Black farmers bought upwards $100,000 worth of soybean seed back at the annual Mid-South Farm and Gin Show held in Memphis, from Stine Seed Company because the product has a reputation for high crop yield. Instead, they yielded about 10 percent of what white farmers did for the season, effectively accelerating their demise and putting them out of business, according to Thomas Burrell, President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA).
A class action suit filed against Stine Seed, the largest genetic seed trait manufacturer in the world, has prompted state legislators to get involved in what some are calling a multimillion dollar scheme to put Black farmers out of business and take their land.
Son of a billionaire CEO Harry Stine, President Myron Stine, of all-white-male led Iowa-based Stine Seed Company, responded to the suit Tuesday, saying in part: “The lawsuit against Stine Seed Company is without merit and factually unsupportable … Stine intends to vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit and has filed a motion to dismiss.”
Tennessee Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) vowed state government would investigate “issues which have negatively impacted our Black farmers.”
Burrell said, historically, 16 million acres were owned by Blacks who intended to farm. Now the remaining ones are facing what he calls a “land grab.”
“All we have to do is look… 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000,” he said.
After experiencing financial losses in the millions, the Black farmers had the seed scientifically tested by Mississippi State University. The samples showed rotten molded seed. The lawsuit claims the certified seeds were switched for inferior ones at a Mississippi warehouse.
“These seeds now have become weaponized,” said Burrell.
The BFAA has also represented Black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a class action suit claiming systemic racist practices, where almost 16,000 farmers won a total settlement of $1.06 billion by 2011, and are still slated to collect $1.2 billion from Congress in a second wave of settlements.
The BFAA plans to ask the FBI and Homeland Security to investigate as well.