Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled some must-see TV for farmers and other involved in the seed, biotechnology and chemical mergers.
Grassley released a witness list late Wednesday for the Sept. 20 hearing by his committee -- Consolidation and Competition in the U.S. Seed and Agrochemical Industry. The hearing will include five of the major players in the current wave of industry acquisitions: the president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, the CEO of Syngenta International AG, the president and CEO of Bayer CropScience North America, the executive vice president and chief technology officer of Monsanto Co., and the executive vice president of the agriculture division for DuPont and Co.
Along with those executives, the committee hear from the president of the National Farmers Union, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the president of the American Antitrust Institute.
Following the Monsanto-Bayer announcement on Wednesday, National Farmers Union issued a statement calling on federal officials to carefully examine industry consolidation, which also includes the fertilizer deal between Potash and Agrium and the precision agricultural acquisition now being challenged by the Department of Justice.
“Consolidation of this magnitude cannot be the standard for agriculture, nor should we allow it to determine the landscape for our future," said NFU President Roger Johnson.
Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said officials need to look at the business climate driving companies to make such consolidations. He also expressed concern on what mergers may mean to the research and development investments for the companies involved.
“This deal between Monsanto and Bayer comes close on the heels of the proposed Dow-DuPont merger. Farm Bureau believes the Department of Justice should undertake a close review of the overall business climate that has encouraged these combinations, rather than evaluating them in isolation," Young said. "Consumers must continue to have fair access to the best technologies and innovation."
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have not scheduled hearings on the mergers and consolidation, but, along with Grassley, there are four other senators on the Judiciary Committee that also serve on the Ag Committee. Additionally, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 21. It's certain at least some questions from the Ag Committee will touch on industry consolidation.
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