Just one step away from the governor’s desk are a group of bills that could lift a legal cloud hanging over state agriculture. HB 878 by Rep. H. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte, would set up assessments for rice growers for use by the Rice Promotion Board. Other bills dealing with rice research, soybeans and crawfish are advancing as well.
|Photo courtesy LSU Ag Center|
The current system by which the Rice Promotion Board ordered assessments was ruled invalid by the state Supreme Court in a class action suit brought by a faction of rice growers.
According to Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, the lawsuit could lead to a $60 million exposure for the state for fees illegally assessed over the past 50 years.
In effect, the new assessments outlined in the bill would be voluntary because farmers could later be reimbursed.
While the bills, which are prospective, would not directly affect the lawsuit, Strain said, “I am very hopeful that the resolution of those bills, the fact that all sides have come together, will result in the lawsuits being dropped.”