Black Farmers Claim They Were Sold ‘Fake Seeds’ In Plot To Take Their Land

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Written by Ann Brown

Imagine you’re a farmer and your crop is yielding 5-7 bushels, while a farmer with a similar crop and equipment in the same area of the country is yielding 60-100 bushels. It would seem fishy, especially if you’re a Black farmer and the other farmer is white.

This has happened recently to a group of Black soy farmers in the Mid-South region surrounding Memphis. And now these farmers claim they were deliberately sold “fake seeds” in a plot to steal their land.

“The Black farmers said the distributor working for Stine Seed Company used labeled certified seed backs–tampering with factory sewn seals, in order to remove the certified seeds. The distributor would then sell the fake certified seeds to Black farmers at a high price,” WMC Action News Channel 5 reported.

The Black farmers went on to have the seeds, which were sold to them by the Stine Seed Company, scientifically analyzed.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not Black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack Black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and Black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

The testing of the seeds by experts at Mississippi State University revealed the Black farmers had not received  the quality “certified” Stine seeds for which they had purchased.

 

Black farmer
FILE — In this May 1, 2013 file photo, civil rights activist and attorney Rose Sanders talks with reporters at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala. A once prominent African-American law firm has disintegrated in a fight over money after helping black farmers win $1.2 billion in a discrimination case. Her husband, attorney Hank Sanders says the Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders law firm in Selma was once among the nation’s 10 largest black law firms. Now he’s the only partner left practicing law. He and Rose Sanders are involved in a legal fight with the family of their late partner, J.L. Chestnut Jr., over how to divide the $5.2 million legal fee from the black farmers’ case. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

The seed was expensive. “The farmers bought more than $100,000 in soybean seeds from the distributor, plus an additional $100,000 purchase in chemicals,” WMC Action News Channel 5 reported.

“All we have to do is look at here: 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000. These individuals didn’t buy 16 million acres of land, just to let is lay idle. The sons and daughters, the heirs of Black farmers want to farm, just like the sons and daughters of white farmers,” Burrell said. “So we have to acknowledge that racism is the motivation here.”

Because of these findings, the farmers filed a class-action lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western Division in Memphis. And one lawmaker is taking the situation seriously.

“Tennessee Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) vowed state government would investigate ‘issues which have negatively impacted our Black farmers. We will explore the avenues–whether it’s civil, whether it’s criminal–dealing with fraud,’” Raw Story reported.

According to one of the Black farmers, David Hall, he spent more money n the seeds because he thought they were high-quality. “We bought nearly $90,000 worth of seed” Hall explained. “It’s been known to produce high yield, so you expect it, when you pay the money for it, to produce the high yields.”

But Stine Seed denies the claims. In a statement, Myron Stine of Stine Seed Company said: “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. Upon learning of these claims, the company took swift action to conduct an internal investigation, which has not revealed any evidence that would support these allegations. Stine intends to vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit and has filed a motion to dismiss. Our focus is on continuing to serve all our customers with the highest degree of integrity and respect that are the bedrock of our company’s values.”

 

Black farmer
John W. Boyd, Jr., founder and President of the National Black Farmers Association, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, asking the Senate to pass the $1.15 billion in funding for the Black farmers discrimination case settlement before the recess. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: John W. Boyd, Jr., founder and President of the National Black Farmers Association, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, asking the Senate to pass the $1.15 billion in funding for the Black farmers discrimination case settlement before the recess. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)