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Emergent Genetics: business as usual

Don Threet, Emergent Genetics vice president in charge of its U.S. business and a 15-year veteran of the company, discusses Monsanto's pending acquisition of Emergent Genetics and its Stoneville and NexGen brands of cotton seed.

What's the timetable for the acquisition?

A definitive letter of agreement for Monsanto to purchase Emergent Genetics has been signed. The closing date hinges on approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and the proper authorities in India (where Emergent Genetics also owns companies to be included in the purchase).

Will there be personnel changes ahead for Stoneville/Emergent Genetics?

Prior to closing, we are Emergent Genetics and we will continue to manage our business just as we would have had we not been sold.

What about after closing?

We will operate as we have through the sales and planting season. A transition team of Monsanto and Emergent Genetics employees will decide the best way to integrate the newly acquired cotton business into Monsanto. Throughout the process, the transition team will insure the restructure addresses what is best for the U.S. farmer. The customer will be first, then we'll make sure it's right for our employees and the business.

What is pushing technology companies to align with seed companies?

It's real simple — traits are carried in the germplasm. The only way to access the market with a gene is through the seed. When approved, this acquisition will complete Monsanto's strategy to have a branded business that is committed to growing share with an elite germplasm coupled with existing as well as future Monsanto traits.

Is Emergent Genetics now married exclusively to Monsanto technology?

Upon closure of the sale, the answer is yes. This acquisition will merge one of the world's largest cotton germplasm pools with the most diverse and experienced technology provider. Monsanto's technology traits are where the newer trait providers want to be.

What can Monsanto offer Emergent Genetics?

The strength that Monsanto can bring to our branded business is they have the resources, both money and people, to enable us to manage our business more aggressively and more effectively. Monsanto has demonstrated that it is a leader in technology development with its current genes and is paving the future with things like drought tolerance and the use of molecular markers. We are very excited about being able to incorporate our cotton skills with Monsanto's technology advances.

The strength of the Stoneville cotton brand has typically been in the Mid-South. With the purchase, do you see a stronger push to develop market share in other areas?

It is our objective to grow share across the Cotton Belt. In fact we began years ago to develop and produce varieties that are targeted for the Southeast and Southwest. The introduction of the NexGen brand in the Southwest and two new high-quality full-season Stoneville brand varieties in the Southeast are the first fruits of this effort. As part of Monsanto, we will be better positioned to accelerate our product offerings to meet grower needs.

How will growers benefit from the acquisition?

Monsanto is committed to broadly license traits through other seed companies for grower access to traits in the varieties of their choice, and to continuing the licensing of new varieties through Cotton States. The Monsanto branded business will offer proprietary, elite Stoneville and NexGen brand varieties with Monsanto's traits. Cotton States will source new germplasm from universities and private companies, introgress traits and widely license new varieties to companies who want to market private label cotton varieties.

Will quality fiber continue to be a priority for Emergent Genetics?

Absolutely. In addition to offering varieties with high-yield potential, we are focused on providing varieties that meet the fiber standards of both foreign and domestic mills so that the U.S. farmer can better compete in the world market.

Will these high-quality varieties be branded as Stoneville or NexGen?

NexGen is a High Plains brand, characterized as having high fiber quality, stormproof bolls, and high-yield potential. In the Mid-South and Southeast, the Stoneville brand has been known since 1922, and there are a lot of people who have made a lot of money planting Stoneville brand cotton. I think we serve our customers better by continuing to offer improved varieties in the Stoneville brand.

Have you heard from cotton producers about the acquisition?

We have received many positive comments and congratulations from cotton producers, consultants and the allied industry.

How will things change for you personally?

Looking back, I have had the pleasure to represent the Stoneville brand in many capacities and through many changes. We were the first company to commercially introduce a transgenic cotton variety and the first company to offer seed count packaging in cottonseed. Looking ahead, I am excited about the opportunity to transition the Stoneville and NexGen brands into Monsanto.

Has Monsanto given you an idea of what changes might be in store for Emergent Genetics/Stoneville?

No. In fact, they have told us that they have no preconceived notions about how the business will look and that a transition team will be formed to make recommendations.

What would you say to Stoneville growers about the acquisition?

I personally would like to thank them for being loyal to Stoneville. I'd like to assure them that there are some exciting products in our immediate pipeline. We're committed to providing cotton growers with the latest technology in germplasm better than the generation before, with the seed quality, appearance, germination, emergence, and grow-off that they have been accustomed to.

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