Wednesday 2/15 - Justin Elliot - Pro Publica - President Trump seems to like the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger...maybe a little too much?

Wednesday 2/15
Justin Elliot
Pro Publica
President Trump seems to like the proposed Bayer
Monsanto merger...maybe a little too much?

You might think it was the mission of the great Agri-chemical companies to get the manure out of farming, but when you listen to the top executives of firms like Monsanto and Bayer who want to merge into one even bigger company, it sure sounds like bull-poop still plays a big role in the industry.

After the CEOs of the 2 companies met with then President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, the mouthpiece for Bayer announced: “It was a productive meeting about the future of agriculture and the need for innovation.”  Asked about whether the planned merger had been discussed, the spokesman wouldn’t say.

Silly boy.  After all the 3rd man in the ring between these corporate contestants was Donald Trump, who blurted and Tweeted that – although he expected all the regulatory forms and functions to be applied, he liked the idea of merging the companies, because he said, he’d been promised it would result in thousands of new American jobs.

It was, he and his own spieler agreed, another example of how Trump’s hands-on Presidency was doing good for America.

But a little journalistic spade-work by the Wall Street Journal and The Business Insider turned over analyses that showed where jobs were concerned, the promised job-creation of the merged Bayer-Monsanto just about matched previously announced plans for job growth at the separate companies, and when it came to investment in research and development, from which the fabled “innovation” springs…the companies’ combined promise of $16 billion over six years — an average of $2.67 billion a year…boosted their separate

R&D budgets by less than $100 million a year, about 3%.

And, as far as the claim, made by both companies and more or less endorsed by the President, that the “efficiencies” of the merger would benefit farmers with better products and lower prices…let’s just say, farmers are skeptical.

As well they might be, given the results of a survey by the Farmers Business Network, based on years of experience by hundreds of farmers.

To them, the measure of efficiency is called “seed yield,” and the survey suggested when an agri-business company takes over a bigger share of the market, seed yield increases only marginally.  Seed prices, on the other hand, go up significantly.

As Mark Connelly, an agriculture analyst for one of the big agri-investment groups put it: “These companies want to make more money, they want to raise prices.  No company in this industry needs these deals in order to innovate.”

If there’s little need to worry about the impact of the proposed Bayer-Monsanto buyout, it’s because no matter what US regulators say, the chances the merger will be approved by the European Union are slim.

Which is why so many non-farmers watching this dance proceed are less worried about the deal than about how the President-elect, and now the President, has been putting his hands on it.

It’s not ethical, it’s not wise, they say, and it disrupts decades of practice that lets the professionals of the Justice Department’s anti-trust division protect the interests of American competitors and consumers.


Justin Elliott is an investigative reporter for Pro Publica. His recent work has concentrated on issues of government regulation, especially anti-trust enforcement policies, and workplace issues.



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