Bayer CropScience has agreed to pay up to $750 million to settle the claims of rice farmers who allege that the company’s genetically engineered (GE) rice contaminated their conventional crops and led to market losses when some countries closed their borders to U.S. rice imports. In re: Genetically Modified Rice Litig., MDL No. 1811 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mo., agreement announced July 1, 2011). The agreement, which would resolve disputes filed in state and federal courts, gives the company the right to “walk away” if the acreage submitted to the settlement claims process is less than 85 percent of “average long-grain rice acres planted in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 according to the USDA.” Farmers could receive damages ranging from nearly $120 per acre planted in 2006 to about $10 per acre planted in 2010; supplemental loss funds would provide additional payments to farmers who can document other financial losses.

Dean Foods has reportedly agreed to settle class action claims filed by Southeast Dairy Farmers and Dairy Farmers of America alleging that the company violated antitrust law to artificially suppress milk prices. According to a news source, the proposed settlement, if approved, would require Dean Foods to make an initial $60 million payment for distribution to dairy farmer class members and then to make payments of $20 million annually for the next four years. Dean Foods CEO Gregg Engles said of the settlement, “We continue to be confident that we have operated lawfully and fairly at all times in the Southeast. . . . Settling this case allows us to focus on the business challenges that we face, and to continue to take costs out of our operations while avoiding the expense, uncertainty and distraction of a protracted litigation and the likelihood of a lengthy appeals process.” See Yahoo! Finance, FoodNavigator-USA.com, July 13, 2011.

A federal court in California has preliminarily approved the settlement of a class action alleging that Natura Pet Products, Inc. made false and misleading statements about its pet food by claiming that the ingredients were of “human-grade quality.” Ko v. Natura Pet Prods., Inc., No. 09-02619 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., order entered July 13, 2011). The court approved a nationwide settlement class and established a timetable for class notification. The final fairness hearing will take place February 17, 2012. Under the proposed agreement, individual payments cannot exceed $120; the named plaintiff would receive a $20,000 enhancement fee.