MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A federal judge ordered mediation for black farmers and Stine Seed Company on Thursday in a lawsuit where the farmers allege they were sold bad seeds on purpose.
Thursday was a win for these black farmers, who first filed a lawsuit in the summer of 2018.
“We must follow what the court says but I'd like to take them down, that's all I got to say,” said David Hall.
A federal judge set a deadline of March 15 for all sides to mediate and try to settle.
“These individuals have been the victim of specific racism,” said Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association.
The lawsuit names Iowa-based Stine Seed and at least one fertilizer supplier.
The farmers allege the soybean seeds were purposefully switched in a Mississippi warehouse, and the black farmers targeted by their race after a Memphis gin show in 2017.
Stine Seed and all defendants deny a seed swap occurred.
“We caught them,” Hall said. “Bottom line, we caught them. That seed we got was substandard.”
The farmers ordered testing which showed the seeds were rotten, molded and did not germinate.
Attorneys for the defendants say the seeds tested weren't kept in ideal conditions and they weren't the original planting seeds, but instead seeds from grown crops.
Thursday, the judge did not rule in court on defense motions to dismiss the case, instead opting to push the parties to mediate.
The judge also suggested the case could be more aptly placed in federal court in northern Mississippi since that’s where the farmers, fields, and alleged bad seeds were located.
“Our hope is that any resolution we reach will not only financially compensate our clients but would include processes put in place to ensure that no other African American farmers have to go through this again,” said attorney Gerard Stranch.
Stine Seed reached for comment Thursday referred WMC5 to a previous statement, which called the lawsuit without merit and factually unsupportable.