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Editor’s Note: Brett Begemann is vice president, U. S. Branded Products for Monsanto, St. Louis. Begemann is responsible for all agriculture business, marketing and operations in the United States, with crop protection products including Roundup herbicide, and biotech traits and seeds sold under the DEKALB, Asgrow and Hartz brands. Monsanto is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

AM: It’s been a busy year for Monsanto. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary, it recently completed an initial public offering and the company has made a pledge with five elements: dialogue, transparency, respect, sharing and delivering benefits. How do you see these three developments coming together as Monsanto starts its second century?

We’re now focused 100 percent on agriculture, and our business philosophy is to add value to the growers. The majority of our employees-particularly those in senior management and those who work with our customers-have an agricultural background. I myself grew up on a farm. Through our advisory councils, we’re involving both producers and dealers much earlier in our planning process than ever before. And we’re engaged in continuing dialogue with those who may have questions about the role of biotechnology in agriculture.

AM: Biotechnology continues to be a key topic of discussion. How has the ongoing debate affected Monsanto’s markets?

Our Roundup-Ready, YieldGard and Bollgard technologies continue to increase in sales. We’re working with the industry to ensure that growers know exactly what markets there are for their crops and that they have access to those markets. We’re continuing development on our new corn rootworm product and other genetically enhanced crops, while working with regulators around the world to achieve worldwide market access.

AM: Generally speaking, what marketing challenges do you face with your channel partners because of continued low commodity prices and the continued consolidation in the crop protection business?

We’re committed to the long-term growth and success of the dealer channel and are focusing our efforts on helping the dealers add value to their relationships with customers. Programs like our Roundup Rewards Value Package help cement the relationship between our dealers and their customers. The relationship between the grower and local dealer is one of the most important bonds in all of agriculture.

AM: The business connection between crop protectant and seed companies is obvious. How has this general merger of seed and chemicals affected Monsanto’s marketing of brand-specific herbicides, insecticides and seed?

There are synergies - obviously knowing crops gives us a better understanding when developing crop protection products. But our first priority is to develop products that add value to our customers. Some may want a seed/herbicide package of products; others may want to use other products in conjunction with ours. That’s why we continue to develop different formulations for our Roundup herbicide family and different varieties in our Asgrow, DEKALB and Hartz seeds, with different herbicide tolerant characteristics.

AM: What continues to keep you excited about the business?

Since I grew up on a farm, it’s exciting just to witness the advances in crop production since I was young. Beyond that, I feel privileged to be a part of developing new products and technologies that strengthen farmers and the industry. AM

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