The Joseph Saveri Law Firm represents Plaintiff JSB Farms, LLC, in an antitrust class action lawsuit against numerous Defendant manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of crop inputs. Plaintiff alleges an unlawful agreement among these Defendants to artificially increase and fix the price of crop inputs, ranging from seeds to crop protection chemicals such as pesticides (e.g., herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides) used by farmers.
The crop inputs antitrust litigation case—JSB Farms, LLC v. Bayer CropScience LP—touches upon the future of America’s farming industry. In recent years, the cost of crop inputs has increased significantly faster than profits from farmers’ crop yields. These increases are increasingly devastating to farmers, who are now the least profitable level of the American food supply chain and are drowning in hundreds of billions of dollars of operating debt. Farmers are being forced into bankruptcy at a record pace, creating a crisis in the agriculture community.
Over the past three decades, a series of mergers and acquisitions created the “Big Four” of the crop inputs industry: BASF Corporation, Bayer CropScience, Inc., Corteva, Inc., and Syngenta Corporation. Together these companies dominate the seed and crop protection chemicals input markets. In 2014-2015, these firms together controlled over 82% and 76% of corn and soybean seed sales respectively: a market share that has since increased.
The manufacturer Defendants have sought to channel purchases of their crop inputs through either their own digital platforms or through traditional agricultural wholesale and retailers so that they can artificially increase the prices of crop inputs. They maintain a competitive advantage over the wholesale and retail Defendants who are economically dependent upon large rebates from the manufacturer Defendants tied to sales goals. Consequently, pushing the manufacturer Defendants’ products is engrained into the traditional agricultural wholesale and retail business model, from which all three Defendant groups profit.
As the number of manufacturers shrank to the Big Four (and given a limited number of wholesalers and retailers), a lack of competition has left farmers with less affordable crop inputs. Leading to this increasingly untenable situation for farmers, Plaintiff alleges that these Defendants established a secretive distribution process that keeps prices of crop inputs inflated at supracompetitive levels. In furtherance of the alleged conspiracy, these Defendants also purportedly denied farmers access to relevant market information, including transparent pricing terms, that would allow farmers to make better-informed purchasing decisions, as well as information about seed relabeling practices that would enable farmers to know if they are buying newly developed seeds or identical seeds repackaged under a new brand name and sold for a higher price.
As a result of Defendants’ alleged anticompetitive conduct, they have maintained supracompetitive prices for crop inputs by denying farmers access to accurate pricing information, and have injured farmers by forcing farmers to accept opaque price increases that drastically outweigh any increase in crop yields or market prices. This alleged conduct is also the subject of ongoing investigations by the Canadian Competition Bureau and the United States Federal Trade Commission.
The suit is in the States District Court, District of Minnesota. Plaintiff, on behalf of the proposed class of all affected, seeks a jury trial and damages relief for violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.
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