WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Vilsack Stays Mum on Farm Sector's Current Consolidation Boom

May 25, 2016

The country's top agriculture official, Tom Vilsack, is declining to comment on some of the largest  mergers the farm economy has ever seen.

Possible deals between Germany-based Bayer and American seed giant Monsanto, Switzerland-based Syngenta and ChemChina, a state-owned Chinese chemical company, and between American chemical companies Dow and DuPont could further consolidate an already consolidated market [.pdf]. That means farmers could face fewer choices when buying seeds or chemicals.

“I’m not going to respond directly to particular business transactions,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was in Fort Collins, Colorado to talk about his department’s push to help farmers adapt to climate change.

“It’s incumbent upon the Department of Agriculture, our research service and others, to make sure that we support diversity within agriculture, that we continue to look for ways in which we can diversify operators, size of operations, what’s being produced, and maintain choice, maintain options.”

The USDA will have some say in at least one of those proposed deals. The agency was able to secure a seat on a federal panel set to review ChemChina’s $43 billion acquisition of SyngentaAG, Reuters reported, citing anonymous sources. That panel, Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, reviews business deals that could have implications for national security.

A USDA spokeswoman would not confirm the USDA’s involvement in the review of the Syngenta-ChemChina deal.