The U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday approved Bayer Ag’s acquisition of Monsanto, with conditions. The Justice Department says Bayer must sell approximately $9 billion in businesses and assets to BASF. The Department says the proposed divestiture to BASF, which it calls an experienced chemical company with a substantial crop protection business, will fully resolve all horizontal and vertical competition concerns. As a result, the Department says “American farmers and consumers will continue to benefit from competition in this industry.”
The Antitrust Division Tuesday filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction, while simultaneously filing a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the department’s competitive concerns. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Bayer must divest businesses that compete with Monsanto. Those include Bayer’s cotton, canola, soybean and vegetable seed businesses, as well as Bayer’s Liberty herbicide business, a key competitor of Monsanto’s well-known Roundup herbicide.
The National Farmers Union issued a press release condemning the approval. NFU President Roger Johnson had the following statement:
“Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto culminates the latest and most disturbing round of consolidation amongst the handful of companies that control both U.S. and global agricultural markets. Three massive companies now control the markets that supply agricultural inputs like seeds, traits and chemicals. This extreme consolidation drives up costs for farmers and it limits their choice of products in the marketplace. It also reduces the incentive for the remaining agricultural input giants to compete and innovate through research and development.
“While we appreciate the significant divestitures agreed to as part of this approval, Farmers Union condemns DOJ’s continued rubber-stamping of mergers in the food and agriculture arena. We will now focus our efforts on ensuring the promises made by Bayer and Monsanto throughout this approval process are kept. The company must continue to increase the productivity of American family farmers by delivering localized solutions in seed, trait, and crop chemical innovation.”