On July 1, it was announced that a $750 million settlement had been struck to compensate farmers for losses associated with the 2006 discovery of Bayer-owned GM traits in exported U.S. rice. Eligible farmers and landlords now face an Oct. 10 deadline to sign up for the settlement.

See GM rice  

“No farmer is required to participate in the settlement, it’s certainly voluntary,” said St. Louis-based attorney Don Downing. However, “any farmer who wants to participate needs to sign up in the next couple of weeks, if not immediately.”

For more, see GM rice: settlement construction and farmer options and GM rice settlement: Arkansas benefits from extra $50 million.

Downing – who spoke with Farm Press on Friday morning – explained the settlement filing process, the reasons for not being tardy in filing a claim and how the farmer/landlord payments are constructed. Among his comments:

On the sign-up process so far…

“There have been many additional farmers to sign up since the settlement was announced.

“We’re now encouraging everyone to be mindful of the fact that Oct. 10 is the hard and fast deadline for any farmer who wants to participate in the settlement.

“And all the eligible farmers need to know they can’t simply decide to on Oct. 9 or Oct. 10 to participate. That’s because in order to be a part of the settlement, there are documents that must be produced, claim forms that must be produced and signatures obtained.

“It’s normally about a two-week process from the time someone signs up and when a claim form is submitted to the claims administrator.”

More on the exactly what’s required for sign-up…

“Under the agreement (with Bayer), the settlement won’t become legally effective unless (producers representing) 85 percent of the average (rice) acreage planted in the country between 2006 and 2009 agree to participate.

“If a farmer has been wrestling with whether to sign up or not, they need to consult with counsel. I’d encourage them to find someone they trust. There are many fine lawyers throughout the South representing farmers in these cases. You can find them just by searching the Internet. But they need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

“Following that, the lawyer will typically have some documentation requests for the farmer. As part of that, the farmer will need to go to the FSA office and obtain a ‘578 form’ report of acreage. That’s the form that lists how many acres were planted on each of the farmer’s fields for each year. They need those reports for each year of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 – the years the settlement provides payment for.

“The settlement provides a payment of $120 for each acre planted in 2006 as shown on the 578; $80 per acre for 2007; $60 for 2008; $40 for 2009; and $10 for 2010.

“The farmer will then need to return that documentation to his lawyer. At that point, the lawyer will be able to prepare the proper claim forms under the settlement.

“After that, the lawyer will send those claim forms to the farmer who needs to review everything for accuracy and then sign the forms.

“Once the lawyer obtains all the needed signatures – from farmer and landlords, if needed – then they’ll access the claims administrator’s Website and input all the data, upload the documents and then formally submit the forms. Again, that must be done by Oct. 10.

“All of this takes time. That’s why anyone who wants to participate shouldn’t wait.”