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Articles from 2003 In July


Corn+Soybean Digest

August 1, 2003

Climate change initiative to cost $4.3 billion

The initiative directs 13 federal agencies to begin working to assess the problem of long-term global climate variability and change under the umbrella of a new Climate Change Science Program. The CCSP will be a part of the President's Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration.

The administration has issued a new strategic plan to address some of the most complex questions and problems dealing with global warming. It reflects an unprecedented outreach to interested parties, including some 1,200 scientists and stakeholders and representatives of over 35 countries.

Secretary of Commerce Don Evans also announced a $103 million two-year federal initiative to accelerate the deployment of new global observation technologies, focused on oceans and atmospheric aerosols and carbon. This initiative will provide critical data needed to improve mankind's understanding of global climate change and the ability of all nations to apply their knowledge.

"The Bush administration has brought a total government spending on climate-change related programs to $4.5 billion," he noted. "This critical investment announced today will accelerate select high priority research projects and climate observations that will help us fill critical knowledge gaps."

Evans said the president "has asked his advisers to consider approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those that tap the power of markets, help realize the promise of technology and ensure the widest-possible global participation."

Those principles include:

-- Adopt a measured approach based on the best science.

-- Remain flexible, able to adapt to new discoveries and technology.

-- Leverage the power of markets and technological innovation.

-- Ensure global participation.

-- Ensure continued economic growth.

The strategic plan, which can be viewed at http://climatescience.gov, will advance the state of knowledge of climate variability, the potential response of the climate system (and related human and environmental systems) to human-induced changes in the atmosphere and land surface, and the implications of these potential changes and management options for natural environments, said Evans.

Support discovery

The plan will also support scientific discovery and excellence, and encourage partnerships that facilitate the use of knowledge to protect the Earth's environment and ensure a safer, healthier planet for future generations.

"This plan identifies four core approaches that will serve as the backbone to achieving its mission," said Spencer Abraham, secretary of Energy and co-chairman of the Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration.

"Those areas are identified as science, observations, decision support and communications. By focusing in these specific areas we can focus on moving in new scientific directions, employing new research activities, filling critical data gaps through observations, developing operational tools for decision-makers and managers and communicating results across communities and across borders."

Working within the core constructs, the plan outlines five overarching scientific goals aimed at addressing key questions and uncertainties. They include:

-- Extend knowledge of the Earth's past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the causes of observed changes.

-- Improve understanding of the forces bringing about changes in the Earth's climate and related systems.

-- Reduce uncertainty in projections of how the Earth's climate and environmental systems may change in the future.

-- Understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed systems to climate and associated global changes.

-- Explore the uses and identify the limits of evolving knowledge to manage risks and opportunities related to climate variability and change.

Called framework

"The CCSP strategic plan is a framework to address some of the most complex questions and problems that our nation and the world now face," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

"The issue of climate variability and change, the level and potential affects of human contributions to these issues and how we adapt and manage our response is a capstone issue for our generation and those to follow."

"USDA is pleased to be part of President Bush’s Climate Change Science Program to help ensure that we are investing in research that can make a difference in climate change," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

"The Strategic Plan released today is the most comprehensive effort to date and provides an important framework for investing in research to address long-term global climate variability as well as the potential impacts on our environment and our lives. The plan is a research strategy to develop improved knowledge, resources and tools that will empower policy-makers to make informed decisions."

e-mail:flaws@primediabusiness.com

Beeline: Steer Assist sets world record

All of the equipment used was standard farming equipment and the planting was conducted under commercial farming conditions, they said. Agro-Soyuz is a farming company that grows 18,533 acres of arable crops. The fields used will still be required to produce a commercial quality crop of spring barley and meet the company's high quality standards.

Typical soil types in the Steppe region of Ukraine are predominantly chernozem, a black, peaty clay loam. Enormous fields are the norm in the region, and the record took place in two fields where the runs ranged from 1.7 miles up to 2.48 miles long.

To maintain planting rates over the two fields, Beeline representatives said, drivers had to minimize overlap and skip while using the entire 60.2 feet of the Horsch min-till drill over the 24-hour time period, irrespective of working at night, driver fatigue and the width of the implement.

In general, drivers miss or rework at least 10 percent of their field during daylight hours. Under poor visual conditions overlap and skip can reach up to 25 percent and operation speeds tend to be slower. Removing operator error to maximize efficiency and Beeline's proven reliability would be the key to achieving world record status.

The company says Beeline Technologies was the first commercialize hands free Steering Assist in agricultural machinery. The system assumes the responsibility of holding a straight line with sub-inch accuracy ensuring increased job quality and dependable 24-hour operation.

“This gives the driver more freedom in the cab and enables him to more closely monitor the implement and outside environment,” a spokesman said.

The equipment used in the gaining the world record was completely standard. The Challenger fitted with Auto-Guide powered by Beeline Technologies came straight out of the AGCO factory in the USA and was shipped to Ukraine.

The Challenger MT865 is the latest in the line of yellow tractors and packs a whopping 500 horsepower, allowing an average work rate of 60 acres per hour with fuel consumption of only 0.4 gallon per acre throughout the world record run.

The Horsch drill, built by Agro-Soyuz in the Ukraine was also unmodified. Seed and fertilizer rates were the same as for similar fields at Agro-Soyuz for spring barley. The variety Prairie was put down at 116 pounds per acre with 330 pounds per acre of 16-16-16 prilled fertilizer. Average yield in the Ukraine is 2,052.88 pounds per acre. Average rainfall is 20 inches.

While achieving average work rate of 60 acres per hour in the record run, the drill regularly works at about 39.5 acres per hour. This is in contrast to equipment usually found on Ukrainian farms that only achieve 49.42 acres per day!

Ease of use was another key factor in gaining the world record especially as it was the first time hands free Steering Assist had been used commercially in the Ukraine. During the preparations for the world record attempt, non-English speaking drivers were taught how to operate the Auto-Guide System hands free by a person whose only language is English, Beeline specialists said.

Auto-Guide is a true one-touch hands free Steering Assist and is fully integrated in to the Challenger MT's Tractor Management Center that incorporates a number of tractor and implement functions. At the end of the field, One-Touch prepares the tractor and raises the implement for the turn. The operator simply turns the steering wheel and One-Touch lowers the implement, shifts speed and re-activates Auto-Guide for the next pass.

Adjudicator's reports and evidence has been lodged with Guinness Book of Records for official acknowledgement. The event was monitored by Dmytro Woytjuk, Dean, Professor of the National Agricultural University of Ukraine, and Leonid Pogorily, Director of Ukrainian State Center for Testing of Agricultural Machinery. Staff from both institutes observed the entire event, checking the machine operation, seeding quality and eventual area covered.

For more information, visit the company's Web site at: www.BEELINE.ag

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

House bill favors sorghum research

The proposed fiscal year 2004 budget provides $300,000 in new funding for research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Plant Stress Laboratory at Lubbock, Texas, which would extend growing seasons for sorghum and provide increased profitability for sorghum producers by increasing cold tolerance through collaborative work in Texas, Kansas and Oregon.

Additionally, House appropriators recommended $400,000 for work on new end uses for sorghum at the ARS Grain Marketing Research Laboratory at Manhattan, Kan., which will be coordinated with related research in Nebraska, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Georgia and Texas.

The National Grain Sorghum Producers Association worked closely with House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, as well as former Rep. Larry Combest, R-Texas, and Reps. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.

“This is a good contribution to research efforts funded by producers through their checkoff as well as by private industry,” says Kenneth Rose, NGSP president from Keyes, Okla., adding that NGSP will continue to urge this important federal funding for the industry to round out a public/private/producer research partnership.

The Senate has put its deliberations on the agricultural appropriations bill on hold until after the August recess. Once it completes its bill, it will likely have to be resolved by a House-Senate Conference Committee.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com

CCP Workshops scheduled Aug. 5-6

The possibility of a lower counter-cyclical payment rate for the 2003-crop creates the potential for another economic hit to growers already facing either a total loss of production in 2003 or severely reduced crop prospects. The High Plains region suffered widespread damage due to cool temperatures, hail and high winds brought to the High Plains region in May and June.

To help growers, who may be needing a full 2003 counter-cyclical payment to make ends meet, the Texas Cooperative Extension Service and Plains Cotton Growers have worked to put together a program specifically aimed at educating growers about how they can offset an income loss if the 2003 counter-cyclical payment is less than the maximum rate.

The program will help growers identify and take advantage of market opportunities that can offset possible decreases in counter-cyclical payment rates.

TCES economists Carl Anderson, Jackie Smith and TCES Risk Management specialist Jay Yates will be covering a variety of topics including an overview of how the counter-cyclical program works within the framework of the current farm program, determining the most effective strategies to hedging against a possible drop in counter-cyclical payment rates, and figuring out when the best opportunities exist for implementing a hedging strategy.

CC Payment Primer

As the price received by growers approaches 52 cents per pound the potential for a reduction in the counter-cyclical payment rate increases.

Current farm law allows for counter-cyclical payments when the effective price for a covered commodity is less than the target price. The effective price is equal to the sum of (1) the higher of the national average market price during the 12-month marketing year for the commodity or the national average loan rate, and (2) the payment rate for the direct decoupled payments for the commodity.

The payment rate for counter-cyclical payments is equal to the difference between the target price and the effective price for the commodity.

Smith notes that with the volatile nature of the current cotton market there are still opportunities for growers to be proactive in their efforts and to protect themselves against a drop in the 2003 counter-cyclical payment rate.

The trick, he explains, is in having the information necessary to formulate a workable plan that can be put in place as soon as the market provides the opportunity to act. Helping growers understand what their options are and how they can develop a workable plan, he says, is the reason for holding the workshops.

The Counter-cyclical Payment Workshops will be held at three locations around the High Plains on August 5 and 6. Times and location for the workshop nearest you are:

August 5

  • 9:00 a.m.-Plainview, Ollie Liner Center
  • 2:00 p.m.-Muleshoe, Bailey County Coliseum
August 6
  • 9:00 a.m.-Brownfield, Terry County Livestock Barn (2 miles north of Brownfield on FM 137)
Advance registration is not required to attend the workshops. Anyone interested in obtaining additional information may contact Jackie Smith or Jay Yates at the Lubbock Research and Extension Center at 806-746-6101.

Shawn Wade is a writer for Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

(a href="mailto:rsmith@primediabusiness.com">rsmith@primediabusiness.com

Carolina cotton insect pressure building

For the most part, the cotton crop in the upper Southeast was "way behind" heading into August.

Spring and early summer rains caused root problems, which could set up big problems if rain doesn’t continue in August, says Keith Edmisten, North Carolina State University Extension cotton specialist.

Edmisten advises North Carolina cotton growers to take petiole samples of their crop in order to keep up with its nutrient requirements. "Stick to the basics and avoid unproven products," he says. "Try to keep the crop as early as possible using growth regulators at or before early bloom, pray for timely rains in July and August and a good warm fall. Scout for insects, including stink bugs in Bt cotton."

In his July 19, 2003 Cotton Insect Newsletter, Mitchell Roof, Clemson University Extension entomologist says scouting will be "vitally important" going into August.

He’s had reports of bollworm egg counts of 30 eggs per 100 plants. Some growers had already started spraying for four to six small worms per 100 plants. Moths were showing up in Darlington and Marlboro counties during the same period.

Scouting for bollworms in blooming Bt cotton requires a different technique than in non-Bt cotton, Roof says. Threshold levels in non-Bt cotton are 20 eggs per 100 plants; 75 eggs or 30 small worms in Bt cotton. An escaped worm concept is used in Bt cotton. A worm one-fourth of an inch or larger will probably not be killed or inhibited by further feeding on the toxic plants.

In Bt cotton, worms that are more than one-fourth of an inch or more, spray for three worms per 100 plants or 5 percent damage bolls. Look on the inside of white and pink blooms and two of the smallest bolls per plant to check for bollworms.

Brown stink bugs are starting to move into cotton fields, after being plentiful in corn this season. Roof says so far he hasn’t seen many green and southern stink bugs, the most important species in cotton. The green and southern stink bugs generally show up later than browns in cotton.

The aphid populations are beginning to crash in South Carolina, and fungus is showing up, Roof says.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com

More farmers on computer, Web

The USDA agency said its estimates are based on responses from over 26,400 agricultural operations and represent all sizes and types of farms. Questions on computer ownership, access, and use were included on the 2003 June Agricultural Survey, which primarily covers crop and livestock estimates.

The report said 54 percent of all U.S. farms own or lease a computer, up from 50 percent in 2001. Farm operators using computers for their farm business increased from 29 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2003.

When you look at larger farms, the numbers move sharply higher. On farms with over $250,000 in annual sales, 82 percent have access to a computer, 79 percent own or lease a computer, 68 percent use a computer for farm business, and 72 percent have Internet access.

Although over half of all farms with annual sales of less than $250,000 reported access to computers, 46 percent have access to the Internet, but less than 30 percent use computers for farm business.

Eight percent of U.S. farms use the Internet to purchase agricultural inputs, and 8 percent also use it to conduct agricultural marketing activities, according to the report. Six percent use the Internet to access NASS reports, while 11 percent use the Internet to access other USDA reports and research information.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Con-til may mean nitrogen savings

“In a general sense, with con/no-till, don’t expect to have your yields double,” says Anders, cropping systems agronomist at the University of Arkansas Rice Research Station in Stuttgart. “We haven’t been able to do that, and I doubt anyone has.

“Instead, what we’re looking at is achieving the same yields – perhaps a bit better – as you’d normally get with conventional tillage. We want achieve those yields while spending much less time and expense in the field.”

The benefits of con-till are many, he told farmers attending a Monsanto Centers of Excellence Field Day at Coy. Among those:

  • The organic matter will improve in the soil. What difference does that make?
  • “Well, with rice, you will have upwards of 80 pounds per acre of nitrogen that comes out of the organic portion of the soil. Compare that to perhaps 50 pounds if using fertilizer alone.”

  • Soil structure and aggregation also improve considerably. “We don’t have to flush rice.”
  • Root penetration improves.
The trick, Anders has found, is if a producer wants to employ a con-till system, he must plan well in advance. “You can’t go into a field that’s been rutted up and expect to make a go of con-till. It won’t work and you may not even get a stand up.”

Other things to consider:

  • In winter, Anders says it’s generally better to have a field flooded. This helps with the decomposition process.
  • In moving to a con-till system, it’s very likely you’ll be able to get rid of some machinery. The tools you keep, though, need to make as few ruts as possible. This point is key, says Anders.
  • With rice, “we find the planter is of utmost importance. With a rice/soybean rotation, which is a common one in the Grand Prairie, producers can usually get by fine with a standard planter with a couple of modifications. Closing wheels are well worth the money.
  • /ul>With continual rice, Anders sometimes runs into problems with dry seeding. The reason is – assuming it isn’t burned off – “you’re looking at about 8 tons of matter lying there every year. That builds and builds. How to deal with it? In most cases, we suggest water seeding.”

    Using a con-till system reduces the amount of flushing needed drastically. In fact, overall water use will drop. “We’re running 1 to 4 inches less irrigation per season. There’s probably 30 inches of irrigation used to grow a crop.”

    Varieties Anders has looked at include Wells. “I really like this variety because it has an ability to get a nice stand under difficult conditions.”

    Command and Facet have been used for weed control. Until a couple of years ago, the same rates were used on both tilled and no-till fields.

    “Suddenly, we found with the increased organic matter in the soil, Command was a little less effective.”

    What happened, he says, is that an organic soil was created on top of mineral soil. That caused a bit of a problem. So Anders upped the Command rate. That led to very good weed control.

    ”We did have another dilemma this year,” he noted. “On our no-till we found some signs of Facet toxicity. They were quite bad in plots we were rotating with corn. So we dropped Facet rates way down and might take it out completely.”

    In general, once you get the weed control tweaked in con-till rice, it’s going to be much easier on your wallet. You’ll also have much fewer problems with red rice, says Anders.

    Shifting crops, Sanders says anyone who doesn’t no-till soybeans behind wheat is probably missing out.

    “We consistently find our yields are better where we no-till beans after wheat. I think one key is to get a combine with good shredder/spreaders. We need to get the material spread out so it can be easily planted into. Slow down a bit with the planter, get the seed where you need them and you’ll have much better luck.”

    Using standard soybean varieties with con-till systems works very well if a field has good drainage or bedding. “You must watch a field and not go in too early. Be patient.

    That applies to rice also. If you plant rice into no-till conditions at the same time you plant conventional tillage, then expect the no-till crop to be about five days behind. And expect your neighbors to laugh at you for a couple of weeks – they can’t see the plants and think you’ve wasted time. If you want to check that no-till crop, get out of the truck because, from the road, it won’t be obvious it’s emerged.”

    As with soybeans, corn needs good drainage too.

    “In con-till corn, we’ve found that applying fertilizer later really pays off,” notes Anders. “The final hit just as corn is flowering pays big dividends. We aren’t increasing rates, just putting them on a bit later.”

    e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

NCC: Use approved bale packaging

In a letter to its member firms, U.S. cotton industry interest organizations and commercial packaging firms, the National Cotton Council said it has learned that some materials that are not approved have been offered for sale to the cotton industry.

“Use of materials that do not meet the established standards for cotton bale packaging materials is a violation of USDA requirements and many U.S. trading rules,” said Keith Pendergrass, chairman of the Cotton Council’s Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee, in the letter.

“Ginners and warehousemen, in partnership with packaging suppliers, are strongly encouraged to take the necessary steps to ensure the use of only approved packaging materials.”

The Georgia ginner said wrapping or tying bales with materials that do not meet JCIBPC specifications can: 1) make cotton bales ineligible for Commodity Credit Corporation loan and other farm program benefits and 2) violate many U.S. trading rules. He said the use of approved bagging and ties also is important for helping U.S. cotton maintain its outstanding reputation in the world marketplace.

Dale Thompson, the NCC’s manager of marketing and processing technology, said NCC staff has been made aware that some bale bags without the required identification markings have been offered for sale to the cotton industry.

He reminded industry members that bale packaging specifications define the minimum acceptable marking that must appear on the bags, and that only polyethylene film, woven polypropylene and woven polyethylene bags made in NAFTA countries can be considered for approval.

“Identification markings are required to be printed on each bag to help assure the buyer that bags have been officially tested and certified to meet industry and government specifications,” Thompson noted.

The JCIBPC List of Approved Bagging Manufacturers & Importers is available on the NCC’s web site at www.cotton.org/tech/bale/bagging-list.cfm. The approved materials specifications can be found in the “Specifications for Cotton Bale Packaging Materials,” which also is on NCC’s site and can be viewed or downloaded at www.cotton.org/tech/bale/specs/index/cfm.

Questions should be directed to Thompson at (901) 274-9030.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Arkansas ruling giving rice industry jitters

At the time, the buyers – Carwell Elevator, Inc., of Cherry Valley and Poinsett Rice and Grain, Inc., of Waldenburg – were pleased because the Supreme Court had found in their favor, overruling several of Circuit Court Judge Collins Kilgore’s findings in the process. The two companies were also much closer to recouping nearly $600,000 in check-off funds they’d paid to the Rice Research and Promotion Board (RRPB) between 1996 and 1999.

For the rest of the rice industry the ruling was a cause for alarm. And still is. As the case is now back in Judge Kilgore’s court, it has become apparent that fall-out from the decision could affect any link on the rice food chain.

Here’s why: in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court not only ruled in Carwell and Poinsett’s favor, it also made the case a class-action suit. Now, potentially any first-point rice buyer can get their 1996-1999 assessments back.

Gulf Rice

In a mid-1990s referendum, those in the rice industry were asked to vote on a rice tax. Still called a “check-off” (although it no longer fit the legal definition) the tax required $.0135-per-bushel from both farmers and first-point buyers. It passed and the voluntary rice check-off was no more.

As a first-point buyer, Gulf Rice Arkansas, Inc., balked at paying the new tax and filed a lawsuit. Gulf’s argument involved unfair taxation.

“We didn’t even get to vote,” says Roger Gilmore, vice president of operations at Gulf. “We just got a letter saying, ‘You will begin paying this amount.’ Well, that’s not right.”

It’s fundamentally unfair to have one group of people voting on the rights of another, says Gulf attorney David Fuqua. “Would the folks on the west side of town want the folks from the east side to be voting on the taxes they’ll pay? No. And it turned out that there’s no way this election could be fair to millers…the election was fundamentally unfair.”

Gulf attorneys filed a summary judgment motion in Kilgore’s Little Rock court and claimed the referendum was a violation of due process principles under the federal constitution. Eventually, Judge Kilgore agreed declaring the assessment unconstitutional. His decision was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court by the RRPB. The board lost the appeal.

During the pending litigation, Gulf Rice continued to pay the assessments. Wisely, the RRPB had set the funds aside, says Fuqua. “So once the highest court ruled on it, the board went ahead and paid the money back.”

At the end of the Gulf litigation in 1999, the Arkansas legislature quickly passed a new “check-off” law replacing the one brought in through referendum. Once signed into law, the millers’ window of recoup opportunity was held to between 1996 and 1999.

Next up

Having seen Gulf win its case, Carwell and Poinsett (which share some ownership) filed their own suit in February 2000. Seeking refunds of $134,000 and $445,000 respectively, the two said that since, under the Gulf case, the check-off law was found to be illegal, a class action should have been declared.

Judge Kilgore said Carwell and Poinsett were incorrect as the Supreme Court decision only addressed Gulf’s concerns. Further, he said, the companies had no right to a refund because too much time had lapsed.

This time, it was the mills turn to appeal to the state Supreme Court. In March, the court’s rulings were released.

“The Supreme Court said the case needed to go back to (Judge Kilgore’s) court for further review,” said Todd Williams, Jonesboro-based attorney for Carwell and Poinsett. “It isn’t entirely decided how this will be dealt with. I don’t think there’s anything left to try, but Judge Kilgore has some decisions to make about how to proceed. I’d think there will be small legal steps taken over the next few weeks, and this will be ready for resolution before the end of the year.”

Regardless, the Supreme Court let the class-action genie out of the bottle.

“The Supreme Court said this is now a class action,” says Williams. “To what extent there are other (first-point) rice buyers out there wanting their assessments back too, I have no idea.”

And now?

Fuqua says if other first point buyers ask for refunds, “this will definitely present a significant issue for (the RRPB) as to how to pay. Significant? There’s no doubt about that.”

It’s telling that in a May 2002 filing (made to the Supreme Court while representing the RRPB in the Carwell/Poinsett case), Arkansas Assistant Attorney General Arnold Jochums argued that Kilgore’s dismissal of the suit was proper because, “there is no fund from which a refund might be made.”

While citing case law, Jochums says it is “undisputed” that funds collected “have been expended…Therefore, there are no ‘funds that rightfully belong to’ the appellants that could be refunded.”

While the Supreme Court ultimately rejected Jochum’s argument, the fact that he made it is unsettling to many.

“What happens if all the millers want their money back? It could get ugly really quick,” says Fuqua. “The Supreme Court said this was a class action and told (Judge Kilgore) to get the process started. It’s cut and dried and unless someone has a very novel approach that I’ve never seen, this is a class action all the way. The Supreme Court sent the case back down for the specific purpose of administering a class action.”

And when talking about first-point buyers, don’t forget that seed companies must be considered as well.

“Any seed company that bought rice seed seems to be eligible for getting their check-off dollars back too,” says Gilmore. “And seed companies handle a tremendous amount of rice.”

The belief that there is currently no money set aside to pay the first-point buyers back, led the Arkansas Rice Growers Association (ARGA) to file an intervention in the case on July 10. Using delineations made in the check-off law – growers responsible for research, millers for promotion --as their rationale, ARGA says any repayments to mills should be made at the expense of promotion and not research.

“We’re intervening to protect the money that rice producers pay into research,” says John Alter, a rice producer from Dewitt and vice president of ARGA. “Any refunds made stemming from this class-action suit should be made from the promotion side of the ledger. Any refunds will have to come from future collections and we don’t want research damaged in any way.”

ARGA, says Alter, neither agrees nor disagrees with the Carwell/Poinsett suit.

“We’re talking about millions of dollars that the promotion board would have to pay out. Now, unless the membership in the two huge cooperatives stand up and raise hell, the co-ops won’t ask for their funds back. But even then – if it’s only independents -- big money might have to be paid back.”

Shortsighted?

The Rice Research and Promotion Board is scheduled to meet Aug. 6 and, among other business, will discuss the checkoff issue. Since the board has yet to meet on the subject, George Dunklin (current RRPB vice chairman who will be named chairman on Aug. 6) says he speaks only for himself.

“My initial reaction is I’m very surprised by these first-point buyers asking for their money back based on what happened seven years ago,” he said. “In my opinion, for a company to take advantage of this against the industry they represent and support would be very shortsighted.

“The buyers of rice, along with the farmers, knew about this check-off collection. The money, as was decreed by law, was to be spent promoting rice here and around the world,” said Dunklin, who farms near Dewitt. “That’s exactly what was done with the funds. To go back and make this ruling into a windfall for these companies is indefensible.”

Does Dunklin take issue with the Supreme Court’s ruling?

“I disagree with it, but I also don’t see how the first point buyers can go back and ask for their money back. If it were me, it would be hard to reconcile that…I want to make sure the farmers know how I feel about rice buyers potentially asking for their money back.”

The big co-ops, the big mills and seed companies aren’t likely to join a class action, says Dunklin.

“But that still leaves a number of buyers who could be eligible for a refund. And the money that would be paid back would come out of future promotion dollars. We’re (currently) experiencing a nice price rebound that could be jeopardized (as a result).”

An invitation

While Carwell and Poinsett asked for the state Supreme Court to order a refund be made to them, the court instead put the burden of refunds back on the Circuit Court.

The last sentences of the majority opinion read, “A decision on a refund must first be decided in the trial court. This case is remanded for the trial court to require proper notice and proceed with an illegal-exaction class suit.”

First-point buyers should soon be getting an invitation to litigate.

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com