Black farmers in Mississippi are headed for a legal battle against the Stine Seed Co. for allegedly selling inferior quality soybeans.
The farmers are alledging this situation to be added to the list of other racially motivated scenarios they’ve experienced ss farmers. After having the beans tested in a laboratory which confirmed the seeds were no good and produced nothing. They are screaming foul and the company that sold them the inferior soybeans were well aware they were no good.
Read more as reported by WMC Action News:
Thomas Burrell, a soybean grower for more than 50 years, noticed something was off last August, two months before harvest: The soybean pods planted in about 2,000 acres in the northern Mississippi Delta were flat and not maturing.
But when he saw other soybean fields that used a more familiar seed variety, he said, they were vibrant and fuller.
He and his partners, all of them black farmers, had a hunch about the difference.
“This is not our first rodeo growing soybeans. We knew it was the seeds,” said Burrell, who is also the president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, a nonprofit advocacy group in Memphis, Tennessee.
Burrell is among a group of a few black farmers in Mississippi suing Iowa-based Stine Seed Co. for allegedly selling them “inferior” soybean seeds, which they claim is part of a wider conspiracy to take land from black farmers.
“Somebody played a game. We were anticipating thoroughbreds, and we got sold a donkey,” David Allen Hall Sr., a partner with Burrell, said after Stine Seed put out a statement this week calling the suit meritless and “factually unsupportable.”
The complaint, which has been winding through a U.S. District Court in Western Tennessee since April, lays it out this way: The black farmers purchased more than $100,000 worth of certified seeds on credit, as well as related chemicals, from Stine Seed at a March 2017 farm conference in Memphis.
Certified seeds are considered genetically pure, and are favored in many cases for their nearly 100 percent germination rate that ensures a more viable plant.
But after the farmers picked up the seeds and planted them, they said they saw a limited yield and noticed that the soybean plants were growing about 40 percent shorter than varieties purchased from other sources. The leaf developments also didn’t look normal, they said in their lawsuit.
When farmer Walter Jackson informed a Stine Seed district sales manager about his concerns, he said the manager told him it could have been the result of “over spraying,” according to an affidavit.
Meanwhile, fields that used other soybean seeds yielded about 48 bushels per acre, but the Stine Seed products yielded less than half of that, Jackson said in the lawsuit.
Burrell also said in the suit that fields where another variety of seeds were used grew 50 bushels per acre, but Stine’s yielded less than five bushels per acre.
The farmers said other factors, such as rainfall or soil, couldn’t have only negatively affected their fields where Stine Seed was planted because other varieties grew as intended. The issue was with the seeds themselves, they claimed in the lawsuit.
After the farmers say they met in November with Stine Seed sales reps who verified they had a “yield problem,” according to the lawsuit, they decided to get the seeds examined through the Mississippi State Seed Testing Laboratory.
According to the lawsuit, testing through that lab, paid for by the farmers, found the seeds had zero percent germination ability.
A Stine Seed spokesperson said the company was unable to independently verify the results of the testing or the seeds themselves. The testing is dated December 2017, six months after the seed was first provided.
The testing laboratory could not be reached for comment.
The farmers also claim that a warehouse in Sledge, Mississippi, was used as a “switching station” for uncertified seeds to be repackaged and labeled as “certified,” while the certified ones were sold to “other” farmers. They said they would be able to prove that as part of the discovery process.