Aventis CropScience signed a binding contractual agreement last week with 17 state attorneys general acting on behalf of growers and grain elevators who may suffer losses as a result of StarLink corn.
The agreement includes terms and claim procedures for StarLink growers and buffer growers, for growers with losses related to non-StarLink corn containing StarLink Cry9C protein or DNA and for elevators with losses related to StarLink corn.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said the company "specifically assured the states that it has access to assets necessary to satisfy its obligations under the agreement."
Although some of the terms agreed to were already in place and in writing with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, such as a 25-cent handling fee for StarLink growers, assurances by Aventis that it would cover additional costs incurred by companies and producers for transportation, storage, testing and demurrage were voluntary and not in writing.
"Now we have an agreement that can be enforced by the states," Miller said. "Aventis expressly agreed that it is obligated to compensate growers and elevators for loss in value resulting from StarLink corn, buffer corn and commingled corn. That means the states have clear standing to go to court if Aventis fails to live up to its obligations," he said.
Miller said the states did not release any potential claims or causes of action as a result of the agreement, in case other issues arise that are not covered by the agreement. The agreement does not affect any claims that have been made or could be made by those who choose to proceed with legal action or claims, he said.
Among the main terms of the agreement are that Aventis will pay 25 cents/bu. to StarLink growers and buffer growers to control corn grown from StarLink hybrids and corn grown within 660 ft. of corn grown with StarLink hybrids and move such corn to approved sites and uses through Aventis's "StarLink Enhanced Stewardship" program (SES). Growers and elevators also are eligible for Aventis payments for documented StarLink costs or losses such as transportation, storage, testing, demurrage and loss of value.
In addition, "Cry9C growers" -- those whose corn tests positive for Cry9C protein or DNA even though they did not grow corn from StarLink hybrids or were within 660 ft. of StarLink corn -- are eligible for the same 25 cents/bu. fee if handled through Aventis' SES program. Payments for other costs or losses by such growers are also eligible if documented.
According to the agreement, non-StarLink corn commingled with StarLink, buffer or Cry9C corn also is eligible for a 5 cent/bu. payment if fed to livestock or 10 cents if marketed to approved locations. Other documented costs or losses also are eligible for payment.
Miller, whose farm division led the discussions with Aventis since the attorneys general began discussion (Feedstuffs, Nov. 20, 2000), said despite the progress, "there's a long way to go in this situation, especially in the crucial time this spring when grain really starts moving through the system."
He said discussions will continue with Aventis on more details of implementing the agreement, and discussions will continue as other StarLink corn issues arise.
The agreement will be in force for four years, and the states involved include Iowa, Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The states encompass more than 90% of the acreage planted to StarLink corn last year.
Feb. 15 is the deadline for farmers to opt to participate in the SES program, and the grain must be marketed or fed by Sept. 15.
Missouri wants more money
Although 17 states signed the agreement with Aventis, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon did not.
In December, Nixon sent a letter to Aventis demanding that the company to formally commit to a plan that included a wide variety of requirements, from providing test kits to the state to posting a $25 million bond (Feedstuffs, Dec. 25, 2000). Nixon had given Aventis 15 days to submit "an acceptable written commitment" to the proposal or face potential legal actions.
An Aventis spokesperson reported last week, however, that Aventis did respond to Nixon's letter but refused to sign the agreement.
Scott Holste, a spokesman for Nixon, said Aventis did not sign the agreement and the company and state are currently in negotiations instead. "We believe Missourians that have been impacted by Aventis actions can receive more money than what's available to them through the deal announced earlier this week, particularly for commingled corn," Holste told Feedstuffs.
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Last Updated on 1/30/01