As one would expect, Bader Farms v. Monsanto Company – as the first dicamba-related case to go to trial – was about as high profile as it gets. Especially after the jury punched Monsanto right between the eyes in awarding Bader Farms $265 million for dicamba damage to the farm's peach orchards.
ByJohnathan Hettinger/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Forest health experts said trees are being damaged from Indiana to Kansas, from North Dakota to Arkansas. Cupped up leaves, the most easily recognized symptom, can be seen in towns miles away from agricultural fields, as well as in nature preserves and state parks set aside as refuges for wildlife, experts said.
Bayer has filed post-trial motions in the Missouri Bader Farms case, asking for the $265 million verdict to be overturned in the first dicamba-related case to go to trial.
The weedkiller dicamba is at the heart of hundreds of lawsuits against the company from farmers who claim the pesticide drifted and significantly damaged their crops, once it was widely sprayed as early as 2015.
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.
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.
Since 1970, Bill Bader has worked on peach farms in Dunklin County, Missouri, just north of the Arkansas border. Bader started picking peaches at age 13, and in 1988, he established Bader Farms.
The farm grew to become the largest peach grower in Missouri, shipping fruit to grocery stores such as IGA and Wal-Mart, as well as others across eight states in the Midwest and South. “A peach we picked today will be in the grocery store tomorrow morning,” Bader testified in federal court in Cape Girardeau on Tuesday. Bader took the stand a week and a half into a trial of a lawsuit he filed against German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF. Bader alleges that drift from the herbicide dicamba has damaged his peach trees and made his 1,000-acre operation no longer sustainable.
While BASF was telling farmers there would be no yield impacts from dicamba drift in 2017, the company was privately telling pesticide applicators that any drift they caused could cause yield loss, according to Monday video testimony from Gary Schmitz, tech service regional manager for the Midwest. Schmitz was the first official from BASF to testify in the ongoing trial of the civil lawsuit filed by Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri. In the lawsuit, Bader Farms alleges that Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018, and BASF knew their dicamba-related products released beginning in 2015 would cause damage to other farmers, yet released the products anyway.
Monsanto released cotton seeds genetically engineered to withstand being sprayed by dicamba in 2015 and similar soybean seeds in 2016, but neither BASF nor Monsanto released accompanying herbicides, designed to be less volatile than older versions of dicamba, until 2017. In 2015 and 2016, many farmers illegally sprayed BASF’s older versions of the volatile herbicide on their dicamba-tolerant crops, according to the lawsuit. Bader Farms alleges that it is no longer a sustainable business after being hit by dicamba drift each year since 2015.