News broke yesterday of a confirmed Bayer/Monsanto merger, just hours after hundreds of Farmers Union members from around the country had been on Capitol Hill expressing concern over growing corporate consolidation. Seventeen Wisconsin Farmers Union members were among those lobbying, calling for investigation into proposed mergers and better enforcement of federal antitrust regulations.
The German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer announced plans to buy U.S. seed seller Monsanto for $66 billion in an all-cash deal that will create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and agricultural chemicals.
The deal comes as falling crop prices have caused a slide in farm profits, which cuts into the amount farmers can pay for inputs. Consolidation in agriculture also results in increased prices for consumers; less choice, competition, and innovation; and increased consolidation of farmland and rural depopulation.
Currently, the top six agricultural input companies own 63 percent of the global seed market, 75 percent of the agricultural chemical market, and 95 percent of the trait acres for corn, soybeans, and cotton in the United States.
Meanwhile, the top four meat processing companies slaughter 85 percent of the cattle, 74 percent of the hogs, and 54 percent of the chicken in the U.S.
The merger between Bayer and Monsanto marks the fifth major deal in agriculture in the last year, preceded by an approval of the Syngenta/ChemChina acquisition and proposed mergers between Dow/DuPont, Potash Corp./Agrium and John Deere/Precision Planting LLC.
In response to the multi-billion merger deal, Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) President Darin Von Ruden issued the following statement:
“Consolidation of this magnitude cannot be the standard for agriculture, and we should not allow it to determine the landscape for our future,” Von Ruden said. “Our family farm and ranch members recently returned from Capitol Hill, where they asked Members of Congress to conduct hearings to review the staggering amount of pending merger deals in agriculture today. Mergers like this haven't helped farmers or consumers. CEOs receive big pay raises while everyone else pays in the end."
Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will review the alarming trend of consolidation in agriculture, which WFU believes has led to less competition, stifled innovation, higher prices and job loss in rural America.
“Farmers and ranchers are the ones who bear the economic brunt of corporate consolidation and they are now feeling the effects of incredibly consolidated industries on just about every aspect of their operation,” Von Ruden said.
Wisconsin Farmers Union, a member-driven organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement. For more information visit www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com.