LITTLE ROCK — Nearly three dozen Arkansas rice farmers claim in a lawsuit that hybrid rice seed purchased from a Texas company is defective and that company officials have been lying to customers for years about the product’s quality.
The lawsuit, filed in Greene County Circuit Court, also argues that bad seed from Alvin, Texas-based RiceTec Inc. resulted in lower prices for farmers.
“Farmers don’t like to sue but they’re fed up with RiceTec’s behavior and the problems they are causing,” said the farmers’ lawyer, Clayton Samaistrla of the San Antonio-based firm Goldman Phipps.
The legal dispute began with RiceTec’s recent lawsuit against Scott Meredith, who owns and operates a farm in the Greene County community of Delaplaine, for not paying his seed bill.
Meredith filed a countersuit on July 6, arguing that RiceTec misrepresented the yields and quality of the hybrid seed and sold him defective seed.
On Monday, 32 other Arkansas rice farmers joined Meredith’s lawsuit.
In a statement released by his attorney Monday, Meredith said he wants to recover the money he claims RiceTec caused him to lose, but the lawsuit is also about “preventing RiceTec from pushing us farmers around like they have been.”
Meredith’s lawsuit claims that RiceTec violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by misrepresenting to him and other farmers that its seeds were of a certain age, purity, variety and quality that would produce rice crops with substantially higher yields.
The suit said Meredcith spent $60,500 on RiceTec seed in 2008 and was told by a dealer and company literature that he could expect his normal yield of 150 bushels per acre of rice to grow to between 187 and 197 bushels using RiceTec seed.
The rice crop yield ended up only 70 to 95 bushels per acre, resulting in a substantial financial loss, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said RiceTec blamed the poor crop on Meredith’s use of the herbicide “2, 4-D,” which the company said was applied at the wrong time. Meredith, argued he did not use the herbicide because it is banned in Greene County because it kills cotton, which is also grown in the county.
In Monday’s complaint, the 32 rice farmers said the “defective condition of RiceTec’s hybrid rice has caused the reputation of U.S. rice to suffer, even causing some markets to reject U.S. long grain rice and/or pay less for U.S. long grain rice because of its lesser quality and/or injured reputation.”
RiceTec officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.