Corn growers reach $1.5 billion settlement over Syngenta seed

A $1.5 billion settlement was reached Monday in what is believed to be the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history, the Associated Press reports.

Two Missouri attorneys were among the team of lawyers representing corn growers in a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta, the Swiss agrochemical and seed company. Syngenta was sued for introducing genetically engineered corn seed to the U.S. market before it was approved for import by China. Plaintiffs alleged the move cut off access to the Chinese corn market and lowered prices for years.

The class-action lawsuit covered all U.S. corn producers — estimated by the Associated Press to be in the tens of thousands — that sold corn or byproducts priced after Sept. 15, 2013.

The settlement doesn’t include Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, which are also suing Syngenta.

Four lawyers from four firms led the litigation for corn producers. Two were Missouri-based: Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP is from Kansas City, and Don Downing of Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C. is from St. Louis. The other co-leads were William Chaney of Gray Reed & McGraw LLP and Scott Powell of Hare Wynn Newell & Newton.

Last June, a federal grand jury awarded $217.7 million to 7,300 Kansas corn growers who sued Syngenta over the corn seed. Stueve and Downing also were part of that legal team.

“We are very pleased with this outcome,” the attorneys said in a press release after Monday’s decision. “America’s corn farmers and related businesses were hurt economically and this settlement will provide fair compensation for their damages. It is an equitable result for all involved.”

Pending approval from a federal judge in Kansas, a fund will be created to pay claims by those who contracted to price corn after Set. 15, 2013. Payments could begin as early as 2019.

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