Rice Payback

August 7, 2003  - Posted at 7:20 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  --A state Supreme Court ruling could force the Rice Research and Promotion Board to refund up to half the funds collected in the late 1990s -- money it no longer has.

The Arkansas rice industry has paid as much as six (m) million dollars a year since the 1980s to finance rice research and marketing efforts.

A lower court ruled that rice buyers Carwell Elevator and Poinsett Rice and Grain were NOT entitled to a refund of about 580-thousand dollars paid between 1996 and 1999.

But the high court returned the case to Pulaski County Circuit Court and gave it class-action status. Plaintiffs' attorneys say the class could include up to 70 rice buyers.

The size of the class and potential refund are still being determined. Riceland Foods and Producers Rice Mill, the state's largest rice buyers, said yesterday they won't be part of the class.

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