explain why you care, and how the mega-mergers will impact you. 

Linda Wells
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Linda Wells is PAN's Associate Director of Organizing. Follow @LindaatPAN