This week kicked off what could be a three-week trial concerning a southeast Missouri peach grower, Bayer and BASF. The trial is at the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri Southeastern Division in Dunklin County, Mo. and centers on whether damage to a peach farm is from dicamba drift or natural causes including a spreading soil fungus.
While Bader Farms, plaintiff, and Bayer and BASF are under a gag order from the court, here’s what we know.
Bader Farms, the largest peach grower in the state, claims dicamba drifted into peach trees and caused severe damage to the orchard. Court documents state:
“The cause of this destruction to Plaintiff Bader Farmers’ and Plaintiff Baders’ crops is Defendants’ willful and negligent release of their dicamba products on the market. Defendants methodically engaged in a coordinated, systemic plan to release their defective products onto the market, thereby ensuring that non-DT [dicamba tolerant] crops would be destroyed.”
Court documents continue. “Defendants knew farmers would purchase and use other dicamba herbicides to spray on Xtend crops and defendants encouraged farmers to do so even though such spraying was not legal [in 2015 and 2016].”
Bayer, referred to as Monsanto in some court documents, and BASF deny this allegation. In a statement provided to certain news outlets prior to the start of the trial, Bayer stated the following:
“This lawsuit attempts to shift responsibility to Monsanto and BASF and away from what is really causing Bader Farm’s alleged damages. As multiple experts have confirmed and as Bader Farms admits, its peach orchards are suffering from a pervasive soil fungus that kills peach trees. This soil fungus is responsible for destroying much of Missouri’s historic commercial peach production and it has unfortunately arrived on Bader Farms. Monsanto and its products are not responsible for the losses sought in this lawsuit; rather, those losses are due to this unrelated fungus and other natural causes.”
The statement continues and emphasizes the steps Bayer took to educate growers in 2015 and 2016 that dicamba herbicides were not approved in those years. The company also included verbiage on seed packaging warning against use of dicamba herbicides in those seasons. Since EPA approval, Bayer says it has trained more than 50,000 people on proper label application.
While a gag order means a statement from BASF is not currently available, the company provided this response to court documents concerning illegal dicamba applications in 2015 and 2016:
“BASF Corporation admits that in 2015 and 2016 it manufactured and sold Clarity, Banvel, Distinct, Marksman and Status herbicides, but it denies that it had knowledge of or intent to have these products applied in a manner inconsistent with their labeling and states that any such applications would be a violation of the federal law.”
BASF also provides applicator training for dicamba’s use.