Pennsylvania firm faces $4.85 million in liens from Oregon farmers over late payments for seed

IndustriesAssociated Press

Oregon growers have filed $4.85 million in liens against a Pennsylvania company they say has not paid them for radish seed.

Jim Gardner of K&J Farms in Monmouth says his family needs to pay people and has yet to see a penny from seed company Cover Crop Solutions.

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"A farmer can't grow something for nothing," he said.

David Weaver, CEO of Cover Crop Solutions, told the Capital Press newspaper (http://is.gd/cq6u4p ) last week that he is not yet ready to discuss the issue.

In a bankruptcy, liens ensure farmers are treated as secured creditors who have collateral in the company's assets. Gardner said growers file them because they're nervous about a situation similar to the bankruptcy of Agribiotech, which defaulted on contracts with grass seed farmers in 2000.

"I think it opened a lot of farmers' eyes about what they need to do to protect themselves," he said.

Radish seed is planted as a cover crop — rotated between cash crops and believed to help improve the soil.

A recent oversupply in the seed was aggravated by weather in the Midwest last year, said Gary Weaver, president of Weaver Seed of Oregon. A wet spring 2014 delayed the planting and harvest of corn and soybeans, which left many farmers without enough time to plant cover crops in the fall.

Meanwhile, seed producers in Oregon's Willamette Valley also overestimated demand for radish seed.

"The whole valley planted too many acres," Weaver said.

The oversupply, he said, will likely to ease over the next 18 months as seed companies work through their inventories.

Farmers will likely reconsider growing radish seed because of the uncertainty of getting paid, Gardner said.

Anna Scharf of Amity-based Scharf Farms, which filed a $250,000 lien against Cover Crop Solutions, is disappointed Oregon farmers don't have the opportunity to plant canola, a related crop that's restricted in the region.

Canola is a commodity crop that buyers pay for shortly after delivery, unlike contracted seed, she said.

"It's a scary situation," Scharf said. "When we're asked to be the banker, it's hard for farmers."

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Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/washington