Farmers are turning out in droves in the federal court system to file class-action lawsuits against Syngenta, Corteva, CHS Inc., Nutrien, BASF and others, alleging the farmers suffered financial losses as a result of the companies paying distributors to block competitors from selling less-expensive generic crop protection products.
As of Thursday, at least 26 lawsuits have been filed by individual farmers and farms. Those lawsuits were transferred or are in the process of being transferred from federal courts in Indiana, Illinois and Mississippi to the U.S. District Court for the District of Middle North Carolina, including five on Wednesday.
The court has scheduled a status conference for April 6 in Winston-Salem, as the beginning of what usually is a years-long process for class-action lawsuits.
Farmers started lining up to cash in after the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit alleging the companies violated the Sherman Act and its antimonopoly provisions.
Syngenta and Corteva recently filed motions to dismiss the FTC and states’ lawsuit. In filing the motions, the companies defended the legality of the loyalty programs at the center of the lawsuits. Earlier this week, the court gave the companies until March 3 to file additional documents on the motion.
The FTC and the states have alleged distributors only get paid if they limit business with competing manufacturers. Such arrangements, the complaint said, are “cutting off” competition and allowing the companies to “inflate their prices and force American farmers to spend millions of dollars more for their products.”
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