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Unformatted text preview: Legal Environment of Business Chapter 24 Environmental Law Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, LLC Case 24.2 125 S.Ct. 1788, 73 USLW 4311, 60 ERC 1129, 35 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,087, 05 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 3521, 2005 Daily Journal D.A.R. 4805, 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 255 Supreme Court of the United States Dennis BATES, et al., Petitioners, v. DOW AGROSCIENCES LLC. No. 03-388. Argued Jan. 10, 2005. Decided April 27, 2005. Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court. Petitioners are 29 Texas peanut farmers who allege that in the 2000 growing season their crops were severely damaged by the application of respondent's newly marketed pesticide named "Strongarm." The question presented is whether the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. 136 et seq. (2000 ed. and Supp. II), pre-empts their state-law claims for damages. I Pursuant to its authority under FIFRA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conditionally registered Strongarm on March 8, 2000, thereby granting respondent (Dow) permission to sell this pesticide--a weed killer [FN1]--in the United States. Dow obtained this registration in time to market Strongarm to Texas farmers, who normally plant their peanut crops around May 1. According to petitioners--whose version of the facts we assume to be true at this stage-- Dow knew, or should have known, that Strongarm would stunt the growth of peanuts in soils with pH levels of 7.0 or greater. [FN2] Nevertheless, Strongarm's label stated, "Use of Strongarm is recommended in all areas where peanuts are grown," App. 108, and Dow's agents made equivalent representations in their sales pitches to petitioners. When petitioners applied Strongarm on their farms--whose soils have pH levels of 7.2 or higher, as is typical in western Texas--the pesticide severely damaged their peanut crops while failing to control the growth of weeds. The farmers reported these problems to Dow, which sent its experts to inspect the crops. FN1. Strongarm would more commonly be called a herbicide, but it is classified as a pesticide for purposes of FIFRA. See 7 U.S.C. 136(t), (u) . FN2. The term "pH," which stands for pondus hydrogenii, or "potential hydrogen," refers to the acidity of the soil. Meanwhile, Dow reregistered its Strongarm label with EPA prior to the 2001 growing season. EPA approved a "supplemental" label that was for "[d]istribution and [u]se [o]nly in the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas," id., at 179, the three States in which peanut farmers experienced crop damage. This new label contained the following warning: "Do not apply Strongarm to soils with a pH damage....
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