Like farm equipment dealerships, nearly every segment of agriculture in the U.S. is being transformed by a consolidation of its participants, from farmers to ag equipment makers and input producers.
In a recent 72 page report entitled “The Voice of the Farmer,” Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) examined the state of modern farming through a combination of farmer interviews and an analysis of millions of acres of real farm yields, and scrutinized thousands of farmer seed and chemical invoices and price records. Part of the research focused on the impact that ag industry consolidation is having on farming.
FBN, which describes itself as an independent farmer-to-farmer network that helps farmers increase their market power through market insights and buying power, says that “Ag industry consolidation will likely further hurt farm incomes.”
Its analysis found that with market share increases among input manufacturers, come higher prices for farmers in both seed and chemical. FBN’s research also revealed that yield gains from innovation tapered off as input manufacturers gained market share.
The research also found that farm consolidation is putting pressure on independent farmers and is changing the business practices and productivity of operations. “We studied the relationship between farm size, price paid for inputs and yields relative to revenue trends,” the study reports. “Larger farms typically pay less for key inputs and concentrate buying from major seed brands, but not major chem[ical] brands. Larger farms also realize lower yields per acre as it becomes harder to optimize each individual field.” Chemical, fertilizer and equipment markets are all dominated by a small number of companies, which overall does not bode well for the smaller farm operation.
While current merger and acquisition activity wasn’t directly referenced in the FBN report, these could further exacerbate farmer concerns about diminishing competition for ag inputs.
The five companies currently seeking to combine their business enterprises — Dow + Dupont, Bayer + Monsanto and Syngenta, which is to be acquired by ChemChina — together would hold a 78% stake in the ag chemicals segment of the industry. It could put them in a position to squeeze out the remaining competition.
More information on the report and the organization is available at farmersbusinessnetwork.com.