NEW ORLEANS -- Monsanto announced yesterday at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences that it is undertaking several initiatives in 2007 to build on its commitment to U.S. cotton producers.

Monsanto Cotton Business Lead Kevin Eblen made the announcement detailing a series of actions to support the near-term and long-term sustainability of the U.S. cotton industry.

"U.S. cotton producers are very progressive and have overwhelmingly adopted new seed and trait technologies that make them more competitive," Eblen said. "Monsanto invests heavily in the development of better cotton varieties and new technologies because we believe it is critical for the long- term viability of the U.S. cotton industry.

"To build on this commitment, we wanted to determine what else we could do to help U.S. cotton producers secure their future, and a future for the next generation of cotton producers.

"We asked the Honorable Larry Combest to host a series of listening sessions across the Cotton Belt to help us better understand the concerns of U.S. cotton producers," Eblen said. "For more than 20 years, Combest has served cotton producers as an elected official and his leadership in the development of the 2002 Farm Bill demonstrated his dedication to agriculture across the Cotton Belt. That's why we asked him to work with cotton producers to help us assess how we can grow our commitment to U.S. cotton."

Combest said that cotton producers identified a few areas of concern during the listening sessions.

"U.S. cotton producers are concerned about managing risks, how technology pricing works, fair access to new technology and the long-term sustainability of U.S. cotton production. As a result, I have recommended that Monsanto strengthen its efforts to help cotton producers in these areas," Combest said.

For 2007, Monsanto will move forward with several initiatives based on continuous dialogue with U.S. cotton producers as well as the listening sessions hosted by Combest.

The four areas of focus are:

1. Risk management.

Since Bollgard cotton was introduced in 1996, U.S. cotton producers have rapidly adopted Monsanto technologies that reduce production risks. Monsanto continues to invest in new technologies with agronomic benefits for U.S. cotton producers. Future technologies include new traits to control insects and weeds as well as drought tolerance. In 2007, Monsanto will have two initiatives designed to help cotton producers address the agronomic risks of drought and glyphosate-resistant weeds.

  • Drought

    For the 2007 growing season, Monsanto will continue to offer a pilot drought relief program for cotton grown in West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico-a region where farmers frequently face severe drought. This offer will help support producers' decisions to plant high quality cotton seed containing advanced technologies that can help producers achieve the best yields possible. The program will help producers reduce financial risk from crop loss due to drought when choosing Monsanto cotton traits. Full details are available from seed retailers.

  • Glyphosate-resistant weeds

    Cotton producers place a high value on Roundup Ready technology. To reduce the risk of glyphosate-resistant weeds developing in cotton producers' fields, Monsanto continues to recommend the use of a residual herbicide as part of the Roundup Ready and Roundup Ready Flex weed control systems.

    Consistent with this recommendation and as part of an effort to promote good stewardship practices, Monsanto will offer cotton producers PARRLAY herbicide as a branded residual herbicide option for the 2007 growing season.

    PARRLAY is a metolachlor herbicide that Monsanto will price at a level that minimizes the cost of applying a residual herbicide in a Roundup Ready cotton system. Price and program details will be available in March 2007.

  • 2. Technology pricing.

    Monsanto will continue its commitment to price its technology in a way that shares the benefits with farmers. Additional efforts will be made to communicate how products are priced.

    "Producers say that many of our biotechnology products have positively changed the way they farm and plan for the future," Eblen said. "Because of this impact on their operations, they want a better understanding of our long-term pricing philosophy and clarity as to how they can profit from using these products."

    "We strongly believe that Monsanto and U.S. producers' success and viability are mutually linked," Eblen said. "We are committed to being more transparent about how we price our trait technology."

    Monsanto's technology pricing and other business decisions will be based on:

  • Sharing the profit created by products in a way that provides all producers the opportunity to benefit. This includes regionally specific prices when the value created varies by geography.
  • Sustaining investment in research and development, which is essential to the competitiveness of U.S. producers.
  • Delivering a sustainable profit to producers, and Monsanto shareowners.

    "We also commit that when we introduce a second-generation trait that it will be more profitable for producers to use than the first- generation trait and that producers who choose to use Monsanto's products should realize more profit than with other conventional or biotech alternatives," Eblen said.

    3. Global availability of new technology.

    As a global agriculture company that does business in more than 100 countries, Monsanto's objective is to develop seed and trait products that provide producers greater value than any other alternative. Access to new technologies is important for U.S. producers as well as farmers in other countries.

    "We will not introduce any new trait technology into a country unless we are confident we can be compensated for the use of the technology when it is used," Eblen said. "When making decisions to place products on the path for a commercial launch, we will consider additional factors such as the respect for intellectual property and the presence of a functioning, science-based regulatory system in that country."

    4. Long-term sustainability.

    Changes in U.S. farm policy, international competition and other fundamental forces are expected to have a long-term impact on U.S. cotton producers. To help the industry plan for these changes, Monsanto will provide initial funding and support to the Cotton Foundation for a special project to look at the constraints, challenges and opportunities facing U.S. cotton production and marketing.

    To help the industry plan for the future, Monsanto has agreed to provide initial funding of up to $1 million to support this project.

    "We applaud the Cotton Incorporated and National Cotton Council for taking a forward look through this Cotton Foundation project at what it will take for U.S. cotton to prosper in the future," Eblen said. "As a company with a long-term vested interest in the success of U.S. cotton producers, we are happy to support this project and encourage others to do likewise."

    Details of the project are still being determined. More information will be available from the Cotton Foundation as it becomes available.

    "In addition to the commitments we have made in these four areas, Monsanto will continue to seek out new opportunities and develop programs that will positively impact the future of U.S. cotton production," Eblen said.

    Monsanto Company is a leading provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

    SOURCE: Monsanto Company via PR Newswire.