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FTC chair in Iowa to hear fertilizer antitrust concerns

Mark Moran

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(Iowa New Service) The chair of the Federal Trade Commission will be in rural Iowa this weekend to hear from farmers and other residents about the proposed sale of Iowa Fertilizer to Koch Industries.

The sale is pending FTC approval. Iowa spent $500 million to build an Iowa Fertilizer factory in Weverly to create competition in an already consolidated industry.

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Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, said he plans to tell FTC Chair Linda Khan a sale to Koch Industries would backtrack on any competitive progress the state has made.

"Our concern is that an industry that already lacks competition and has all sorts of monopoly problems would only get worse if this sale is allowed to go through," Lehman explained.

Koch and other corporate ag conglomerates have said consolidating allows them to provide better products to farmers more efficiently. The hearing is set for Saturday on Main Street in Nevada.

In addition to reducing competition for fertilizer, Lehman argued the sale would increase prices for farmers, and ultimately mean higher food prices for Iowans. He wants Khan to hear stories firsthand, from the people on the ground in Nevada.

"We know that we might not be able to have a dialogue with the people who are investigating this situation, because they need to be impartial," Lehman acknowledged. "But our farmers need to tell their story about how the industry is already in a monopoly state."

Some 18 other ag organizations have joined the Iowa Farmers Union calling on the FTC and the Justice Department to investigate the proposed sale.