Delmarva Farmer Columnists


Deadline approaching for Syngenta corn litigation (March 28, 2017)

Ag Law

By Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland Extension Legal Specialist Agricultural and Resource Economics

(Writer’s note: This column should not be interpreted as legal advice for the reader.)

Time is running out for Delaware and Maryland producers to decide whether or not to stay in the current Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation or opt out to pursue individual claims against Syngenta.
Delaware and Maryland corn producers have until April 1 to make this decision.
In 2010, Syngenta was approved to begin selling seeds containing the MIR162 genetic event.
Genetic event is unique DNA recombination event that took place in one plant cell and is now used to create an entire plant variety. Syngenta began selling the MIR162 in 2011.
In 2013, the genetic event appeared in shipments to China, and the Chinese had yet to approve it.
The Chinese began to reject shipments of U.S. corn, and the price of corn fell.
Producers who did not grow the MIR162 genetic event began to file lawsuits against Syngenta.
A judicial panel combined the lawsuits into one federal district court and in late 2016, the court granted class certification for nine classes of producers.
The one class important to Delaware and Maryland producers is the nationwide class.
To be a member of this class, a producer must be listed on an FSA-578 Form, Report of Acreage Form, have not purchased Duracade or Viptera corn seed, and have priced corn after Nov. 23, 2013.
If you meet these requirements, you are automatically a member of the nationwide class and should have received a letter notifying you of the class certification.
Bellwether trials are scheduled to begin in June 2017.
Bellwether trials are representative trials chosen to help determine the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, how does a jury react to each side’s case, and applications of the law.
After the bellwether trials, parties will either continue the lawsuits or seek a settlement.
Between now and April 1, producers must decide whether to remain in the class, which requires no action, or opt out of the class, which requires returning a form.
Individual producers must make a decision that works for their particular situation.
Remaining in the lawsuit makes a class member essentially a plaintiff in the class action suit.
Unlike a typical plaintiff, a class member will not have to do anything to move the lawsuit forward and be represented by the named plaintiffs and their counsel.
The named plaintiffs and their counsel are the ones who will make strategic decisions in the litigation.
If the named plaintiffs settle the class action lawsuit, then the court must approve that settlement and class members would be allowed to vote to approve or oppose the settlement.
An approved settlement or a resolution by the court would potentially require class members to prove entitlement to a portion of the fund.
For example, producers may have to show they marketed some bushels after November 18, 2013 and listed on an FSA-578 Form.
Class members can also opt out of the class-action lawsuit. By opting out, a producer would no longer be a part of that lawsuit and can bring separate claims against Syngenta or not bring any claims against Sygenta.
Bringing an individual lawsuit would allow the producer to select counsel and bring a suit based on individual circumstances, but would also mean additional costs for attorneys and experts and time.
I make no opinion or give no advice; this decision is up to each producer.
Producers will want to weigh the pros and cons of participating in the class action lawsuit versus opting out.
Producers may consider getting advice from an attorney licensed in your state. But this decision will have to be made before April 1.

Examine the OCCSP and see if it’s for you (March 21, 2017)

Keeping the Farm

By Bob Wevodau, Ag Program Specialist, Farm Service Agency, Maryland

Change is a funny thing.
It can be feared, it can be loved.
It can be dreaded and it can be anticipated. It covers a lot of ground.
I think for the most part we tend to fear it. I know I do.
Maybe it’s because I’m lazy, or maybe it’s because of the uncertainty of the unknown.
But change can also get a bad rap.
In agriculture, change can also be costly, and taking the initial financial step often keeps many producers from ever trying something new.
But if you are farming organically, you’ve made that leap and you already know it comes with added expenses.
You took on the change and now comes the good news. We have a program to help with the additional cost organic producer’s face.
When people think organics, farmers markets and vegetables come to mind.
But any form of agriculture can be organic as long as it follows the standards established by the National Organic Program.
To become certified your land must be free of prohibited substance for three years and you must maintain buffers between your organic and any conventional agriculture.
That’s the cliff notes version anyhow. Organics also require specific record keeping.
To be certified you must go through an organic certifying agent.
These can be organizations or state agencies. They insure that you are following organic regulations and recordkeeping requirements.
I just gave you a brief overview of the requirements, they will provide you with everything else you need to know.
Becoming certified and staying certified requires applying for a certificate, and receiving on-site inspections.
All of which cost money, and that is where the Organic Certification Cost Share Program comes in.
With OCCSP, you can qualify for up to $750 per scope for expenses covering application fees, inspection costs, and other user fees.
USDA organic scopes are crops, wild crops, livestock, and processing and handling.
This program is for new and old organic producers alike, as long as you have your certificate.
It runs through 2017 and 2018. Sign up for 2017 began on March 20.
To receive your payment, you will also have to show your valid organic certificate as well as proof of your paid expenses.
What also makes OCCSP a unique program in Maryland is the fact that you can sign up for it either through the Maryland Department of Agriculture, or FSA.
If you have been using MDA and want to continue to receive cost share assistance through them, by all means keep doing what you are doing.
If it’s more convenient for you to visit a local Farm Service Agency office, you can do that too.
All roads lead to the same cost share assistance.
The program is being administered by both agencies to allow as much access for the producers as possible.
Yes change can be hard, and it can be costly, but it can also be good.
Being an organic operation certainly opens up a lot of new avenues for you to market your products, but it doesn’t come without additional expenses.
And OCCSP is here to help you with those expense because one thing we can all agree on is that we like the kind of change that goes back into our pockets.