We’ve been served . . .

Kansas Growers Served with Subpoenas Over Atrazine
By Jere White, Executive Director,  Kansas Corn Growers Association; Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

Warning, consider this as a read-only document. Downloading may implicate you as a key player in a Madison County, Illinois lawsuit…lol.

We must have spoken too loudly last week. On September 15, I gave comments supporting atrazine at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atrazine Science Advisory Panel in Washington DC. Also on September 15, we posted a column critical of trial attorneys who are pursuing big payoffs in an atrazine lawsuit and the subpoenas they had served to corn growers and their organizations who have publicly supported atrazine. The column, titled “Lawyers Aim to Harass, Intimidate Growers in Atrazine Issue” can be found on our KSGrains blog  as well as on the AGSense website . The Madison (IL) Record also published the column. The next day, September 16, the trial attorneys requested that subpoenas be issued for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association as well as a subpoena to me as an individual. The trial attorneys are involved in a case attempting to collect large payouts for communities who jumped on the lawsuit bandwagon even though their atrazine levels are well below the drinking water standards set and enforced by EPA.

The subpoenas ask for any and all records and communications relating to atrazine, Syngenta and its legacy companies, and more. There is no limit to the number of years from which we are required to gather these records. And there is no limit to what records are to be included. For example, I served on the Biotechnology Working Group with the National Corn Growers Association. We certainly had discussions about biotechnology products developed by Syngenta. In order to participate in those discussions, I signed a confidentiality agreement. Without such confidentiality, candid discussions about what traits are in the pipeline and how they can have an impact on growers would not take place. Yet  any records I have regarding these discussions would be covered by the subpoena, even though this information has nothing to do with atrazine. What kind of information do the trial attorneys hope to get from our office? How would that information help determining the merits of its lawsuit?

Perhaps the trial attorneys believe they can distract us by giving us the task of going through all the files we have accumulated over the years.  Or maybe this is simply a tactic to harass those of us who have chosen to stand up for atrazine and the farmers who rely on it to control weeds and grow their crops using more environmentally sustainable methods.

It appears that the trial attorneys are trying to prove a relationship between farmers and Syngenta, the primary maker of atrazine. Sure, there is a relationship. After all, we have an interest in the products they sell to growers, and they have an interest in selling products to growers. But is anyone questioning the alliance formed by the other side of this fight? The well-heeled, well-funded Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), trial attorney firms Korein-Tillery and Barron and Budd, big media outlets like the New York Times and the Huffington Post have all worked in concert to put atrazine on the front burner at EPA.

As a private, member funded association, we believe we have a constitutional right to have informal, off the record discussions between stakeholders, farmers, staff and others to help us arrive at decisions and policies formulated by our grower associations. Our group’s decisions on issues facing agriculture are certainly not secret. But to ask for records of every thought that went into those decisions is wrong. It would inhibit future discussions by instilling the fear that ideas shared informally could become public record even if those ideas didn’t make the final cut.

Be assured we won’t be intimidated by fat cat trial attorneys and their harassing subpoenas. We will continue to represent our growers’ interests in the atrazine issue.

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