Iowa law firm files as Monsanto lobbyist ahead of DOJ/USDA antitrust workshops

Jerry Crawford (Photo: Crawford, Quilty & Mauro)

Iowa attorney and Democratic political insider Jerry Crawford, longtime supporter and friend of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, has signed on as a lobbyist for Monsanto. (Photo: Crawford, Quilty & Mauro)

As the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture gear up for an unprecedented series of investigative workshops on agricultural competition and regulatory issues, a Des Moines law firm with deep political ties has signed on to represent agribusiness giant Monsanto.

The five workshops, which will begin in Ankeny in March 2010 and span four other states over the next year, are an opportunity for producers to speak directly to federal officials about antitrust concerns.

In several key agricultural sectors, farmers and producers have long complained that their revenue seems to bear little relation to the prices consumers pay for their products or the prices that dominant companies make for ultimately selling to them. For example, as dairy farmers have struggled through recent volatile price markets, some producers have pointed to evidence of corruption and soaring profits for processors, who sit between producers and consumers in the distribution chain.

The Iowa workshop, which will serve as an introduction to the entire series, will focus primarily on seeds — a market that is dominated by Monsanto. The company now controls nearly all genetically modified cotton, soy and corn seeds. In fact, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of all corn and more than 90 percent of all soybeans in Iowa are grown from genetically modified seeds on which Monsanto holds a government patent.

Because of its market dominance, it is impossible to imagine a discussion on crop seeds that does not include both criticism and applause for the work of Monsanto and, by that same token, impossible to imagine a discussion that does not also include criticism and applause for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

When he was nominated to President Obama’s Cabinet, many of Vilsack’s critics pointed to the fact that he was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization for his “support of the industry’s economic growth and agriculture biotechnology research.” The former Iowa governor’s critics have long argued that he gave too much preference to agribusiness in general — and to Monsanto in particular.

Although any investigation stemming from the planned workshops will be initiated and managed by the Department of Justice, the fact that they are being jointly sponsored by the USDA is raising some flags simply due to Vilsack’s connection to agribusiness and biotechnology.

Adding fuel to the fire, The Iowa Independent has learned that long-time Vilsack friend and monetary supporter Jerry Crawford has signed on as a federal lobbyist for Monsanto. The Crawford, Quilty & Mauro law firm in Des Moines filed lobbying registration papers with both the U.S. House and Senate on Nov. 10, indicating that they would be representing Monsanto in the areas of competition/antitrust, environmental law, regulations and policies. The firm has no other federal lobbying contracts, and Crawford has a personal history with Vilsack.

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