Ag Woman Leader: Ag Mergers Good; Product Names Need Work

From left: John Smith, vice president for Bayer CropScience LP; Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto; and Phil Kunkel, an agribusiness lawyer and moderator, appear on a panel on mergers. Jan.  25, 2017, at the Minnesota AgExpo in Mankato, Minn. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

The Minnesota AgExpo was expected to draw 800 to 1,000 farmers over its two-day run, though snow overnight on Tuesday may have kept some away on Wednesday. The event featured annual meetings for the corn and soybean organizations in the state, as well as seminar topics including mergers of major suppliers and discussions of spray drift regulations.

One of the ag officials at the meeting was Theresia Gillie, a farmer from Hallock, Minn.,  president-elect of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, who was elected in June for a one-year term. The family raises mostly soybeans and wheat, and on occasion has had soybeans and corn.

“There’s always an anxiety when you deal with a merger,” Gillie said, referring to a Bayer and Monsanto deal that attracted top executives to a panel discussion at the Minnesota AgExpo.

John Smith, vice president for Bayer CropScience LP; Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto; and Phil Kunkel, an agribusiness lawyer and moderator, appear on a panel on mergers. Jan. 25, 2017. The merger of the two companies, expected complete by the end of 2017, should be nothing but good, they said.

Earlier mergers have involved equipment companies and other chemical companies, Gillie said, but the Bayer and Monsanto merger has some farmers concerned. She says a ChemChina merger with Syngenta has more people worried. “It’s not USDA and the Food and Drug Administration,” Gillie said.

In a question-and-answer period, Gillie asked the company executives to consider the consumer when naming their pesticide products. She said the “tough” sounding terminology (examples, Roundup, Warrior) for herbicides are understood by farmers who must be pursuaded to purchase them.

Gillie said the “consumer doesn’t always understand.” She said maybe it’s silly, but perhaps the products should be named so the public knows they are good things — “a warm, fuzzy thing that is going to be good for you, good for your family and give it that kind of perception.”

“It’s a hard road to cross, but we do have to figure out that the rest of the economy and the rest of the consumers are listening in on our conversation,” she says. It may sound “silly,” she told them, but half-joked that products should be named like “puppy dogs.”

Look for stories on the merger question and others on the Minnesota AgExpo in the Jan. 30 issue of Agweek magazine and on AgweekTV.