Jury orders Monsanto, BASF to pay peach farmer $250 million in punitive damages

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - A federal jury determined that German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF will have to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, for damage caused by their dicamba-related products. The verdict comes at the end of a three-week trial of a case where Bader Farms alleges it is going out of business because of damage incurred by the companies' dicamba herbicides moving off of neighboring fields and harming their 1,000 acres of peach orchards. 

On Friday, the jury ruled that both Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018, and BASF acted negligently and Bader Farms should receive $15 million in actual damages for future losses incurred because of the loss of their orchard. 

Read also Reporter’s notebook: Five key takeaways from trial of peach farmer’s lawsuit vs. Bayer, BASF

Bader Farms will receive a total of $265 million. BASF and Bayer will have to sort out what portion of the damages each company pays. 

Bader Farms is among thousands of farms, comprising millions of acres of crops, that have alleged dicamba damage since 2015.

Jury awards $265 million to Bader Farms in lawsuit against Bayer, BASF

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - A federal jury found in favor of Bader Farms on all counts in a lawsuit against Bayer and BASF. On Friday, the jury awarded $15 million of the requested $20.9 million in damages requested by Bader Farms.

On Saturday, the jury also awarded Bader Farms $250 million in punitive damages. The verdicts come at the end of a three-week trial of a case filed by Missouri’s largest peach farm against German agribusiness giants BASF and Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, over damage allegedly caused by their pesticide dicamba."We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict.  While we have empathy for Mr. Bader, Monsanto’s products were not responsible for the losses sought in this lawsuit and we look forward to appealing the decision," Bayer said in a statement shortly after Saturday's verdict was issued. Campbell-based Bader Farms alleges that BASF and Monsanto knew their dicamba-related products would cause damage to other farms and released them anyway to increase demand for their products. 

Bader Farms’ harvest dropped from an average of 162,000 bushels in the early 2000s to as low as 12,000 bushels in 2018.

Closing arguments in dicamba trial set for Friday

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Closing arguments are set for 9 a.m. Friday in the federal trial of a lawsuit alleging Monsanto and BASF intentionally caused widespread damage to farms in order to bolster sales of a new pesticide and seed system. Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, alleges that the companies, through the release of the new products built around the pesticide dicamba, are responsible for irreparable damage to its 1,000 acres of peach trees. Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, and BASF deny the allegations that dicamba is volatile when used correctly. The companies blame the issues at Bader Farms on other issues, including soil fungus and weather events. 

The cropping system, designed to help farmers kill weeds that are increasingly resistant to the pesticide glyphosate, was hailed as the next generation of farming.

BASF: Monsanto is a ‘fierce’ competitor, not a co-conspirator

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - A retired BASF executive told a federal jury on Tuesday that the company never intended to enter into a “joint venture” with Monsanto over the dicamba-tolerant cropping system that was released beginning in 2015. 

“We didn’t want to be exposed to Monsanto’s losses,” said Alyson Emanuel, who in her then-role as vice president of global strategic marketing for herbicides helped negotiate the contracts between BASF and Monsanto that governed the relationship. In an effort to combat growing weed resistance, Monsanto genetically engineered soybean and cotton seeds that could withstand being sprayed by dicamba, a volatile herbicide that has been used since the 1960s. The two companies also developed new versions of the pesticide designed to be less volatile. BASF and Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, are being sued by Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, over the dicamba-tolerant cropping system, which has allegedly damaged millions of acres of crops since its release.

Dicamba on trial: Peach farm one witness away from resting its case against Bayer, BASF

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - In July 2016, Bill Bader, frustrated by the second straight year of alleged dicamba damage to his peach trees, got out his invoice book and hand wrote bills to his neighbors he suspected of illegally spraying the herbicide: $720,000 to one, $660,000 to another and $1.2 million to a third, according to testimony in federal court this week. 

Bader wrote out the biggest bill - $3.3 million for damages to peaches and the environment - to Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agribusiness company he blamed for the damage from the volatile weed killer. “I made a mistake, and I was blowing off steam,” Bader testified on Wednesday in the second week of a trial of a lawsuit he filed against German agribusiness giants Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, and BASF. “I was hoping to get their attention.”

Bader Farms, the largest peach producer in Missouri, is seeking $20.9 damages.

Dicamba on trial: Weed scientist: With widespread pollution, ‘no way’ to know where drift that harmed peaches came from

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - The air in parts of the Midwest and South has become so contaminated with the weed killer dicamba that it has caused widespread damage to soybeans and other crops in recent summers, testified Dr. Ford Baldwin, a professor emeritus of weed science at the University of Arkansas in federal court on Thursday. Amid the pollution, thousands of farmers have filed complaints about cupping leaves, stunted growth and lower yields. Among those is Bill Bader, the owner of the largest peach farmer in Missouri, who is suing German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF, alleging they created the situation with the release of their joint dicamba cropping system. 

The lawsuit alleges that the companies released their dicamba-related products beginning in 2015 knowing that it would result in damage to farms, creating more demand for their products. 

The contamination is occurring because so many farmers are spraying so much of the weed killer at the same time that it builds up in the air to high enough levels that it is unable to dissipate, Baldwin said. Small amounts of the weed killer volatize, or turn into gas, and in stable atmospheric conditions, what is effectively an invisible cloud of weed killer spreads across the landscape, he said.

In trial against Bayer and BASF, Missouri peach farmer testifies about alleged dicamba damage

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - In June 2018, Bill Bader’s grandson wanted a ripe peach to eat, so the two got in an all-terrain vehicle and drove to the area of Bader’s farm where the fruit would be about the size of baseballs, ready to eat fresh off the tree. Only when they got there, the peaches were on the ground. The weakened trees just couldn’t hold the fruit. The grandson asked Bader what to do now.