Opinion: Will farmers regret Bayer and Monsanto going to the chapel?

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Minister: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the corporate merger of Monsanto and Bayer in holy wedlock, which is an honorable (if not profitable) estate that is not to be entered into lightly but rather reverently and soberly.

Into this estate these two mega agricultural corporations present themselves now to be joined.

If any one can show just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together let them speak now or forever hold their peace … 

Public:  Uh, we don’t know if it means anything but …

Despite Bayer’s $66 billion move  – yeah with a B –  to acquire Monsanto, there remains serious doubt among some advocates that the U.S. Department of Justice did not do enough to protect  farmers and other stakeholders from escalating seed and chemical costs and the unappetizing possibility of fewer choices at the retail marketplace.

The two companies announced their intentions to get married (uh consolidate/merge) in September 2016 amid happy talk that the proposal would increase both innovation and research that would benefit farmers.

What Monsanto and Bayer didn’t say is that the ongoing mega-mergerpallooza threatened their corporate bottom lines.

Monsanto and Bayer both needed dance partners after the wedding of Dow and DuPont and ChemChina’s buyout of Syngenta.

The Bayer-Monsanto wedding (uh, consolidation/merger) means that an astonishing 61 percent of the world’s seed and pesticide production is controlled by the three mega-ag companies.

And it would have been worse had not the U.S. Department of Justice required Bayer to sell off $9 billion in assets including its digital farming operation, and seed treatment product line to BASF.

Don’t be fooled.  Corporations exist to make profits for their shareholders.  Everything else is secondary.

So, let’s cut to the chase.

How much is Monsanto and Bayer proposing to spend on research and development?

As it turns out $16 billion over six years. That comes to $2.67 billion a year, which sounds like a lot of money.

But previous research and development budgets are revealing.

Independently Bayer and Monsanto have been spending approximately $2.59 billion dollars a year.   So, quick pencil on the napkin calculations … the combined proposed increase in research and development funding amounts to less $500 million (no B here) over six years.  Chicken feed.

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson told Politco that the Bayer-Monsanto newlyweds  “must continue to increase the productivity of American family farmers by delivering localized solutions in seed, trait, and crop chemical innovation.”

He may find himself disappointed.

About Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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