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Pioneer Hi-Bred to sue Pioneer Grain

Pioneer Hi-Bred says there’s not enough room in Western Canada for two Pioneers to sell seed to farmers.

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a major seed breeding and marketing firm owned by DuPont, announced Wednesday it has filed lawsuits in Winnipeg and Toronto against Pioneer Grain, which until recently was the name of the Prairie grain handling division of Winnipeg firm James Richardson International (JRI).

Pioneer Hi-Bred and Pioneer Grain are “in no way connected,” PHB said in a release, and the two firms have a “long-standing legal agreement” that only Pioneer Hi-Bred has the right to the Pioneer name for ag seed sales in Canada.

“A strong brand is the most important asset a company can have,” said Ian Grant, president of Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd., PHB’s Canadian wing, in the company’s release. “Pioneer Hi-Bred is the only company that has the right to use the Pioneer brand name as it relates to the marketing and sale of seed in Canada.”

JRI, Canada’s second-largest grain handler, announced Sept. 4 it has rebranded itself as “Richardson International” and Pioneer Grain as “Richardson Pioneer Ltd.” Its former Canbra Foods division will also take the Richardson name.

A Richardson spokesman was reviewing PHB’s announcement Wednesday and was not immediately available for comment.

Speaking Wednesday from meetings in Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd. communications co-ordinator Rachel Faust said that PHB wants to make sure it can “maximize its investment” in Western Canada, where Pioneer Grain operates. “Clearly we don’t feel the terms of the agreement (between the two Pioneers) are being met.”

Faust declined to discuss the company’s specific concerns with how Pioneer Grain’s retail operations have marketed seed.

The timing of the lawsuit has “nothing to do” with Richardson’s Sept. 4 rebranding announcement, she said, adding that the word in question is “Pioneer,” which remains in the name Richardson Pioneer.

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