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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

DuPont-Dow Merger Could Create New Ag-Focused Company

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file: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media
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DuPont employees at the opening of the cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. DuPont could merge with Dow to create the largest chemical company in the US.

A proposed merger between two giants of American business, DuPont and Dow, could ultimately result in an agricultural company more focused on farmers than either is today.

At least that’s one interpretation of the proposed $130 billion deal, which would create the biggest chemical company in the United States and the second largest in the world.

Iowa State University management professor David King says what the two companies are proposing is that after they merge, they will then split the behemoth into three distinct companies. One of those would offer everything for agriculture that DuPont Pioneer currently has, plus Dow’s fertilizer business.

“They’ll be able to make, probably, better investments,” King said of the new ag company’s leaders. “They’ll probably listen to (farmers) more than they would otherwise because they’ll be their only primary customer.”

King said regulators will take a close look to determine whether it’s anticompetitive and he said the architects of the plan likely kept that in mind as they drew up plans for the three distinct businesses that will ultimately results.

But critics of industrial agriculture say the deal will hurt competition.

"Just a handful of large chemical companies including Dow and DuPont already control most of the seed supply used to grow crops like corn and soybeans, as well as the herbicides that genetically engineered seeds are designed to be grown with," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch in a statement. "Any merger that consolidates this market into fewer hands will give farmers fewer choices and put them at even more economic disadvantage." 

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement of caution:

“Vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws is imperative to maintaining an open, fair and competitive marketplace. I’ll be listening to Iowa farmers and consumers about any concerns they may have with this proposal, and the Judiciary Committee will be exercising its appropriate oversight function.”

King said the regulators could request changes to the proposal or its timeline, perhaps specific requirements around how long the big corporation can last before being split. He said financial markets reacted positively to the announcement but added, “with mergers and acquisitions the outcome is generally unknown.”

Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer is a major employer and King said he thinks ultimately the reconfiguration “could actually be good news for Iowa, Des Moines and the people at DuPont Pioneer.”

What it means for farmers in the rest of the country will remain to be seen. 

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.