U.S. rice farmers involved in the GM rice-related settlement with Bayer Cropscience will receive checks early in 2012. This news comes after a Dec. 15 announcement that the claims administrator had determined the settlement’s acreage threshold -- 85 percent of the average number of planted rice acres from 2006 to 2009 – had been met through farmer/landlord sign-ups.

Last June, a $750 million settlement was finalized to compensate farmers for losses associated with the 2006 discovery of trace amounts of Bayer-owned GM traits in exported U.S. rice. Due to the unapproved traits, farmers and others in the rice industry lost money as markets dived and exports to Europe declined.

For more, see here.

In a related development, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled a state law capping punitive damage awards at $1 million is unconstitutional. That means several major punitive damage figures against Bayer -- including a state-record $140 million to Riceland last spring and, previously, a $50 million award to a group of Arkansas farmers in Lonoke County – will stand. The farmer group had appealed to the court after the jury award ran into the state law passed in 2003 as “tort reform.”

For more, see here.

A day after claims administrator announcement, Farm Press spoke with Don Downing, co-lead plaintiff attorney with St. Louis-based law firm Gray, Ritter & Graham, about the met threshold, the claims process and tax implications. Among his comments:

On meeting the 85 percent threshold…

“The 85 percent threshold has been met and certified by the claims administrator. It’s official now and Bayer is legally obligated to make the settlement payments under the settlement agreement.

“The percentage that was certified as of (Dec. 15) was 86.36 percent. There are still claims being processed so we anticipate that number will go up some, although we aren’t sure how much.”