Agricultural Competition workshop.
President/CEO, CropLife America
The subject of the competition workshops is vital for the long term health of U.S. agriculture. Competition has made every sector in the U.S. economy stronger, more efficient and responsive to consumer demand. That's been truer in America than in any other nation in history.
At the same time, capturing business efficiency through economies of scale, which often means business mergers, acquisitions or joint ventures, has also been a key component of U.S. agriculture's success. And finally, U.S. ag's leadership with regards to innovation, mainly driven by science and technology, has been an essential element of our history, with that innovation enabled by the strength of our clear and consistent protection of intellectual property.
I was surprised that the Obama Administration did not present a clearer picture of what it is considering as it kicked off the workshops. Perhaps that will emerge as additional workshops proceed.
Communications Director, Pioneer Hi-Bred
The workshop was a welcome step towards unlocking competition--resulting in greater choice, higher quality, and better innovation. Top-ranking officials underscored the importance of open competition in the agriculture industry, particularly in the seed sector.
Officials rightly questioned Monsanto's market power and stressed the importance of generic competition coming to the market immediately when patents end. Pioneer couldn't agree more.
We are committed to increasing productivity and yield for farmers, and improving nutrition for consumers. The workshop focused on the present market structure and a future of innovation in which growers can choose the best product for their acres.
Director of Congressional Regulations American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF)
Competitive markets throughout the food value chain are critical to the success of America's farmers and ranchers. Therefore, issues such as those raised in the workshops are of great interest to AFBF and we plan to participate fully in the workshops and have already filed formal comments for the record. Our comments focused on five areas: the Capper-Volstead Act, dairy, livestock and poultry, railroads and the seed industry.
We also believe that farmers and ranchers will be best served with the DOJ and USDA working together on these complicated issues, as their areas of expertise complement each other.
Clearly, this is a way for the Obama Administration to deliver on a pledge made during the campaign to investigate competition and concentration issues in agriculture. It's also an effective way for this administration to demonstrate that they are listening to their base and build support for future campaigns.
The first workshop was well-organized and covered a lot of ground. One of the things I found most lacking is a baseline presentation of what would or would not constitute an anti-trust violation, setting the stage for a more informed debate.
We were pleased to participate in the workshop and provide more information about our business. It was a unique opportunity to highlight the investment that Monsanto and hundreds of other seed companies are making on behalf of U.S. farmers.
With dozens of trait technologies available to farmers today and 50 new traits currently under development, it's clear that competition within the U.S. seed industry is growing. The fight to win the farmer's business is intense. We remain committed to investing in new products for farmers, products that present another option on the farm and offer them more value for their farm.
Manager, Nichols Ag
Former Chairman, Agricultural Retailers Association
One company already controls over 40% of the retail and wholesale agricultural input business in the U.S. In the last two years, many market conditions have deteriorated at the hands of that company since the major fertilizer, seed and chemical manufacturers dump their excess product on it and then it goes straight to the broker market or used as a competitive advantage against the rest of us.
There used to be a time in America when the government broke up companies that controlled too much of the market. Although the current administration showed some lip service to this policy, four of the big fertilizer companies just fought a huge battle to make it three big companies and soon farmers and retailers will be told who, when and at what price we can compete.
CEO, Independent Professional Seed Association
Independent regional seed companies, who were well-represented at the workshop, have thrived as a result of open and competitive markets and through tremendous advances in seed technology--germplasm and biotechnology. Several attendees reminded elected and appointed officials of the need for careful actions as these workshops and related activities continue, in order to
Pres/CEO, CropLife America
From my perspective, I was a tiny bit disappointed by the workshop. At least the first panel, which was dominated by the Obama Administration representatives, seemed to have been politically orchestrated to address small, "family" farms and rural communities.
I think we need a clearer definition of "family" farms. Those commercially viable enterprises that produce the majority of the food for the nation are, for the most part, owned and operated by multi-generational families. So, they should be considered "family" farms, as well.
I had the impression some of the speakers want us to go back to the agriculture of the 1950s. That was an era of mostly subsistence farming with the small surplus they produced being sold on the open market. We are in a different era now, with a world to feed and aggressive international competition that is very active in the marketplace.
To compete, we must have private companies that have a financial incentive for their shareholders to invest the tremendous amount of R&D dollars it takes to come up with the technology we need to feed our nation and the world.
Editor's note: Last month, in Ankeny, IA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and USDA held the first in series of workshops named "A Dialogue on Competition Issues Facing Farmers in Today's Agricultural Marketplace."
In his opening remarks, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the major objective of the workshops was for the Department to obtain a more complete understanding of the ag industry which it considers core to the success of the U.S. economy. He said the DOJ has made the investigation of the ag industry its number one priority.
Ironically, while the workshop was proceeding, CF Industries merged Terra Industries, creating the world's second largest fertilizer company.
We invited some prominent ag industry leaders to share their reaction to the workshop. For more on the workshop, go to www.AgriMarketing.com and type DOJ in the "Search" box.
Iowa State University's Dr. Neil Harl (retired) provided an overview of the hybrid seed industry. He said it has had three eras: 1930-1980 featured genetic breeding from public institutions licensing inbred lines broadly; 1980-1995 the Supreme Court's ruling that live, unique organisms can be patented led to industry ramping up R&D investments creating their own, exclusive hybrids; 1995-present, the biotech trait era dominated by multi-national corporations.
Ass't Attorney General Christine Varney, who oversees DOJ's antitrust department, issued a stern warning that her staff will be on an "unrelenting quest to find the proper balance to assure the competitiveness of the ag industry." Her two major objectives were to make sure market transparency is "aggressively pursued" and to determine if biotech patent strategies are being "improperly extended to preserve a monopoly."
Monsanto's Vice President of Industry Affairs Jim Tobin was the only representative of the seed industry to make a presentation at the workshop's panels. His comments, and all others, are posted on the Department of Justice's web site.
Photos courtesy of Root Communications
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|Article Type:||Viewpoint essay|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2010|
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