For Neil Harl, distinguished professor emeritus in agriculture and economics at Iowa State University, a request to appear at a hearing March 12 in Ankeny on antitrust issues in the seed industry was compelling enough to lure him back from his winter retreat in Hawaii.
“It was tempting to stay away,” Harl said from Hawaii Tuesday after the announcement that he would appear on a panel at the day-long session that will examine competition in the seed industry. “But for years I have urged the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to be more aggressive about competitive issues in agriculture.”
“Now,” Harl continued, “we apparently have an administration that is willing to be more aggressive about these issues and I felt that I couldn’t turn down their request.”
The controversy over competition in the seed business exploded into the open last summer with acrimony and lawsuits between Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred, attracting the attentions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Justice Department.
The science-based products and services company is set for a record year, thanks to increased seeds business.
E.I. du Pont de Nemours, or DuPont ( DD), is one of the company’s most profitable while being the least cyclical and requiring the lowest amount of capital, according to Soleil analyst Mark Gulley. With earnings growth of 15% annually and its percentage of total earnings projected to be in the 40% to 45% range in 2011, Gulley wouldn’t be surprised if the company elected to divest underperforming businesses to further concentrate on seeds where it competes with Monsanto ( MON) and Syngenta ( SYT).
DuPont takes a different approach to the business than Monsanto, which Gulley sees as the company’s toughest competition. Pioneer’s "right seed for the right acre" approach encourages farmers to cater purchases to specific crop needs while Monsanto appeals to "profit-maximizing" farmers who are willing to pay more for seeds that protect against a variety of stresses.
Uncertainties regarding regulations and pricing remain risks to seed companies. Lower farm incomes in 2009 will make farmers unlikely to stomach higher seed prices. While prices on existing hybrids will likely remain unchanged, Pioneer said mix effect should lift the average selling price for corn by 5% and soy as much as 3%.
At a recent investor conference, Pioneer presented its goals to grow sales 50% and double earnings for the period from 2008 to 2013. "While we appreciate DuPont’s aggressive goals through 2013, it will be difficult to keep up with the pace set by Monsanto," Gulley said.
Posted on: Saturday, July 11, 2009
Value of state’s biggest farming sector hits record $146 million, study finds
By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai’i’s fast-growing seed crop industry forecasts spending $276 million over the next 10 years, up from $164 million in the past 10 years, suggesting the state’s biggest farming sector expects continued expansion.
The forecast for capital expenditures was included in a new study commissioned by the Hawai’i Farm Bureau Federation and paid for by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, a trade group representing seed companies.
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