Monsanto, Pioneer relinquish Iowa job creation tax credits

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Agribusiness company Monsanto has abandoned its plan to build a seed corn plant in eastern Iowa due to a softening of the farming economy, according to documents released in advance of an Iowa Economic Development Authority board meeting Friday. Monsanto had planned to...

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Agribusiness company Monsanto has abandoned its plan to build a seed corn plant in eastern Iowa due to a softening of the farming economy, according to documents released in advance of an Iowa Economic Development Authority board meeting Friday.

Monsanto had planned to build a $90 million seed corn plant in Independence that it expected would create 47 jobs. The state economic development board signed a contract in 2009 providing $7.5 million in tax credits for the project, which was supposed to have been completed in May 2014. Monsanto sought contract extensions twice, but company spokeswoman Christi Dixon said it is abandoning the project. The company is asking the board to cancel contracts for the tax credits.

"In looking ahead to 2016, focus and discipline become increasingly important. As announced this fall, we are going to focus on reducing our costs because of the market realities, the transformation opportunities within Monsanto, and to support our long-term growth," Joan Steckel, a marketing manager at Monsanto, said in a letter to state officials.

Monsanto employs 1,619 workers in Iowa and invested more than $50 million in the state this year, Dixon said.

Low corn and soybean prices, and high costs for land, equipment, fertilizer and other chemicals has driven down farming income for a second consecutive year. The USDA estimated in November that this year's farming income will be $55.9 billion, which would be 38 percent lower than last year's $90.4 billion. That 2014 total was nearly 27 percent lower than the $123 billion in 2013.

Robust harvests have produced an abundance of corn and soybeans, which pushed prices below the cost of production, meaning many farmers will lose money on crop sales. Lower farming income means businesses that sell equipment seed, fertilizer and other agricultural chemicals also suffer as farmers seek to cut costs by buying less expensive seed and other products.

Monsanto and Pioneer are among the world's largest seed companies.

DuPont Pioneer also is also seeking to cancel contracts for $13.3 million in tax benefits that were tied to creating a specific number of jobs for three projects. Two of the projects, a $50 million laboratory and office building and a $49 million soybean research facility have been completed but a $39 million seed treatment and insectary is still under construction, spokeswoman Jane Slusark said.

Pioneer had promised to create 300 jobs but the company will not meet that threshold and has asked the economic development board to cancel the contracts so the company can relinquish the tax credits.

Pioneer, which employs more than 3,000 people in Iowa, also would be affected by the proposed merger of its parent company, DuPont, and Dow Chemical. If approved, officials said the merged company would restructure and cut more than 5,000 jobs, although it's uncertain how many would be in the Pioneer division in Iowa.

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