NY corn growers sought for lawsuit against Syngenta

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 July 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo Tom Rivers – Corn is pictured in Barker in this file photo from August 2013. That was a period when corn prices took a sharp fall.

ALBION – New York corn growers are being recruited to join a lawsuit against agricultural giant Syngenta, a suit that seeks damages for farmers who saw the corn market tumble in 2013 and last year.

Watts Guerra LLP, a law firm from Austin, Texas, stopped at the Village Inn this afternoon as part of several stops in Western New York to explain the lawsuit and urge farmers to sign up for compensation from Syngenta.

Linda Leibfarth, an attorney with Watts Guerra, met with about a half dozen farmers today at the Village Inn before heading to another meeting in Lockport. Leibfarth said Syngenta caused a glut of corn in the U.S. market, which depressed the price.

Swiss-based Syngenta is one of the world’s largest developers of seeds. It produced an insect-resistant variety of Viptera corn. That genetically modified corn was rejected by China in 2013 and was banned from the country up until December 2014.

Not only was that corn rejected, but China wouldn’t take other corn shipments from American growers, fearing cross-pollination of corn in fields and commingling of corn in shipments.

Syngenta has already been sued by Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, claiming the company pushed the product to the market without a stewardship program to prevent the grain from export markets that didn’t accept the product.

ADM says it suffered “tens of millions of dollars in damages.”

The corn price fell from about $7 per bushel to $3.25 in the spring 2014. Leibfarth said Syngenta isn’t entirely to blame for the price drop because there was a bumper crop. But she said Syngenta’s disruption of the export market, where 40 percent of U.S. corn is shipped, played a big role in the price drop.

The lawsuit will need economists to debate the overall damage to corn growers. Leibfarth said she believes that could be at least $1 per bushel. That could be significant for individual farms.

Her firm has signed up 16,000 farms in the lawsuit, and Watts Guerra wants more to join the case.

That’s why she is traveling throughout New York and other states. She was joined today by Lawlor Quinlan III, a partner with Connors & Vilardo in Buffalo.

“There’s real money involved and we want to get as much money in recovery as possible for the farmers,” she said.

She has been on the road since December, explaining the case to farmers. She said they deserve to be compensated for their lost income.

“In New York, they got hurt just like every farmer in the country,” she said. “Farmers are still feeling a depressed price.”

For more information on the lawsuit, click here.