While navigating this year’s Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, news broke that the U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to block John Deere’s acquisition of Precision Planting from the Monsanto., the parent company of Climate Corp.
Although the companies declined to comment on the antitrust lawsuit, in a statement, Deere did say it plans to contest the suit, which alleges that the acquisition raises competitive concerns.
It could take months, even years before a resolution is reached, but the attempted blocking of the deal came as a surprise to some precision farming retailers I talked with at the Show. One dealer based in Iowa said the situation, at least initially, presents more questions than answers.
“I think there was some relief when Deere announced its plan to purchase Precision Planting, because there was a lot of skepticism around Monsanto having access to the collected data,” the dealer says. “Going back to a machinery company seemed to sit better with everyone, but if things fall apart, will Monsanto have to find another buyer or will it pick up the pieces and reinvest in new innovation? I think this has to leave a lot of other companies scratching their heads.”
It's worth noting that just this week, news broke that Bayer is acquiring Monsanto for a reported $66 billion. It remains to be seen what impact, if any, this deal will have on the pending suit.
But another precision dealer suggested that government intervention in the Deere-Precision Planting acquisition could be a sign of things to come in the industry.
“I think data is driving this deal and with so much consolidation and database mergers going on, relationships are going to be looked at more and more,” he says. “These had never really been questioned before in precision ag. Maybe they will prove to be beneficial, but it’s too early to make a call whether these will be game changers or we’ll continue doing business the way we’ve done for the last 15 years.”
You can weigh in with your take on the potential outcome of the DOJ involvement in Deere’s planned acquisition of Precision Planting in our latest online poll.