DOJ: Monsanto’s decision to stop sale of Precision Planting to Deere ‘preserves competition’

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Darrell Hoemann/

A worker cleans a combine at an independent John Deere dealership in Illinois on Aug. 22, 2013.

The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto, announced on Monday that it has terminated an 18-month-old agreement to sell its Precision Planting LLC business to equipment manufacturer Deere & Company.

Monsanto’s decision to withdrawal from the planned agreement with Deere effectively ends a legal fight with the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit in August 2016 alleging that the deal was a merger-to-monopoly in the high-speed precision planting industry.

At the time, antitrust officials estimated the deal would give Deere 86 percent control of the budding market.

The case would have gone to trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago in June.

“The companies’ decision to abandon this transaction is a victory for American farmers and consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch in a statement. “Had this acquisition gone forward, significant head-to-head competition between Deere and Monsanto’s Precision Planting — competition that has led to lower prices and more innovative products — would have been lost.”

Farmers use precision-planting equipment to accurately plant corn, soybean and other row crops at up to twice the speed of a conventional planter.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Monsanto and Deere had been preparing to present their case for the deal’s approval for months, according to John May, Deere’s president of agricultural solutions and chief information officer. In a statement, May said that the antitrust concerns surrounding the deal were “based on flawed assessments of the marketplace.”

“We are deeply disappointed in this outcome as we remain confident the acquisition would have benefited customers,” he said.

The Climate Corporation announced that it still intends to sell Precision Planting LLC and that it has already spoken with “several third parties that have expressed interest in purchasing it.”

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