LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The number of rice farmers in a lawsuit that claims RiceTec Inc. sold hybrid seed that produced inferior rice has grown to 51 with the addition of farmers in Louisiana and Texas.

Court papers filed July 26 show 11 farmers from Louisiana and seven from Texas have joined the suit in Greene County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, filed by lead attorney Clayton Smaistrla of San Antonio, claims that hybrid seed sold by Alvin, Texas-based RiceTec produced inferior long-grain rice that doesn't mill as well as non-hybrid long-grain rice and failed to produce promised yields.

"The rice itself is defective and hurting U.S. rice exports,".Smaistrla spokeswoman Teresa Kelly said Thursday in an email.

RiceTec President and CEO John Nelsen said in a statement that the company will fight the claims in court.

"RiceTec Inc. has been developing hybrid rice seed for commercial production for more than 20 years. We are a company built on innovation and grounded in scientific research and fact. Because of this, RiceTec has earned its position as the leading supplier of rice seed to American farmers," Nelson said.

"We strongly disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit and will vigorously defend RiceTec's products," he said.

The lawsuit is a countersuit from a court action filed by RiceTec against rice farmer Scott Meredith of Delaplaine, Ark. RiceTec sued Meredith for nonpayment after he refused to settle his bill for RiceTec hybrid seed with which he was dissatisfied.

The farmers complain that the RiceTec hybrid grows with less bran around the kernel and it doesn't mill as well as non-hybrid long-grain rice. The farmers claim that the RiceTec varieties chip and don't cook as well, leading to less demand and lower prices. They claim that the problem is so consistent that it is hurting exports.

Nelsen said RiceTec provides farmers with a strong product.

"We believe in both our products and our people, and we value our customers and their success. That is why we continue to provide them with industry-leading products and first-class service," Nelsen said.


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