Grassley Calls for Hearing

Senator Announces September Look at Seed, Chemical Mergers

Greg D. Horstmeier , DTN Editor-in-Chief
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Tuesday said a hearing is being planned for late September on the current state of the agricultural seed and chemical industries. (Courtesy photo of Sen. Grassley; U.S. Capitol photo by Nick Scalise)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Tuesday that his committee would hold a hearing on the current state of the agricultural seed and chemical industries, in light of the number of mergers and acquisitions planned in those industries.

Grassley said the hearing was being planned for late September. Details on a date and whom would be asked to participate were still being worked out, he said.

The announcement follows Monday's news that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, gave its go-ahead to the proposed purchase of seed and chemical giant Syngenta by China National Chemical Corp., known as ChemChina.

The hearing is needed "because of the importance of seed and chemical industries to agriculture, and to the nation's economy," Grassley said during a call with reporters. Earlier in August, Grassley sent letters to various anti-trust and national security regulators asking that they collaborate "where appropriate" on the broader issues of seed and ag chemical industry changes.

"I've seen press reports indicating that collaboration is indeed happening," Grassley told reporters.

In addition to Syngenta and ChemChina, regulators are considering the merger of DuPont and Dow, and the industry is watching negotiations between Monsanto and Bayer AG.

CFIUS investigations focus on how a change in ownership would affect U.S. national security. In addition to the issue of food production as a security concern, Syngenta has several research or production facilities near U.S. military bases or other sensitive locations.

Grassley, among those concerned about such national security issues, said the details of CFIUS' approval of the sale remain confidential, and he did not know if those locations had been addressed.

In response to a DTN question about CFIUS details, a Syngenta spokesperson said any "mitigation measures are not material to Syngenta's businesses."

The focus, by Grassley and others in the U.S. watching the industry actions, now turns to anti-trust issues, something chief on farmer minds. Grassley told reporters that in his travels around Iowa this month, farmers had raised concerns about the consolidation.

"The concern is enough for me to have a hearing on the issue, but it's not an overreaction, it's not a massive voice against it," Grassley said of those farmer comments.

Greg D. Horstmeier can be reached at greg.horstmeier@dtn.com

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(AG/CZ)

Greg Horstmeier