A group of black farmers in Memphis, Tennessee, are now standing together and taking legal action against Stine Seed Company, who they say intentionally sold them bad soybean seeds.
According to reports from WMC Action News, the black farmers attended the 67th Annual Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in March of 2017, where they collectively purchased over $100,000 worth of Stine seeds. However, the “certified high-quality” seeds that were initially promised to the farmers were said to be switched out and replaced with “fake” seeds at a warehouse near Sledge, Mississippi, the suit claims.
The WMC report also states that despite having above average rainfall during the 2017 farming season, black farmers saw a shockingly low yield from the soybeans seeds purchased from Stine. In fact, their yields were so low that the farmers had to seek outside help from researchers at the Mississippi State University. The researchers tested the soybean seeds and discovered the seeds were not actually certified Stine seeds.
While speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, July 10, the President of Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Thomas Burrell spoke about the challenges faced by black farmers. He noted that the number of black farmers has been significantly reduced as a result of “systemic racism.”
“What we are saying today is that the few remaining black farmers, who have survived drought, who have survived tariffs, who have survived all kinds of natural disasters…are now finding themselves having to deal with the government of systemic racism by not only the Department of Agriculture, but now seed-manufacturers, seed-breeders, chemical manufacturers who now are weaponizing and have weaponized their seeds and are targeting those seeds…toward the operations of the remaining black farmers,” Burrell said.
According to Burrell, the number of black farmers has dropped from nearly 1 million in 1920 to about 5,000 today and the low yields resulting from these bad seeds could drive more minority growers out of business. As it stands, the black farmers involved have allegedly lost millions of dollars because of the seeds provided by Stine.
The Stine Seed Company issued a statement on Tuesday night. President Myron Stine denied that his company knowingly sold defective seeds to black farmers. Stine says the company has conducted their own internal investigation which “has not revealed any evidence that would support these allegations.”
“The lawsuit against Stine Seed Company is without merit and factually unsupportable. Stine takes seriously any allegations of unlawful, improper, or discriminatory conduct and is disturbed by the baseless allegations leveled against the company,” the statements reads.