(Bloomberg) – Bayer AG and rival BASF SE owe $ 15 million to farmer who blamed corporate dicamba herbicide for mutilating peach orchards, jury found first to try controversial weedkiller. A Cape Girardeau, Missouri court found on Friday that Bayer and BASF were responsible for the losses of Bill Bader caused by dicamba which drifted from neighboring cotton fields over a period of three years from 2015. Bader, the largest state peach producer, had asked for about $ 21 Million dollars in damages for years of reduced yields, he blamed the damage from dicamba. The accumulation of dicamba left the Bader trees "in a terrible state," the farmer said during the three-week trial. Bader refused to use dicamba on all crops on his 1,000-acre farm in southeast Missouri. The product is manufactured by Monsanto Co., which Bayer acquired in 2018.
In the verdict, the jurors said they had concluded that the case could warrant punitive damages. The panel will hear testimony on the net worth of companies on Saturday before deciding whether or not to impose a sanction. The verdict is the latest dispute brought to Bayer, who seeks to settle thousands of lawsuits for which exposure to his herbicide Roundup causes cancer. Company faces more than 140 dicamba lawsuits, from farmers in Arkansas to Illinois seeking compensation for ruined crops, including corn, cotton and soybeans .
Chris Loder, a spokesperson for Bayer based in the United States, declined to comment, citing a judge's order not to discuss the dispute in public. Donna Jakubowski, a US spokesperson for BASF, did not immediately answer a phone call for comment.
Read more: The Court of Appeal launches a challenge to the EPA Dicamba registration
Monsanto has been suing across the U.S. Midwest since 2015, when farmers alleged that its dicamba herbicide, now known as XtendiMax, vaporized and drifted into neighboring fields, damaging crops which were not designed to resist weedkiller. BASF is manufacturing its own dicamba herbicide for use on its genetically modified seeds. Companies say problems were created when farmers misapplied the chemical and current formulations of dicamba will not drift if proper procedures are followed are followed.
In Bader's case, the farmer said the neighbors had planted BASF-designed dicamba-resistant cotton and sprayed it with the older, easy-to-derive version of the weed killer. The herbicide wrapped its peach orchards, curling the leaves and killing the trees.
He tried to have his damaged trees inspected by Monsanto, but a representative of the company told him that he did not have the manpower to go to his farm. "He made it clear that they weren't going to do anything about it," Bader told the jury. Company lawyers presented statistical evidence showing that Bader's fishing yields had started to decline before 2015. They cited weather events, such as hailstorms and late frost, which caused the decline in fishing production.
The case is Bader Farms v. Monsanto Co., 16-cv-00299, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (Cape Girardeau).
(Updates with details on the damage of dicamba from the seventh paragraph)
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