Ex-Clemson football coach Danny Ford among farmers suing SC hemp firm over ruined crop
The experimental hemp program in South Carolina got a catch this week when two of the selected farmers - including former Clemson soccer coach Danny Ford - accused the owner of a Charleston-based hemp company of botching their crops.
Ford and his South Carolina farmer Tom Garrison and three Alabama hemp farmers are suing Charleston businessman David Bulick and his companies for negligence and defamation over agreements they made for hemp oil in 2018 and 2019.
Hemp is an agricultural product that comes from the cannabis plant and is widely used to make CBD oil.
E. Merritt Farmer Jr., attorney for Bulick and its companies, told McClatchy News in a statement Thursday that his client "vigorously denies any allegations made in what appears to be a frivolous lawsuit."
"We look forward to resolving this matter along with several counterclaims filed against plaintiffs," said Farmer. "Mr. Bulick and his companies were and are ambassadors for the hemp industry in the state of South Carolina."
Kyle J. White of White, Davis and White Law Firm, who represents the farmers, declined to comment on the allegations.
"We believe accountability is important, especially in relatively new industries like the hemp industry in South Carolina, and we look forward to pursuing accountability in a lawsuit at a later date," he said.
According to the complaint filed Monday in Anderson County, Ford and Garrison were attacked by “sales news and inaccurate promises” from Bulick regarding his ability to convert hemp materials into oil. Bulick owns Charleston Hemp Company LLC and Carolina Botanical Genetics LLC, who are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Ford was the head coach of soccer at Clemson University for more than a decade, leading the Tigers to a national championship in 1981.
He was selected as one of 20 farmers in 2017 to participate in South Carolina's industrial hemp pilot program, which allows him to grow hemp on 16 acres in Pickens County, The Island Packet previously reported.
Ford and Garrison signed a contract with Bulick in September 2018 to provide hemp plants for oil exploration, the complaint said. Hemp oil is used to treat a variety of diseases - including pain, acne, and muscle tension, Medical News Today reported.
The hemp plants were "suitable, adequate, proper, and ideal for extraction and processing," according to Ford and Garrison, when they were delivered. But Bulick "negligently extracted and processed the plants," which resulted in them becoming "contaminated" and "unusable and not marketable," the lawsuit said.
In the months that followed, Bulick was accused of publicly questioning Ford and Garrison's “competence as farmers” and calling it “unsuitable for their trade”.
"The defendants' testimony has challenged and indicted the honesty, integrity, virtue, and reputation of Plaintiffs Ford and Garrison, and has violated and damaged their good names in the community and professional reputations, resulting in financial loss, embarrassment, and humiliation" said the farmers' lawyers.
Bulick reportedly repeated a similar process with Alabama farmers Stevie Timm, Jim Huston, and Haley Mullen in the spring of 2019.
Timm, Huston and Mullen bought hemp seeds from Bulick, which were expected to grow into plants and come back to him for oils, the lawsuit says. But the seeds were reportedly "inadequate, contaminated, deficient and / or otherwise non-viable".
The group of five farmers are filing claims of negligence and recklessness, negligent misrepresentation and defamation, defamation and defamation and are seeking legal action, damages and legal fees.
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