By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, December 18, Farmers and Families First, Inc. today released a comprehensive nationwide survey of voters who supported President Donald Trump in 2016, finding substantial opposition to the mega-merger between Bayer AG and Monsanto.
According to the poll, 54 percent of voters oppose the pending $66 billion merger over concerns of increased food prices and impact on farmers. After voters are presented arguments for and against the merger, opposition among President Trump’s base that increases to 78 percent.
Older and low-income women, households with an annual income of less than $50,000 per year, and rural householders hold the strongest views against the merger. Trump voters’ opposition to the merger centers around concerns about a company becoming too large and too powerful, and increasing costs for consumers.
Dan Conston is the Chairman of Farmers and Families First.
“President Trump carried the day last November because voters believed he would promote policies that helped working families, rural communities, and American small businesses,” said Conston. “The proposed merger would hurt the very people who elected President Trump by handing over disproportionate control of an industry to one company and in turn raising both operating costs for farmers and the cost of food for middle class families. We believe the Department of Justice should carefully review the proposed merger and ask the tough questions to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact American families or businesses.”
Last week, Farmers and Families First released a Texas A&M white paper showing how the proposed merger would raise aggregate seed prices by 5.5 percent and raise cottonseed prices by more than 20 percent. A merged Bayer-Monsanto would control over 35 percent of the global market for corn seeds, roughly 28 percent of the global soybean market, almost 70 percent of the global cottonseed market and up to 69 percent of U.S. approved herbicide-tolerant seeds for alfalfa, canola, corn, wheat, soybean and cotton.
The merger was proposed in the fall of 2016 and is currently under review by the European Commission, Brazil and the U.S. Department of Justice. Monsanto initiated the merger as an opportunity to combine seeds, traits, crop protection biologics and digital farming into a single “globally integrated agricultural platform.”
Late in the twentieth century, scientists with Monsanto discovered that a gene for herbicide resistance. Glyco-phosphate – tradename Roundup- kills plants. In 2001, Monsanto developed a genetically modified organism corn variety. Farmers could plant the Roundup ready corn and let it and the weeds come up; then spray the field with Roundup and everything died but the corn. It was far more effective and cheaper than mechanical cultivating the field to remove the weeds or tilling the soil to the point where there were few if any weeds left. In 2002, Roundup ready soybeans hit the market. Roundup Ready cotton and other products followed. By 2005, there was a billion acres of the new crops planted – all of it planted in seed purchased from Monsanto.
The result of these crop innovations has been greater integration of the seed and agricultural chemical markets and tighter consolidation of the entire agriculture industry which, according to research by Texas A&M, has already led to significantly higher seed prices.
Researchers at Texas A&M warn that allowing the merger of Monsanto and Bayer would create a single company with the largest share of the global market for all grain seeds and the seeds of a substantial number of vegetables, like broccoli, green beans, carrots and onions.
All of this is a new phenomenon. Before 1990, there were 600 or more small, independent seed businesses, many of them family-owned in the world. The corporations began to buy out the smaller companies. By 2006, there were only 250 left. By 2009, only about 100 survived on the planet. Meanwhile the introduction of traited seeds means that seed prices of more than doubled.
Historically many farmers, especially soybeans farmers, kept back a portion of their harvest as seed for next year. Since Monsanto has patents on its seed, that became illegal and Monsanto has been zealous in the lawsuits that they have brought against farmers who plant Monsanto’s patented seeds without buying them from a Monsanto dealer.
More and more farmers are switching from conventional seeds to seeds that have been genetically modified and the cost of seed as an input has soared.
Today most of the seed on the planet is produced by just four companies: Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and Dow DuPont. In 1994, the top four seed companies had 21 percent of the total global commercial seed sales. By 2009, they had 54 percent of all sales.
Monsanto is already the biggest of the big four. Combine it with Bayer Ag and the multi-national corporation would be by far the biggest seed company on the planet. A merged Monsanto/Bayer would also be the world’s largest agrochemical company, constituting roughly one-quarter of the global market and reaping annual revenues of more than $67 billion.
Monsanto has even greater dominance in the U.S. market. In 2009, 77 percent of all U.S. acres of cotton, 82 percent of all American acres of corn, and 95 percent of U.S. soybeans were planted with seed varieties containing Monsanto traits.
According to researchers at Texas A&M’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center the Monsanto-Bayer merger would result in farmers currently using Monsanto’s brands of cottonseed should expect seed prices to rise by 19.23 percent on average, and those using Bayer’s brands can expect price increases around 17.41 percent on average. Moreover, the Center’s calculations revealed a 75 percent probability that the seed prices of both companies would increase by almost 14 percent on average, and a 25 percent probability that combined seed prices would rise by an average of over 20 percent.
A combined Monsanto/Bayer would have enormous control over both the seed and agro-chemical businesses that farmers depend on and at least in theory could demand a disproportionate share of total food dollars. Something no-one one else has ever come close to achieving.
Many farm groups, including Farmers and Families First, are urging the U.S. Department of Justice, the European Union, and the Brazil government not to approve the merger.