A bad batch of wheat seeded four years ago by Spokane County farmers has sprouted into a legal dispute over who should pay the estimated $106,101 bill for roguing fields contaminated by damaging cereal rye.
Rockford Grain Growers Inc., a former cooperative of about 400 farmers, filed a lawsuit Jan. 4 against Rosalia Producers Inc. in Spokane County Superior Court.
Rockford Grain alleges that in 1992 Rosalia Producers sold it 428,000 pounds of seed that was guaranteed to be pure but was contaminated with rye. Nationwide Insurance Co., which insured Rockford Grain at the time, also joined the cooperative in the lawsuit.
Rockford Grain, which has since been bought by privately held Cenex Supply and Marketing Inc., claims that Rosalia Producers is liable for damage caused by the contaminated seed. Left unchecked, rye will fan out across a farm, choking off wheat and ruining the quality of the grain.
When the rye came up, Rockford Grain and Nationwide had to reimburse farmers for the damage and hire a team to hand rogue vast fields of wheat, the suit said. Workers piled thousands of bags of rye along the road, drawing public attention to Rockford Grain’s problem.
Farmers at the time said nearly 60 fields and 5,000 acres had been contaminated. The Washington Crop Improvement Association, which controls the quality of certified seed, found that Rosalia Producers had gotten the bad seed from a Moses Lake farmer and sold a portion to Rockford Grain.
Officials with Rosalia Producers, a farm cooperative south of Spokane, were unavailable for comment.
Rockford Grain and Nationwide claim in the suit that Rosalia Producers broke a guarantee that its certified seed was free of rye, weeds and other impurities. They are asking the court to force Rosalia Producers to reimburse the companies $106,101 in damages.
Damages include $95,869 for claims paid to farmers, $19,427 for laborers to rogue fields, $5,000 for mileage and $4,329 for contaminated seed that Rockford Grain continues to store.