Monsanto merger angers black farmers (23/2/2007)

Planned merger angers black farmers
By Julie Goodman
Clarion Ledger,

A national black farmers group says a proposed merger between Monsanto Co. and Delta and Pine Land will create a monolopy and force black farmers out of the business. The association represents 80,000 members, predominantly small planters.

Black farmers in Mississippi and around the country are bracing for a major seed company merger they say threatens to create a monopoly that will price them out of the farming business.

St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. is forging ahead with a plan to purchase Mississippi's Scott-based cottonseed company Delta and Pine Land, and a national black farmers group says its opposition to the deal has gotten lost in the mix

"If this merger goes through, it's going to have a drastic effect on black farmers and small farmers around the country," said John Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association.

"If this merger goes through, there is literally no competition for cottonseed, soybean seed and corn seed, genetically engineered."

The association represents 80,000 members around the country, primarily small producers, and has its biggest membership in Mississippi.

Delta and Pine Land operates the largest and longest-running private cottonseed breeding program in the world while Monsanto, one of the world's largest agricultural products companies, makes Roundup, the world's best-selling herbicide.

The deal, still awaiting U.S. Department of Justice approval, would mean a monopoly on the market, and seed prices would shoot up, Boyd said.

"It would be just like going to one supermarket and that supermarket sets the price for everything and we don't have any option but to go to that one supermarket."

Monsanto, which sells seeds and also licenses technology for insect protection and herbicide tolerance - one way farmers can help keep costs low - could not say whether prices would go up.

"It's difficult to speculate on pricing decisions in the future, but I would say that bottom line is, we've always looked to price our technologies based on the value the technology and the seed is delivering to the farmer," said company spokesman Lee Quarles.

Monsanto broadly licenses the technologies to other cottonseed companies so farmers can access the technologies in the seed brands they prefer to plant, he said.

A portion of the money the company makes is reinvested into new technology for farmers, including cotton farmers.

Quarles said a monopoly is not in the works, pointing to other companies farmers will have access to, including Stoneville, which Monsanto currently owns and could become an independent brand if the merger goes through.

"Just as we have announced that we would have a proposed merger with Delta and Pine Land, we've also announced that we would divest of the Stoneville business if that's required by the Department of Justice."

Boyd, who raises corn, soybeans and wheat, said he has asked Congress to hold hearings on the issue, but has not yet heard back on a decision.

One farmer in Mississippi, Rodalton Hart, fears he will go out of business if the merger goes through.

"You ain't got no control over it and with the cost of fertilizer and chemicals and everything that goes in to it, ain't no way anybody can survive," said Hart, 56, a cotton farmer in Lexington with 1,500 acres.

"They can go up as high as they want to go and you ain't got no control over it. It's just like the airlines. You can't control it," he said.

"You have to pay labor; you have to pay rent; you got to pay for seeds and chemicals ... equipment. It just goes on and on and on. I mean, everything comes out of the farmer's pocket."

The stakes are already high in farming, Hart said.

"Farming is risky. You're already on the edge. You're already on the verge ... Ain't no way you can survive," he said.

"Unless the government steps in and regulates the prices, we're just messed up."


National Black Farmers Association Resolution http://www.blackfarmers.org/press/070220rel.htm

A RESOLUTION opposing Monsanto’s acquisition of Delta and Pine Land Company.

WHEREAS, the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is a community-based organization with a national presence of more than 80,000 members involved in advocacy for black and other small farmers throughout the country since 1995;

WHEREAS, there is growing concern in the black farming community over the increased consolidation in agriculture;

WHEREAS, the Monsanto Company has announced its intention to buy the largest cotton seed company in the U.S., Delta and Pine Land Company;

WHEREAS, Monsanto’s proposed acquisition of Delta and Pine Land has far-reaching anticompetitive consequences for the agricultural economy, and, if permitted, would significantly diminish competition in the seed and biotech seed trait market and result in substantial harm to farmers, and;

WHEREAS, the proposed acquisition would create a monopoly in the American cotton industry, resulting in fewer choices, less innovation, and higher prices for farmers;

Be it Resolved that the National Black Farmers Association --

1. Opposes the acquisition of Delta and Pine Land by Monsanto because the acquisition will significantly limit agricultural competition to the detriment of farmers;

2. Encourages state and federal antitrust authorities to preserve agricultural competition by blocking the acquisition;

3. Encourages the Congressional Black Caucus to support black farmers by asking the Department of Justice to preserve agricultural competition by blocking the acquisition, and;

4. Authorizes the President of the NBFA to take all necessary steps to protect black farmers from the harms that would result from the proposed acquisition, including retaining legal counsel to commence litigation in the name of the organization to block the transaction under state and/or federal antitrust laws.

This resolution passed by the board of directors of the National Black Farmers Association February 8th 2007 during the NBFA Conference in Dallas TX

President NBFA
Dr. John W. Boyd, Jr., Pres.
68 Wind Rd.
Baskerville, VA 23915
Ph: (804) 691-8528
Ph: 1-434 848-1865
February 20, 2007

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