If you get something that looks like a credit card offer in the mail, take a close look.
The reason: StarLink settlement payments are arriving by mail in the form of a Stored Value Card, and that mailing looks a lot like credit card offers.
Everyone should receive his/her card by Nov. 17. If you have not received your card in the mail by then, call a toll free helpline at (888) 833-4317.
This money is from the $110 million settlement with makers and distributors of genetically altered corn that was mistakenly introduced into the food supply. The settlement included farmers who did not grow StarLink corn, but suffered from the consumer backlash when it was revealed that it had gotten into the food supply.
StarLink corn is engineered with a bacterium's gene that's deadly to the pest corn borer. StarLink seed had been approved for use in animal feed in 1998, but not for human consumption because of unresolved questions about whether a protein in the corn caused an allergic reaction.
Some of the Starlink corn was mixed with other varieties in 1999 and 2000 and some was mistakenly mixed with corn intended for food or export, causing several companies to recall products. This caused a worldwide drop in corn prices.
The Stored Value Cards issued are like a Visa debit card and will have your total share of the litigation settlement included. A farmer will only need to activate the card to have access to the settlement funds. Farmers who planted corn in 2000 or any of the years from 1998 to 2002 and filed the appropriate paperwork will be receiving one of these cards for their portion of the settlement. Anyone with a total claim settlement amount less than $25 will not be receiving a payment per the settlement agreement.
The cards are issued by Bank One Corporation and should be kept in a safe place-they're just like cash in debit card form and you can turn them into cash at a Bank One institution for a $10 fee. Included in the settlement, Tractor Supply Company has become co-branded with Bank One on the stored value card. A coupon with details of an agreement will be included which the Stored Value Card. Farmers who use the Store Value Card at Tractor Supply Company store will receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases when using the card for the purchase even if the purchase is in excess of the value on the Stored Value Card.
If you are receiving a settlement you should be receiving two letters discussing these Stored Value Cards; they are both necessary for activation so do not discard either letter when they arrive in the mail. These letters are not very distinguishable from credit cards offers, so a farmer could easily be confused and throw these letters away by mistake. More information on the settlement can be found at www.non-starlinkfarmerssettlement.com.
-- David Bau is an educator specializing in ag business management with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Regional Center, Worthington, Minn.