Ten lawsuits alleging two major pesticide makers engaged in a scheme to artificially inflate farmers’ costs prices have been consolidated before the same North Carolina federal judge overseeing a related case filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last year, according to a U.S. court order on Monday.
The lawsuits filed in Indiana and North Carolina in recent months alleged customer “loyalty programs” implemented by pesticide manufacturers Syngenta Corp and Corteva Inc stymied competition for generic versions of certain products, causing farmers to pay higher prices.
The 10 private complaints and another 10 “tag along” cases with common facts followed an action that the FTC, joined by 10 states, filed in North Carolina in September against Chinese-owned Syngenta and U.S.-based Corteva that accused them of “paying off distributors to block generic producers from the market.”
Related: Nebraska Joins Price-Fixing Against Pesticide Companies
The lawsuits focus on insecticides and fungicides, in addition to herbicides that are used on corn, soybeans, potatoes and other crops. The private suits seek unspecified damages for farmers’ costs.
The companies have denied the allegations and moved to dismiss the suit.
Monday’s transfer order from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem federal court, assigned to the FTC case, had the most familiarity with the issues in the disputes and his experience would “steer this matter on a prudent course.”