Trump adviser Rastetter wants mega-mergers, like DuPont Dow, blocked

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

Bruce Rastetter, an Iowa entrepreneur and ag adviser to Donald Trump, wants the president-elect to block pending mega-mergers like the $130 billion marriage between DuPont, parent of Iowa-based Pioneer, and Dow Chemical Co.

Rastetter, CEO of Iowa-based Summit Agricultural Group, said he’s concerned a raft of mergers will “limit competition, stifle innovative research and stunt job growth,” eventually leading to increased costs for farmers.

Giant mergers expected to close this year — Bayer AG and Monsanto, China National Chemical Corp. and Syngenta AG, as well as Dow Chemical and DuPont — are especially concerning, Rastetter said, since they propose combining seed and chemical companies.

“It’s clear that the motivation behind the mergers is to increase prices and production costs for producers,” said Rastetter, a leading Republican donor in Iowa and president of the state’s Board of Regents, which governs public universities. “Simply put — this would be bad for every farmer on the planet.”

The federal government needs to reform a burdensome regulatory process that’s driving several of the giant mergers, he said.

Merging corporations have argued that combining enables them to more quickly develop better seeds and chemical products that could boost farm yields while reducing expensive input costs.

Dan Turner, a spokesman for DuPont, said the merger with Dow is “pro-competitive, good for customers and consumers, and will help deliver greater choice and innovation for farmers.”

Rastetter has recently been floated as a possible candidate for U.S. ag secretary, meeting with transition team officials shortly before Christmas at Trump Tower in New York.

Rastetter said he had “discussions about ag policy and my interest in … wanting to impact those issues I feel strongly about.” But he said he didn’t talk with Trump representatives directly about the ag secretary job.

Rastetter said he’s “certainly fully employed,” but “wants to be in the position of being an adviser.”

Rastetter said he wasn’t lobbying to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $150 billion agency with about 95,000 employees, but he hopes the next secretary comes from the Midwest and is a renewable fuels proponent.

Advocates are worried about Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Energy Department. Both represent large oil and gas-producing states.

The petroleum industry strongly opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate that requires ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

Iowa is the leading producer of ethanol, made from corn as well as crop residue, and biodiesel, made from soybean oil, animal fat and other products.

Rastetter is among those worried about Pruitt and Perry’s nominations, he said. “The good news is that President-elect Trump supports biofuels — ethanol, biodiesel — and all energy.”

Renewable fuels are “the critical component to maintaining a sustainable ag economy in the U.S.,” Rastetter said. “I think it’s important the next ag secretary support biofuels.”

Rastetter wants Iowa and U.S. farm groups to talk with the Trump administration about their concerns about the mergers.

“I hear anxiety, but I don’t see people stepping up and saying this is a problem,” he said Thursday.

“Mergers like this have the potential to put into motion irreversible damage to agriculture,” Rastetter said.