Syngenta Corn Settlement: Check Your Mail, Claim Filing Deadline in October – DTN

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    Farmers and others who plan to file claims related to the Syngenta corn settlement are expected to begin receiving official notices starting on May 11 and will have until Oct. 12 to file claims.  

    The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in Kansas City granted preliminary approval of a $1.51 billion settlement from a lawsuit filed following Syngenta’s release of Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade MIR162 corn traits.

    In addition to the filing deadlines, there are a couple of key issues producers need to remember:

    — Claims need to be filed by Oct. 12, but Syngenta still can walk away from the settlement by Oct. 10, according to court documents.

    — After all claims are filed, the final settlement will be examined by the court to make sure it is adequate. A final approval hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15, though the date could change.

    Subclasses – Four In All

    According to the settlement, there are four subclasses approved as eligible for payments. First are those farmers who owned any interest in corn in the United States but did not plant the Syngenta seeds in question. A second subclass includes any producer who owned any interest in corn in the U.S. priced for sale, purchased Agrisure Viptera and/or Agrisure Duracade corn seed, and produced corn grown from those traits (with a proposed maximum settlement of $22.6 million).

    The settlement also will include any grain-handling facility (at a maximum total payout of $29.9 million). The fourth subclass includes ethanol plants that owned interest in corn priced for sale during the period (with a maximum total payout of $19.5 million).

    A portion of the fund will be used to pay attorney fees, costs and expenses.

    Court documents show crop-share landlords and other landlords whose rent payments are based on yield or price also are eligible to participate in the settlement. Landlords with fixed cash rents are not eligible.

    Court documents show Syngenta was required to make about $400 million in initial payments to the escrow account by the end of March. The final $1.1 billion is due either by April 1, 2019, or 30 days after the court’s final approval order, whichever comes later. Payouts will not begin until the total funds are deposited and the court approves the final settlement, likely more than one year from now.

    Corn producers involved in the settlement number in the “thousands,” while there are more than 1,500 grain handlers and more than 180 ethanol producers affected, according to court records.

    How Big’s The Check? That Depends.

    Kristine A. Tidgren, director of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation and adjunct assistant professor of agricultural education and studies at Iowa State University, wrote in a recent blog post that individual payments will depend on a number of issues. The court will use USDA acreage data and other information to determine payments. Read more about this under the heading, “What will the payment be?”: https://www.calt.iastate.edu/….

    The court acknowledged in a recent order that the $1.51 billion settlement may not account for all damages in the case. Original lawsuits estimated the damages at near $5 billion.

    In June 2017, a jury awarded farmers $217.7 million in compensatory damages in what was the first lawsuit filed against Syngenta on the shipment of Viptera corn to China. The trial was one of several on tap in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in Kansas City.

    The lawsuit was filed by four Kansas farmers who represent more than 7,000 farmers in the state. It is the first of multiple lawsuits claiming Syngenta should have inspected and prevented harvested Viptera (MIR 162) corn from being shipped to China in 2013 and 2014.

    Plaintiffs in the case allege Syngenta sold corn with Agrisure Viptera and Duracade traits prior to those traits receiving import approvals in several countries, including China. China claims it found and rejected corn shipments containing the traits, which plaintiffs say led to lower corn prices.

    The official lawsuits filed on behalf of corn producers include cases in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

    Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

    Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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