On Saturday, a jury in Southeast Missouri awarded $265 million in punitive damages to a peach farmer who sued Bayer and BASF. The penalty was levied on top of $15 million in actual damages awarded on Friday to Bill Bader, the peach farmer who owns Bader Farms. In the lawsuit, Bader argued that dicamba had drifted onto his orchard from surrounding farms that had used the weedkiller, damaging his trees.
This was the first dicamba-related lawsuit to go to trial — many similar cases were awaiting the outcome. Bayer and BASF, creators of the weedkiller, claimed the trees were damaged by root fungus and adverse weather, in this particular case.
Bayer said in a statement, “We will swiftly appeal the decision. While we have great empathy for any farmer who suffers from crop losses, in the case of Mr. Bader there was no competent evidence presented which showed that Monsanto’s products were present on his farm and were responsible for his losses. …
“Bayer stands firmly behind the company’s Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System and Xtendimax herbicide with VaporGrip technology. These are valuable tools for growers who need effective options to increase yields and combat resistant weeds and do not pose any unreasonable risk of off-target movement when used according to label directions.”
Dicamba has been in use for several decades, but the release of dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans a couple of growing seasons ago made the weedkiller’s use became more widespread. There were scores of complaints filed from neighboring farms whose non-dicamba-resistant crops were getting killed off by dicamba drift.
“We take very seriously our stewardship when introducing a new technology,” Bayer said in its statement. “This is why since the introduction of the Xtend and XtendFlex technology by Monsanto prior to Bayer’s acquisition, the company invested substantially in training, nozzles and other resources to help growers best use the technology. We’ve seen marked improvement as acreage has increased and the number of off target movement inquiries to our call centers have gone down. We are committed to continue this approach and continuously improve.”