Monsanto 2Q profit slips; farmers dodge falling corn prices, sales of biotech corn seeds fall

Monsanto reported lower-than-expected earnings as slumping corn prices push farmers toward other crops, crimping sales of the company's best-selling biotech corn seeds.

The St. Louis agricultural business giant reported a second-quarter profit of $1.42 billion, or $2.92 per share, down from $1.67 billion, or $3.15 per share, in the prior year period. Sales slid to $5.2 billion from $5.8 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research predicted earnings of $2.96 per share on sales of $5.76 billion.

Monsanto's biotech seeds have genetically engineered traits that help farmers increase their crop yield, despite their higher costs.

U.S. farmers are expected to plant fewer acres of corn for the third consecutive year in 2015, down 2 percent from last year, according to survey figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More farmers are favoring soybeans because they cost less to grow and prices farmers receive for soybeans haven't fallen as quickly as corn. Soybeans also can withstand broader weather variations

Monsanto's total seed and seed license revenue declined to $4.18 billion from $4.65 billion mainly due to lower sales of the company's best-selling product, biotech corn seeds, which fell 15 percent to $2.9 billion. Soybean sales partially offset the drop in corn rising to $883 million from $820 million.

The company expects full-year earnings in the range of $5.75 to $6 per share.

Shares of Monsanto Co., which have declined roughly 6 percent since the beginning of the year, edged lower before the opening bell Wednesday.