When somebody says something negative about a food or produce product, for example it being contaminated, it can have very adverse effects on producers, farmers, packagers, or distributors because consumers will be less likely to buy the product.  For that reason, many states have adopted laws or statutes to specifically deal with any damage such statements might have.  Agricultural disparagement laws are similar to cases of defamation, but they can also incorporate certain elements of negligence.  The main difference is the injury is to property, not to a person.

What is Needed to Prove Agricultural Disparagement?

Agricultural disparagement laws allow an injured farmer, producer, packager, or distributor to sue a person who hurts their business by making certain statements.  In order to be successful in such a lawsuit, the injured person must prove that:

  1. Without their privilege,
  2. Another person published,
  3. Untrue statements about an agricultural product, sometimes with malice,
  4. That a reasonable person could see would have a disparaging effect on the product by lower purchases by consumers.

Agricultural disparagement belongs to a broader category of violations known as “product disparagement”, or simply “disparagement”.  Other types of related claims include trade libel and slander of title.

What Remedies are Available?

Generally, an injured producer, farmer, packager, or distributor is limited to the pecuniary losses involved.  For example, farmer A was selling $10,000 worth of apples a month, but after newspaper X published an article suggesting farmer A’s apples were contaminated, the sales fell to $3,000 a month.  In this case, if farmer A is successful in suing newspaper X, he will generally be able to recovery $7,000 worth of damages.  In some other cases, punitive and special damages may be awarded.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle my Agriculture Disparagement Claim?

If you are a producer, farmer, packager, or distributor, and your sales are being impacted by the statements about your product by another, or you are being sued for your statements regarding an agricultural product, it is strongly suggested that you contact a personal injury attorney.  Only an attorney will be able to adequately explain the issues and help defend your rights.