Deadline looms in $750 million rice settlement

By Chuck Bartels

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 18 2011 1:46 a.m. MST

"The vast majority of farmers made that decision a long time ago," Downing said, though he added that there have been a few stragglers.

Separately, Bayer and a group of farmers from Lonoke, Ark., are awaiting a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court on whether a $50 million verdict against Bayer will stand.

A jury awarded the farmers $5.9 million in actual damages and $42 million in punitive damages, an award Bayer argues is excessive.

Downing said he's optimistic the 85 percent level will be met and doesn't think the outcome of the Lonoke case is weighing on their decisions.

"I've talked to hundreds of farmers ... and not one indicated that was a factor for them," Downing said.

Attorney Richard Coffman of Beaumont, Texas, expressed a similar sentiment and said farmers want to resolve the matter by agreeing to the settlement with Bayer.

"For my 600 farmers, we're not watching the Arkansas case. We're filing claims," he said. "They decided it's time to settle rather than risk what can happen down at the courthouse."

Lawyers have held meetings in cities across rice growing areas, letting farmers know what their options are.

Bayer's proposal is based on jury awards already made in lawsuits that weren't part of the settlement.

The Monday deadline affects the majority of farmers who grow long-grain rice. Two categories have later deadlines: farmers who planted certain varieties and farmers who feel they have greater damages than average and have to file greater documentation.

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