One of the greatest challenges of raising kids is discerning when to give them more responsibility and when to have a “come to Jesus” meeting because they have gotten “too big for their britches.” As a cotton farmer following the Monsanto-Bayer merger, I recognize the telltale signs of a child that needs to be reined in a bit. As an economist, I see that Monsanto already exhibits monopolistic behavior, and they receive profits on virtually every bag of cotton seed sold in the U.S.
I first recall paying the “technology fee” in 1999. In that year I averaged $7.80 per acre in seed cost for conventional cotton and $33.38 per acre for the first transgenic cotton I planted, which was DPL 33B. Monsanto was quite smart in marketing its cotton, and I paid two bills for a cotton bag: one bill for cotton seed and the other for a “tech fee.” For instance, in 1999 I paid Delta Pine Land $50 per bag of genetically modified cotton and Monsanto $167 per bag. Monsanto convinced farmers to pay four times the price for cotton seed by spending less money on chemicals and producing a higher yield, and Monsanto recouped half the savings on chemicals.
This year, Monsanto received a revenue stream on every cotton acre I planted – not because I am a loyal Monsanto customer, but because there is no other option. Monsanto sets the price because they can. One of the defining characteristics of a monopoly is the ability to set prices, and Monsanto has proven their ability to do that. In fact, they set their tech fees at different rates for different regions across the country. Monsanto does not allow me to get in my truck and drive across the river to Alabama to buy cotton seed because for some reason Alabama famers pay less in “tech fees” than we do in South Georgia. I also pay more in South Georgia than I would in the Delta or High Plains regions.
Looking at a couple of my farms over the years….In 1999 I planted transgenic cotton on the Beard place, which cost $33 per acre and yielded 774 pounds of lint per acre. In the 2017 crop year I planted transgenic cotton on the same farm and yielded 667 pounds of cotton at a seed cost of $120 per acre. Anomaly? Let us look at the Barber farm in Irwinville. In 1999 I planted a conventional cotton, which cost $7.80 per acre and yielded 537 pounds of lint. On that same farm this year I planted a transgenic variety (because no conventional cotton seed is available) at a cost of $120 per acre and produced 542 pounds of lint. To summarize, I now pay 15 times more for my cotton seed than I did in 1999, and I am do not receive a measurable increase in yield. I also average five insecticide applications per year at a cost of $12 to $20 per acre. In 1999, I averaged less than $10 per acre for all insecticide applications (18 percent of my cotton acres in 1999 were BT transgenic cotton, such as insecticide producing cotton plant).
Monsanto now receives all of my cotton profits. They look like a monopoly, they price like a monopoly and they ruthlessly protect their patent rights to keep their monopoly. We need a “come to Jesus” meeting with Monsanto to stop this huge merger because they have definitely gotten “too big for their britches.”
Representative Clay Pirkle represents the citizens of District 155, which includes all of Ben Hill, Irwin, and Turner counties, and portions of Tift and Coffee counties. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2015, and currently serves as Secretary on the State Properties Committee. He also serves on the Motor Vehicles, Agriculture & Consumer Affairs, and Science & Technology committees.