Black farmers in Tennessee believe they have uncovered a race-based conspiracy to take their farms away from them.
Using good old-fashioned farming experience, African-American farmers in the Mid-South area surrounding Memphis caught on that something wasn't quite right with their "certified" seeds. Purchased from Stine Seed Company at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show back show in March of 2017, these black farmers were consistently finding they had much lower yields than nearby farms using seeds from other companies.
Thomas Burell is one of those farmers, he told Raw Story:
Mother nature doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?
That's when Burrell, a soybean grower for more than 50 years, and his partners (all of them black farmers) decided to get science involved in helping them uncover what WMC News reported may be a "multi-million dollar scheme to put them out of business and steal their farmland."
The farmers took their seeds to Mississippi State University to have them scientifically tested by experts and say the tests revealed the seeds were not only not the quality “certified” Stine seeds they paid for but that they had "zero germination."
...black farmers were receiving one-tenth of the yield as their white neighbors.These African-American farmers now believe that Stine Seed Company purposefully sold them fake seeds.
According to NBC News:
The black farmers purchased more than $100,000 worth of certified seeds on credit, as well as related chemicals, from Stine Seed at a March 2017 farm conference in Memphis.Certified seeds are considered genetically pure, and are favored in many cases for their nearly 100 percent germination rate that ensures a more viable plant.But after the farmers picked up the seeds and planted them, they said they saw a limited yield and noticed that the soybean plants were growing about 40 percent shorter than varieties purchased from other sources.
Burrell also happens to be the president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, a nonprofit advocacy group in Memphis, Tennessee who is now suing Iowa-based Stine Seed Co., in a class-action lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western Division in Memphis, alleging that they were sold "inferior" soybean seeds.
The group also believes it has the company's motive for the dirty seed deed—they suspect a conspiracy to take land away from black farmers in the area, citing historical precedent and telling NBC News:
This is only the latest accusation adding on to decades of "racial animus" as black farmers have historically been denied loans or subjected to segregationist policies.
Twitter users responded to the allegations with a mix of disgust, anger, and lack of surprise:
And the sellers? White men. I hope these farmers sue those who wronged them— NHS (@2fish1whale) July 12, 2018
Black people have gotten their land stolen from them for decades. The history is documented. Sadly, this is nothing new.— Ask Black Julie (@BlackJulieKnows) July 12, 2018
David Allen Hall Sr., a Pentecostal bishop and partner with Burrell in the seed purchase told CBS:
We've been farming and been doing it right for a good while. We put the seed in the ground — and it's supposed to grow, whether you're black or white.
According to NBC:
In a statement, Stine President Myron Stine said this latest lawsuit is 'without merit and factually unsupportable.'
Burrell told NBC:
This is not our first rodeo growing soybeans. We knew it was the seeds.