Monsanto-Bayer merger hurts farmers and consumers

By: Jim Goodman and Tiffany Finck-Haynes

Published in the Des Moines Register, Sept. 1st, 2018

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a stern warning in its lawsuit against the conditionally-approved mega-merger between Bayer and Monsanto in June.

The anti-competitive price effects of the merger would, according to the DOJ, “likely result in hundreds of millions of dollars per year in harm, raising costs to farmers and consumers.” The Justice Department warned that the combining of Bayer and Monsanto would reduce competition for vegetable seeds, likely driving up prices. Further, farmers might see prices for GMO cotton, canola, corn and soybean seeds increase, as well as price increases for herbicide and seed treatments.

After imposing some limited divestments on Monsanto, the DOJ approved this merger, enabling Monsanto to hide its controversial name brand while giving Bayer anti-competitive control over seeds, pesticides, farmers and consumers worldwide.

But the harm to consumers and farmers will still exist.

The DOJ is on the brink of essentially authorizing a monopoly. This is bad news for nearly everyone on the planet except Bayer and Monsanto executives and shareholders. Aside from a combined Bayer-Monsanto, only three other seed companies will be in the market manufacture and sell these products.

Farmers overwhelmingly object to the merger. Ninety-three percent of farmers expressed concern that the merger will harm independent farmers and farming communities. Farmers’ top three concerns were that Bayer/Monsanto “would use its dominance in one product to push sales of other products;” “control data about farm practices;” and that the merger will create “increased pressure for chemically dependent farming.”

Aside from the overwhelming number of farmers that have already voiced opposition to the merger, the DOJ has received petitions from over 1 million Americans urging the agency to block the merger. This month, thousands of farmers and Americans resubmitted comments urging the agency to reverse its harmful conditional approval. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined a letter with the state attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Oregon submitted a letter opposing the merger.

Bayer and Monsanto’s merger comes at a moment when powerful companies push farmers into dependence on their products, locking farmers into long-term contracts.  A consolidating food system means less choice for consumers.

“This mega-merger will give the company a stranglehold on the vegetable seed, cottonseed, corn and soy seed markets, which will only increase prices and put farmers’ livelihoods at risk,” noted Ben Burkett, a Mississippi vegetable farmer and past board president of National Family Farm Coalition.

For farmers, the merger will likely push up production costs. Farmers’ concerns are backed up by history, in which mega-mergers have diminished competition and options for both farmers and consumers while promoting more chemical-based farming — in turn harming our environment and health.

As seed and GMO companies have consolidated over the past 20 years. Much of that price increase comes from companies increasing fees for seeds as they genetically modify new traits into our food. The cost of these new technologies has exploded the price of seeds; between 32 and 74 percent of the price of seed for corn, soybeans, cotton and sugar beets in the United States and the European Union was estimated to reflect technology costs or the cost of seed treatments.

Farmers’ net profits continues to shrink. Reduced earnings have forced most farmers to take on second jobs; 82 percent of U.S. farm household income is expected to come from off-farm work this year, up from 53 percent in 1960.

As the Trump administration moves to give another handout to corporate agriculture, family farmers will pay the price.

Farmers aren’t fooled by claims that Monsanto divestments will make this merger beneficial and non-monopolistic. Consumers and policymakers shouldn’t be fooled, either. On our farms, in our soil and on our supermarket shelves, the merger of Bayer and Monsanto means fewer options for a cleaner, healthier and more farmer-friendly food system.

As the Department of Justice moves to make a final decision, they should stop this merger and save farmers and consumers from this new monopoly.

Jim Goodman is the Board President of the National Family Farm Coalition.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes is Senior Food Futures Campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

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Trump’s $12 Billion PR Stunt

Instead of posturing to look like he supports farmers, the president should be pushing for reforms in agricultural programs that would actually help the little guy

By: Jim Goodman, President, National Family Farm Coalition (Wonewoc, WI)

Published by the Daily Yonder, Aug. 2nd, 2018

Despite strong continued support for President Trump in rural America, farmers fear they will bear the brunt of the retaliatory tariffs from the president’s trade war. 

Farm country can ill afford it: In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted 2018 crop profits would hit a 12 year low. Dairy farmers’ prices have fallen 30% in two years, while pork producers have seen a price drop of roughly $20 per head. Overall farm incomes are down nearly 50% from 2013. Long before the trade war began, I and many other farmers feared we were in a farm crisis as bad as that of the 1980s. Now we know it will be even worse. 

While the president has said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose support, he also knows who butters his bread. And so, we have a new $12 billion emergency aid package for farmers to ease the sting of the tariffs, clearly designed to keep his rural base firmly behind him. But will it actually solve farmers’ problems? I doubt it. 

Twelve billion dollars is a lot of money, but spread across all the major agricultural commodities, it will be a drop in the bucket. Details on how the money will be dispersed are still hazy, but I suspect most of it will not find its way into the pockets of struggling farmers. 

 The proposed scheme divides the funds into three pots. One will be used for direct incremental payments to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs, for losses sustained from the tariffs. A second will use USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) authority to purchase commodities of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk and distribute them to food banks. The third will use CCC funds to partner with the private sector to develop new export markets for agricultural commodities. 

So what’s wrong with that? Well, plenty. First, direct payments will supposedly replace projected income lost due to the tariffs – as if everything was going along fine in farm country before the president’s little trade war. The whole plan ignores the full-blown farm crisis – complete with farmers struggling to pay their electric bills and buy food, forced to sell their farms, and in some cases taking their own lives – that has been quietly growing in the countryside for years, with virtually no recognition or corrective action from Washington. But now they’re playing politics. 

Second, after the bailout gives an unknown share of $12 billion to make up for farmers’ low prices and feed the working poor through a donation program, it hands the rest to big agribusiness for export market development. Farmers are already forced to pay a tax on every animal or bushel of grain we sell. This checkoff goes to agribusiness trade groups for product promotion and market development. But apparently that’s not enough, so this deal gives them another pound of flesh – this time from the taxpayers. 

The real problem facing farm country is not international tariffs. It is that we produce too much. Farmers are told that to survive, we must produce every possible bushel, every gallon of milk or pound of meat, no matter what it costs to buy the inputs, no matter the toll on the environment. When prices are low, we must produce more – and of course that means even lower prices and a never-ending death spiral. 

The small farms go first in hard times; the land merged into bigger operations, and the small dairy herds, like mine, sold off. My state of Wisconsin is losing 1.5 dairy farms every day – that’s 1.5 farmers out of a job. We can only guess at the economic impact the loss of these small farms will have on the businesses in their rural communities. 

There is another way: not a bailout, but a minimum wage. For many years, federal farm policy included a grain reserve. The government bought grain in times of low prices, sold it back into the market when supplies were low, and ensured farmers a floor price to keep them farming at a profit rather than producing below their cost of production. This stabilized the food supply and food prices, and farmers were required to maintain good environmental practices – no fence-row to fence-row planting. 

We could do the same for livestock producers. Rather than forever chasing new export markets, we could, like Canada, simply keep our production in line with domestic consumption. Canada’s supply management program guarantees farmers a fair price and guarantees consumers adequate food supplies grown locally – with no taxpayer subsidies required. We could still export excess production where there was demand, but US farmers would no longer compete with every farmer in the world over who can produce the cheapest product. Farmers, like everyone else, do better with a fair price for their work rather than emergency handouts. 

Trump’s trade war will cause irreparable damage to the farm sector, but we were bleeding long before he took to Twitter. If the president really wants to help farmers – and consumers, the environment, and taxpayers – he would lobby for a U.S. supply management program, not a $12 billion PR stunt.

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Donald Trump is Wrong on Dairy Policies

By: Anthony Pahnke, vice president of Family Farm Defenders

Published on July 6th, 2018, Capital Times (Madison, WI)

President Donald Trump is wrong on dairy because he supports free trade. At first, this may appear incorrect, especially with the trade disputes over tariffs with China and the European Union. Despite such views, his position on agriculture — dairy in particular — is entirely different, taking a page right out of the free-trading Democrats’ economic playbook of the 1990s.

Consider Trump’s tweet from early June that targeted Canada’s dairy industry. According to Trump, Canada places a 270 percent tariff on dairy imports, which Trump says is “unfair to our farmers!” What Trump is actually targeting is Canada’s supply-management system, a series of policies that stabilize the prices that farmers receive through setting production quotas and limiting supply. Comparing milk prices in the two countries shows a steady raise over the years for Canadian farmers, while in the United States, we find a veritable roller-coaster of sharp increases and decreases that vary every three years or so. As the current U.S. dairy crisis is now unfolding, characterized by low milk prices, a wave of bankruptcies, and in some cases farmer suicides, some have expressed interest in learning about the not-so-free market system in Canada. In fact, the Wisconsin Farmers Union hosted Canadian farmers earlier this year, who came to the state to discuss supply management.

Yet instead of praising a system that benefits rural communities, and that U.S. dairy farmers have expressed interest in understanding, Trump bashes it. Also, earlier this year Trump proposed that the U.S. could possibly re-enter the intercontinental free trade agreement, the Tran-Pacific Partnership, which he withdrew the U.S. from early in his presidency. The reason for this change would be to help U.S. exports find markets in foreign countries. In criticizing the Canadian system and potentially rejoining the TPP, Trump is voicing support for economic globalization and free markets.

Where else have we seen such support for free trade in agriculture? The answer is in the Clinton administration. After becoming president in 1992, one of Bill Clinton’s first moves was to sign into law the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA seeks to create a complete free trade zone among Canada, Mexico, and the United States. While certain areas in agriculture are exempt — for instance, Canadian dairy — the overall thrust is not to keep people farming, but to promote exports for the advantage of agribusiness conglomerates. Similarly, in 1994, the U.S. Senate ratified and Bill Clinton signed the treaty that created the World Trade Organization. In the WTO, the goal is the same as NAFTA, but with the difference that free trade is global and not merely regional.

What rural communities in Wisconsin and throughout the United States have painfully learned, especially since the 1990s, is that free trade and growing export markets do not keep people in the countryside. Since 1992, according to the USDA, the number of licensed dairy herds nationally has fallen from over 131,000, to 40,000. That 60 percent decline has not resulted in diminished supply — consumers have retained regular access to milk and other dairy products as farms have increased their production and size. The average number of cows per operation has doubled during this time, going from approximately 50 in the early 1990s to over 100 currently. Factory farms of thousands of cows are increasingly dotting the Wisconsin landscape alongside small farmers auctioning their land, equipment and animals because they cannot pay their bills.

Is promoting free trade through lambasting the Canadians and potentially rejoining the TPP the remedy to the current dairy crisis? The answer is no. Yet, instead of acknowledging this point that is apparent after analyzing the results of the Democrats’ free trade initiatives from the 1990s, Trump chooses to follow their policies and embrace their economic vision for rural America.


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Real Solutions to the Dairy Crisis – Binational Media Conference Call Held Tues. May 9th, 2018

Family Farm Defenders and the National Family Farm Coalition, along with many allies, hosted a binational media conference call on Tues. May 9th tackling real solutions to the dairy crisis.

Over two dozen journalists participated in the call, and the conversation has already generated several news articles.

Featured panelists on the call included:

  • Ralph Dietrich, Canadian dairy farmer, board member of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario
  • Patty Lovera, policy director, Food and Water Watch
  • Jim Goodman, organic dairy farmer, president of the National Family Farm Coalitiom
  • Ed Maltby, executive director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association
  • Moderated by Sarah Lloyd, dairy farmer, special projects coordinator with Wisconsin Farmers Union

The conference call was also recorded, so if you would like to listen:
​Dial-in for USA:             1-719-457-0820
Dial-in for Canada:        1-647-0148
Replay Passcode:          290862892#​

Here are also some links to news stories prompted by the call:

National Press

Local Press

As well as background materials that were shared with the call participants:

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Family Farmers, Fishers and Food Workers Urge Eaters Everywhere to Contact Their Elected Officials and Demand Food Sovereignty NOW to Commemorate April 17th – the International Day of Peasant Struggle

For immediate release – April 16, 2018Contact:

John Peck (608.345.3918),

Anthony Pahnke (612.916.9148)

Lisa Griffith (773.319.5838)

On April 17th each year, members of La Via Campesina – the largest umbrella organization in the world for family farmers, fisher and herder folk, hunters/gatherers/foresters, and indigenous peoples –  commemorate the massacre of landless peasants in 1996 in the Amazonian state of Pará, Brazil. Nineteen members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) were attacked and killed while hundreds more peasants were injured by Brazilian military police during their protest for comprehensive agrarian reform. This struggle for justice continues in Brazil today.  Events planned for April 17th worldwide may be viewed online ( 2GUu8Y0April17th).

For many years Family Farm Defenders, Food & Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition and other La Via Campesina allies have staged protests outside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Trade on April 17th to protest lack of federal anti-trust enforcement and global commodity price rigging that hurts farmers and consumers alike.

Instead of a protest this year, U.S. food sovereignty advocates are urging citizens to take the spirit of April 17th directly to the politicians as Congress enters debate on the 2018 Farm Bill and the White House reconsiders forced trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Many farmers, particularly dairy farmers, are finding themselves in worse financial shape now than during the height of the1980s crisis, leading to a wave of bankruptcies and tragic suicides.  Unregulated fake “organic” imports and taxpayer subsidized expansion of “organic” factory farms are even hurting the small farms that pioneered the organic food movement in the U.S.  Unprecedented agribusiness concentration is destroying access to non-GM and locally adapted seed varieties.

Adding insult to injury, the Farm Bill draft just released by the House Agriculture Committee supports strict work requirements for SNAP recipients, allows the EPA to approve pesticides without analyzing potential harm to endangered species, reduces support for many conservation programs, and slashes funding for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501).

This April 17th please take a stand in favor of food sovereignty by contacting your elected officials in Congress – you can find their contact information by calling the Congressional Switchboard at #202-224-3121  or by visiting  and

Among the key issues to discuss with your representative and senators:

Demand #1:  Create a farmer-controlled supply management program for commodity grains and for dairy, in particular, which is extremely perishable and costly to store. Canada already has a supply management system which ensures farmers a parity (cost of production) price while keeping food prices more affordable which the U.S. could certainly replicate.

Demand #2:  Reinstate COOL – Country of Origin Labeling – for all meat and seafood, as well as dairy products. Citizens in more than 60 other countries have the right to know where their food comes from, and U.S. consumers who wish to support U.S. farmers should have access to the same basic information, since  we currently have such a rule for clothing, electronics, and other household products. Having COOL in place would simplify the second part of this ask – imposing tariffs on milk protein concentrate (MPC) entering the US. Our dairy farmers can produce enough milk to meet our domestic requirements, and we should not be allowing dairy processors to import such unsafe alternatives to make the likes of infant formula and cheese.

Demand #3:  Place a moratorium on all new and expanding CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which not only destroy clean air and water, but also abuse animals and exploit workers, while generating surplus milk and meat that drive down market prices and ultimately hurt smaller, more responsible farmers. A CAFO moratorium would  facilitate the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) anti-trust enforcement against the food giants, big box retailers, and other agribusiness corporations that are guilty of price-rigging and manipulating markets for their own profit to the detriment of everyone else in our food/farm system.

Demand #4:  Require the National Organic Standards Board to employ the Leopold Center’s fluorescence spectroscopy test – using light to measure chlorophyll – to identify milk from grass-fed cows accurately and inexpensively. This step would expose those operations that are violating the organic pasture rule. (Note to everyone:  check out the Cornucopia Institute’s organic dairy score card to see just how well each store brand stacks up at dairysurvey/index.html.)

Demand #5:  Support the rights of workers to organize for living wages and better working conditions across our entire food/farm system.  In particular, immigrant workers are now under attack even though they are critical to the success of U.S. agriculture and have become a vibrant sector of many rural communities.  Food sovereignty is impossible without dignity and respect for ALL those who contribute to sustaining our society.


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