Tonkon Torp Harvests Victory for Oregon Radish Seed Farmers

In June, 2016, Tonkon Torp won a trial before Chief Judge Michael Mosman of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. Trial lawyers Steve Olson and Paul Conable represented 45 farmers in a dispute with an East Coast commercial bank over who should receive the proceeds from the sale of the farmers’ radish seed crop. The farmers reside in the Willamette Valley.

In 2014, the farmers entered into contracts with Cover Crop Solutions (CCS), a company based in Pennsylvania, to cultivate a radish seed crop that would be used on farms in the Midwest and Europe to control erosion and add nutrients to the soil. The Oregon farmers received the seeds from CCS and incurred expenses to plant, cultivate and harvest the crop, which was valued at approximately $7-8 million. The farmers produced approximately 11 million lbs. of radish seed.

Before the farmers were paid for their crop, CCS defaulted on a $7 million loan that it received from a Pennsylvania bank. That loan was secured by CCS’s assets. The bank claimed that the farmers’ seed was subject to the bank’s security interest, which the bank argued carried senior rights to those of the farmers, even though the seeds remained in Oregon and the farmers had never been paid.

Chief Judge Mosman disagreed with the bank and awarded the farmers a complete victory, which allowed them to promptly market and sell their crop. For several of the farmers, this was literally a “bet the farm” case, which could have had significant and lasting impacts on farming in the Willamette Valley. As a result of this win, the farmers were free to return to their fields and reengage in the hard work of making Oregon a great place to live.

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