Monsanto settles with soft white wheat farmers

by Eric Schroeder
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ST. LOUIS — Monsanto Co. on Nov. 12 said it has agreed to pay nearly $2.4 million to settle a dispute with soft white wheat farmers related to the May 2013 discovery of bioengineered wheat on a farm in Eastern Oregon and subsequent temporary limits on certain exports of soft white wheat.

Bioengineered wheat has not been approved for U.S. farming, and in mid-September the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that the presence of bioengineered wheat found growing in a single field on a single farm in Oregon in May 2013 appeared to be “an isolated incident.” APHIS said it closed the year-long investigation “after exhausting all leads.”

The bioengineered wheat found on the Oregon farm was developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup.

Under the settlement and without any admission of liability, Monsanto has agreed to pay approximately $2.1 million into a settlement fund, which will be used to pay farmers in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho who sold soft white wheat between May 30, 2013, and Nov. 30, 2013. Additionally, Monsanto has agreed to pay a total of $250,000 to wheat growers’ associations, including $100,000 to the National Wheat Foundation, and $50,000 each to the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the Oregon Wheat Growers’ League and the Idaho Grain Producers’ Association.

“Rather than paying the costs of protracted litigation, this agreement puts that money to work in research and development efforts for the wheat industry, while providing a negotiated level of compensation for farmers with documented soft white wheat sales from May 30 to Nov. 30, 2013,” said Kyle McClain, chief litigation counsel at Monsanto. “Resolution in this manner is reasonable and in the best interest of all of the parties.”

Monsanto said that if any portion of the settlement fund remains after claims are paid, up to $250,000 of the remainder will be added as donations to the wheat associations payout. As part of the resolution of these claims, Monsanto also said it will reimburse plaintiffs’ counsel for a portion of their out-of-pocket costs and fees associated with this litigation.

One of the attorneys for the farmers, James Pizzirusso of Hausfeld LLP in Washington, noted, “We believe this is a unique and fair mechanism for resolving the claims of soft white wheat farmers.”

The settlement does not resolve claims that remain pending by wheat growers who grew a type of wheat other than soft white wheat.
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