Groups Seek Attention to Mergers in DOJ Hearing

May 9, 2017

 

Senator Charles Grassley                                                                                 Senator Dianne Feinstein

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee                                                  Ranking Member, Senate

224 Dirksen Senate Office Building                                                           Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C., 20510                                                                                 332 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C., 20510

 

Senator Mike Lee                                                                                                 Senator Amy Klobuchar

Chairman, Subcommittee on Antitrust,                                                  Ranking Member, Subcommittee

Competition Policy and Consumer Rights                                              on Antitrust, Competition Policy

361A Russell Senate Office Building                                                         and Consumer Rights

Washington, D.C., 20510                                                                                 302 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C., 20510

 

 

Dear Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, Senator Lee, and Senator Klobuchar:

We are a group of 137 farmer, consumer, and environmental groups deeply concerned about growing concentration in the agricultural products sector and, in particular, about the proposed merger of Monsanto Company and Bayer AG.

As you know, the merger was proposed in the fall of last year and is currently under review by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

As you consider the nomination of Makan Delrahim to lead the Antitrust Division at DOJ we urge you to ensure that he will fully and skeptically evaluate the proposed merger, devote all necessary resources to the investigation, and hold the welfare of farmers, consumers, workers, and innovation foremost in his mind as he decides whether to block the merger.

If the merger were to go through, the new corporation will be the world’s largest agribusiness company. Moreover, the proposed merger is pending amidst an overall wave of consolidation in the agribusiness sector, with the Dow Chemical Co. in the midst of merging with E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) and China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) acquiring Syngenta AG. If all three deals close, the three resulting companies would control 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market. They would control 83.7 percent of the U.S. corn seed market, 85.0 percent of the cottonseed market, and 76.2% of the soybean seed market.[1]

In addition, about 95 percent of all acres growing corn, soybeans, and cotton will contain a genetic trait owned by one of the Big Four companies if the merger wave goes through. [2] In addition, an analysis of genetically approved events shows that if the merger goes through Monsanto+Bayer will control 69 percent of all herbicide tolerance traits approved for use in the United States for alfalfa, canola, cotton, corn, soybean, and wheat.[3] In addition, Monsanto+Bayer will be the world’s largest vegetable seed business for products like broccoli, green beans, carrots, and onions.[4]

Such a heavily consolidated seed and agricultural input industry makes it easier for cartel-like collusion that raises prices for farmers and other buyers and ultimately consumers all the while stifling innovation.

Even before these mergers were proposed, the outlook for American farmers has been deteriorating. A recent report from the Kansas City Fed warned:

Since 2013, profit margins have dropped precipitously for corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton.

The outlook for the farm economy has continued to worsen through 2016, despite some occasional rebounds in income and profit margins. As 2016 winds down, there will be increasing focus on the outlook for 2017 and likely more questions about the ability of some producers to continue to operate after experiencing losses for multiple consecutive years.[5]

Unless DOJ and Mr. Delrahim take this perilous situation seriously and act to block the merger, by the end of this year, four companies may control seed and chemical pricing and dictate all innovation in farming.

A number of studies have concluded that these mergers will very likely mean higher prices for farmers – putting the squeeze on their already slim profit margins. One study, from Texas A&M, indicated that just one of those mergers – Bayer and Monsanto – would drive up cotton seed prices by as much as 18%.[6]

Moreover history shows that concentration in the seed market is not beneficial to either farmers, consumers, workers, or innovation. In 1996 there were 600 independent seed companies; this number dropped to 100 by 2009.[7] This concentration resulted in crop seed prices more than doubling relative to the prices farmers received for commodity crops between 1994 to 2010.[8]

In addition to these substantive concerns, we are very worried about reports that President Trump met with the CEOs of Monsanto and Bayer, who sought his approval of the merger. According to the President’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the CEOs promised jobs and investments if the merger were approved.[9] After they met with the President to discuss their proposed merger, The Wall Street Journal reported that investors had come to the conclusion that the president supports the merger. “They’ve been managing it in a smart manner,” Fabrice Theveneau of Lyxor Asset Management, a Bayer shareholder, told the Journal. “If you can get access to the ‘Big Man’ directly, it obviously helps.” [10]

These meetings have raised serious ethical concerns,[11] and we urge you to clarify with Mr. Delrahim how he will handle the possibility of unwarranted political interference with a law enforcement matter and maintain the credibility of the Antitrust Division.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

 

ActionAid USA

American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3354, St. Louis, MO

Alliance for a Clean Environment Western Australia

Alliance for Democracy

All-Creatures.org

Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc.

Association for the Tree of Life

American Bird Conservancy

Animals are Sentient Beings, Inc.

As You Sow

Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry

Beyond Pesticides

Biofuelwatch

Bold Visions Conservation

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics

Californians for Pesticide Reform

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Environmental Health

Center for Food Safety

Center for Sustainable Medicine

Central Maryland Beekeepers Association

Citizens for GMO Labeling

Colorado Pesticide Reform Coalition

Community Agroecology Network

Community Alliance for Global Justice

Connecticut Families Against Chemical Trespass

Corporations v Democracy National Issue Committee of Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom – US Section

Cottonwood Environmental Law Center

Crawford Stewardship Project

Cuatro Puertas

DC Environmental Network

Dogwood Alliance

Earthjustice

Earth Open Source Institute

Ecology Center

Ecological Farming Association

Endangered Habitats League

Endangered Species Coalition

Experimental Farm Network

Fair World Project

Family Farm Defenders

Farm Aid

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farmworker Association of Florida

Food Democracy Now!

Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship & Development (FEED)

Food Fight

Food First

Food Forward

Food for Maine’s Future

Food and Water Watch

FOODwatch Washington

Friends of the Earth Australia

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Gap Mountain Goats

GE Free New Zealand

Gene Ethics

Georgia ForestWatch

Global Exchange

GM Cropwatch

GM-Free Australia Alliance

GMO Free California

GMO Free Florida

GMO Free USA

GMO Inside

Green America

Health Care Without Harm

Humming for Bees

Illinois Right to Know GMO

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

Judith Schwartz, Author

Local Futures/ISEC

MADGE Australia Inc

Mangrove Action Project

Maryland Pesticide Education Network

Midwest Pesticide Action Center

Missouri Farmers Union

Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture

National Farmers Union

National Family Farm Coalition

National Organic Coalition

National Organization for Women of New Jersey

Noah’s Notes

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Association Connecticut

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Olympia Beekeepers Association

One Fish Foundation

Organic Consumers Union

Organic Seed Alliance

Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association

Organization for Competitive Markets

PCC Natural Markets

Pesticide Action Group Washington

Pesticide Action Group Western Australia

Pesticide Action Network North America

Pollinator Friendly Alliance

Pollinate Minnesota

Rachel Carson Council

Raptors Are the Solution

Real Food Challenge Towson University

Regeneration International

Roots of Change

Rural Advancement Foundation International

Rural Vermont

Santa Cruz Permaculture

Save Our Sky Blue Waters

SAVE THE FROGS!

Save Our Trees Washington

Sequoia ForestKeeper

Sierra Club

Slow Food USA

Soil Carbon Coalition

South Australia Genetic Food Information Network

SumOfUs

Sustainable Arizona

Sustainable Food Center

Sustainable Economics Law Center

Tennessee Ornithological Society

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

The Acequia Institute

The Conscious Kitchen

The Cornucopia Institute

The Lands Council

The Organic & Non-GMO Report

Toxics Action Center

Toxics Free NC

Turning Green

Turtle Island Restoration Network

Western Organization of Resource Councils

Wild Earth Guardians

 

 

[1] See Diane Bartz and Greg Roumeliotis, “Bayer’s Monsanto acquisition to face politically charged scrutiny,” Reuters, September 15, 2016; Henry Bryant, Aleksandre Maisashvili, Joe Outlaw, and James Richardson, “Effects of Proposed Mergers and Acquisitions Among Biotechnology Firms on Seed Prices,” Report from Agricultural and Food Policy Center, Texas A&M, September, 2016 at p.6.

[2] Keith Fuglie, Paul W. Heisey, John L. King, and David Schimmelpfennig, “Rising Concentration in Agricultural Input Industries Influences New Farm Technologies,” Amber Waves, USDA Economic Research Service, December 2012 at pp. 4-5.

[3] See GM Approval Database, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

[4] See ETC Group, “Mega-Mergers in the Global Agricultural Inputs Sector: Threats to Food Security & Climate Resilience,” Presentation to UN Committee on World Food Security, September, 2015 at p. 19.

[5] Nathan Kauffman, “U.S. Farm Economy Slumps into the Fourth Quarter,” Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, September 28, 2016.

[6] See Texas A&M Report, supra note 1.

[7] Matthew Wilde, “Independent Seed Companies A Dying Breed,” The Courier, May 31, 2009.

[8] Keith O. Fuglie, Paul W. Heisey, John L. King, Carl E. Pray, Kelly Day-Rubenstein, David Schimmelpfennig, Sun Ling Wang, and Rupa Karmarkar- Deshmukh, “Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide,” USDA Economic Research Service,  ERR-130, December 2011, at p. 19.

[9] “Bayer to boost U.S. jobs, investments amid Monsanto deal: Trump spokesman,” Reuters, January 17, 2017.

[10] Christopher Alessi, “Trump Backing for Bayer’s Monsanto Deal Buoys Investors,” The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2017.

[11] Josh Boak, “Trump’s CEO meetings raise ethics questions,” AP, Januart 14, 2017.