U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Says Biden Administration Will Look At Consolidation In The Seed Industry

Ankeny, IA (October 21, 2021) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Wednesday seeds are the next thing the Department of Agriculture will look at under a Biden administration order on competition.

According to Reuters, the administration plans to take a look at the seed industry and "why it's structured the way it's structured," Vilsack said. "You wonder whether these long patents make sense."

Companies, including Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE) and Corteva Inc (CTVA.N), develop genetically modified seeds and herbicides that other companies can only produce once a patent expires. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2016, has long been dominant in the U.S. market.

Bayer and Corteva did not immediately respond to requests for comment for the Reuters report.

Vilsack made the remarks during a visit to his home state of Iowa, which included a tour of the Iowa State University Seed Science Center in Ames along with Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Victor Villalobos.

Villalobos said Mexico would not limit imports of genetically modified (GMO) corn from the United States during the meeting with Vilsack.

Mexico published an executive order late last year that sought to ban in three years the use of GMO corn for human consumption, but did not define what products would be included, generating confusion in the agriculture industry. The government pledged to substitute imports with local production by 2024.

Mexico is the No. 2 buyer of U.S. corn after China. Villalobos said Mexico would not allow the cultivation of GMO corn but would allow imports from the United States.

"We will continue requiring and demanding yellow corn from the United States," he told reporters. He said Mexico depended on yellow corn "for agro industries."

Villalobos and Vilsack issued a joint statement at the conclusion of their bilateral meeting in Ames.

“We reaffirm the importance of our two nations’ exceptional agricultural trading relationship and its role in supporting rural prosperity, creating good jobs and providing nutritious, safe and affordable food to consumers in both countries. Thanks to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and our hard-working farmers and ranchers, our nations enjoy the world’s largest two-way trade in food and agricultural goods.

“The integrated nature of our two agricultural sectors serves as a driving force for this enduring trading partnership, linking farmers, ranchers and consumers on both sides of the border. Our discussions in Iowa highlighted the importance of continuing to work together to advance rural prosperity and to fulfill our shared responsibility to protect our agricultural systems and producers. This includes collaborative efforts to prevent the spread of African swine fever and other animal and plant diseases and pests.

“From excessive drought to more extreme fires, our farmers, ranchers and producers are on the front lines dealing with the increasingly urgent challenges of climate change. Agriculture faces the daunting task of producing more food to meet the nutritional needs of a growing world population while at the same time coping with climate change and ever-tightening natural resource constraints. We are confident that our agricultural sectors will be a key part of the solution, with a focus on a more inclusive rural development and continuing to provide good incomes to rural workers and plentiful supplies of high-quality agricultural products to consumers worldwide.

“We share a commitment to keeping our markets open and transparent so that trade can continue to grow. That mutual commitment was reaffirmed in our discussions today. We remain proud of our shared successes and equally steadfast in meeting common challenges together.”

ISU Seed Science Center Seed Lab Manager Mike Stahr, right, provides a tour of the lab to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, left, and Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Victor Villalobos, center. (USDA photo)