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Jury rules with soybean farmers in checkoff case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Jackson County jury on Wednesday awarded more than $600,000 to the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the Mid-America Research and Development Council after it found that a Missouri company did not report sales of MSMC’s soybean seed technologies.

The jury ruled unanimously on Wednesday that AgBorn Genetics must pay those groups $602,945, not including interest and costs, based on royalties owed for undisclosed and unreported sales of the seed technology and also for bad checks issued by AgBorn general manager Alex Stemme.

AgBorn was a company formed by Stemme and William J. Cook of Garden City, Mo.

The case was brought by the MSMC and the MRDF, the groups said, to protect Missouri soybean farmers’ investments in soybean research under the soybean checkoff program.

“This is such an important case for soybean farmers,” said MSMC chairman David Lueck, who is also a soybean farmer in Lafayette County. “”We take our responsibility to manage growers’ soybean checkoff dollars very seriously and will continue to take any necessary steps to ensure farmers receive the benefit of their investments in the checkoff. There’s no excuse for anything less.”

Earlier in the case, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the two groups on their claims to invalidate two agreements that AgBorn Genetics claimed to be valid contracts. The court ruled that both alleged contracts were void and unenforceable. Those rulings, the groups said, that AgBorn has no rights to MSMC’s soybean seed technologies. The court had also previously sanctioned AgBorn in the amount of almost $60,000 for its “abuse of the discovery process and its violation of the court’s orders.”

MSMC is headquartered in Jefferson City and is a farmer-run organization that works to improve the profitability of the Missouri soybean farmer through marketing, research and commercialization programs, supported by the soybean checkoff paid by Missouri soybean farmers.