Farmer lawsuit over hybrid seed rice to be re-filed

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Fifty-one rice farmers and farming operations in three states who had filed a motion to join a farmer involved in a lawsuit against RiceTec over problems with hybrid seed rice have withdrawn their motion, and will instead file their suit separately within the next few weeks, an attorney for the farmers has announced.

Clayton Smaistrla, with Goldman Phipps, said the motion to join the lawsuit filed by farmers in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana was withdrawn September 30, from the Circuit Court of Greene County, AR.  The action came in response to a recent RiceTec filing, he said.

“RiceTec complained that so many farmers were attempting to intervene into a case where they had originally sued a single farmer over 2009 seed rice, which set up what potentially could develop into a protracted legal battle over a technical issue unrelated to the heart of the allegations, “Smaistrla said. 

“While we believe that all of the farmers should be able to intervene into the suit, in order to prevent months of delay with appellate issues, we will be filing a separate lawsuit on behalf of the farmers against RiceTec,” he said.

The farmers suing RiceTec will be a part of a mass tort action, which is different from a single class action lawsuit. A mass tort action is where multiple plaintiffs file one or more suits against the same party to recover their damages and each of their cases is viewed separately in the process. 

The lawsuit into which the farmers wanted to intervene has not been withdrawn, Smaistrla said. That suit was a countersuit filed July 6, by Scott Meredith, of Delaplaine, Ark., in response to being sued by RiceTec over 2009 seed rice.

“We look forward to proceeding with both actions against RiceTec,” Smaistrla said.

The farmers suit had stated, “The poor milling quality, storage capabilities and cooking qualities of RiceTec’s hybrid rice has negatively affected the reputation of U.S. long grain rice, which has traditionally enjoyed a “gold” reputation in the worldwide marketplace ... RiceTec’s hybrid rice has caused the reputation of U.S. rice to suffer, even causing some markets to reject U.S. long grain rice and/or pay less for U.S. long grain rice because of its lesser quality and/or injured reputation.”   

RiceTec, based in Alvin, Texas, and solely owned by the royal family of Liechtenstein, largely controls the hybrid seed market in the U.S. 

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