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Pork farmers file suit against Cargill

(Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Regina Smith, Russellville (Ark.) Courier, 01/14/04: Two local families have begun what may be a long journey to right what they feel is a wrong committed against them by Cargill Inc.

Tim and Christy Hays of Hector, along with Steve and Dana Bates of Dover, filed a lawsuit Dec. 22 against the company over the contracts it makes with farms that supply hogs for Cargill’s pork operations.

The complaint and jury demand was filed in the district court of the District of Columbia to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

According to William S. Bach, the attorney for the families, the action will seek compensatory and punitive damages. Both families have been pork producers for Cargill for more than 15 years. Bach alleges that Cargill, which is the largest privately held corporation in the country, made promises that were altered year after year until the farm families had little choice but to accept the changes or lose their farm.

“The whole issue is that the farmers are to the point that their contract is being forced down their throats,” Bach said. “They’re going to keep these farmers in debt until they can’t survive.”

The lawsuit alleges several charges, including an allegation taht the contract that the pork farmers entered into with Cargill lacks mutuality of obligation — that the company has the ability to pursue relief through the court system, but the farmers do not.

Mark Cline, director of communications for Cargill, said that at this time, the company is still reviewing the complaint. He said he hopes to make a statement later.

Bach said in August the families were presented a new contract for the 2003-04 production year, which they felt had some demands they were unable to live with. He said that he sent a letter to Cargill in October to make the company aware of those issues and to set up a time for negotiations. Bach wrote in the letter that “the Hays and Bates families will not accept the continuing bullying tactics and harassment of your management.” Cargill chose not to respond, he said.

“These are good, solid farmers. All they wanted from these people was for them to sit down and negotiate in a fair and honest manner,” Bach said.

Source: http://www.couriernews.com