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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Addressing the Headline: Iowa Political Cartoonist Fired

On Monday, May 2, 2016 the Des Moines Register published this article: Cartoonist says his work got him axed. The article highlights a facebook post in which Rick Friday claims he was let go from his job after an agriculture company depicted in a political cartoon threatened to pull advertising from the publication.

As a company that values conversation and transparency we reached out to Rick Friday. Here was our reply:

Rick,

We just wanted to reach out and reiterate that we value open discourse and conversation. We also believe that a little humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves goes a long way. As you may know, we weren’t aware of the cartoon until Monday, May 2 and we had no part in your departure from Farm News. We appreciate anyone who speaks out on behalf of farmers.

Thank you,

Christi Dixon, Monsanto Communications

This is not the first time we’ve been the subject of a joke or political cartoon and it probably won’t be the last. It is much easier to laugh at ourselves than it is to stifle humor.

8 Responses to "Addressing the Headline: Iowa Political Cartoonist Fired"

  1. Have you asked Farm News (on behalf of your associated company) to consider offering Rick Friday his job back?

    Reply
    • Hi Simon. The cartoonist noted that “Apparently a large company affiliated with one of the corporations mentioned in the cartoon was insulted and cancelled their advertisement with the paper…” Monsanto does not advertise with Farm News. We did call the paper and their response was that this situation was a personnel matter and they declined to respond further.

      Reply
  2. I’m afraid you’re not getting the joke, Wes. You can laugh at yourself if you do something silly or embarrassing, but ultimately harmless or only harmful to yourself. Like tripping over your own feet or dancing poorly.

    The joke in the cartoon, however, is that the second farmer can grant the first farmer’s wish for more profit, but only by pointing out that profits in the agricultural sector are not distributed justly, so that the people who take the most risk and do the most work, including the better part of the most onerous work, receive a vastly lesser share of the wealth. While that should indeed be embarrassing for you, it’s not just a silly mistake and it does not merely harm you. It harms hard working family farmers.

    In 2012 – to offer just one small example – your CEO, Hugh Grant, received a compensation package worth $14 million (see first link below). Over a third of that amount came in the form of a $5 million bonus awarded by the Board of Directors. In making that award, the Board exceeded the maximum level of the bonus range specified in Monsanto’s incentive-pay plan. Other top executives also received bonuses in excess of the plan’s supposed maximum. According to Monsanto’s public filings, these bonuses were awarded for achieving “exceptional fiscal 2012 financial results that surpassed targets in all areas”.

    Not coincidentally, the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture showed 95,500 fewer farms than in 2007, a 4 percent drop (see second link below). In fact, the only category of farms that saw growth in that period was those over 2,000 acres. In other words, family farms are disappearing. The same census indicates why: While total sales in the sector rose by 32.7 percent, farmers’ expenses increased by 36 percent. One factor in that increase was the rising cost of inputs, including those sold by your company.

    In that context, your Board of Directors might have chosen to award executive bonuses at the maximum level and distribute the excess to family farmers in the form of rebates, discounts, or product. Alternatively, it could have been donated to a non-profit organization that assists family farmers, such as Farm Aid.

    I find it sad but predictable that the Board of Directors didn’t make such a choice. That Monsanto’s public relations department finds the situation humorous is galling.

    I suppose it’s clear that I am not a fan of your corporation, but you will salvage some of my respect if you live up to your supposed commitment to “conversation and transparency” by ensuring that this comment remains publicly and prominently visible on the same page as the blog post to which it is a reply. In any case, I thank you for taking the time to read it.

    http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/david-nicklaus/million-bonus-boosts-monsanto-ceo-s-pay-to-million/article_a80b0ae2-cf7c-5a36-b78c-193c2646b2b8.html

    https://www.farmaid.org/blog/10-things-the-2012-census-of-agriculture-tells-us-about-family-farmers-and-our-food-system/

    Reply
    • Hi Rich, Thanks for taking the time to comment on this blog post. Monsanto exists first and foremost because of farmers. They are the lifeblood of our company. And being that 97% of farms in the U.S. are family owned and operated, we are very much pro family farms. If farmers were not profitable from the products we sold to them, they would not buy from us again and thus we would no longer be around.
      Also, it is not unusual for CEOs at Fortune 500 companies to be paid bonuses according to the performance of the company. There have been years where we have had no bonus at all, employees and executives. In this competitive market, we have to design our compensation program to attract and retain exceptional talent to drive our business objectives forward and strengthen the company’s long-term value.
      We do put money back into the farmer’s hands in other ways. For example, we have a program through America’s Farmers called GROW COMMUNITIES. It is sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, and is designed to improve lives in rural America through farmer directed donations. The program, which launched in 2010, allows farmers to enter to win a $2,500 donation to direct toward their favorite community nonprofit organization. One winner is selected in each of the 1,326 eligible counties across 40 states. To date more than $22 million has been given back. http://www.americasfarmers.com/community-outreach/grow-communities-program-overview/. At that same site, you can see similar programs for scholarships for growing ag leadership and rural education.

      Reply
  3. “Laughing at yourselves” is not the point of, nor the appropriate response to this cartoon. It was commentary on the wealth inequality. It’s not all about you.

    Reply
    • Hi David. True. This cartoon is not just about Monsanto. However, we wanted to share our side of the story here. But one fact to note is that our goal as a company is to help farmers by offering them more ways to help nourish our planet. We do this through different tools and technologies to help farmers combat weeds, pest and disease. We want to see farmers succeed.

      Reply
  4. To hide behind your complex corporate structure is such a weak response. If Monsanto really believed in an open dialog it would instruct its seed company unit to withdraw the threat of pulling ads and request that the publishing firm bring back the cartoonist.

    This is the exact reason that most Americans don’t belive in what corporations communicate to us.

    Do the right thing !

    Reply
    • Hi Bob, Monsanto does not advertise in this publication. We had nothing to do with the firing of this cartoonist. We did call Farm News, and they couldn’t discuss the matter with us.

      Reply

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