Indiana farmer awaits Supreme Court decision on Monsanto seed patent case

Vernon Bowman outside the US Supreme Court this week.
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Indiana farmer Hugh Bowman is back home after a trip to Washington, DC, to hear his case being argued before the United States Supreme Court. Agri-giant Monsanto says this 75-year-old bachelor farmer is a threat to its existence.

Eyewitness News traveled to Knox County to find out why.

The seeds of this lawsuit were born in the field, but cultivated at a kitchen typewriter. That's where Bowman crafted a letter to Monsanto in 1999 that led to the company filing suit against him seven years later.

Sitting in a recliner in his living room of his rural Knox County farmhouse, Bowman said he was not intimidated.

"You can run me over but I am not getting out of the road," he said.

Bowman wanted to use the company's seed to plant double crops - wheat and then soybeans. The company said he could not do that and it said he couldn't buy outbound grain from the local seed bin, either.

"They said the elevator could not sell us seed out of those bins. That's illegal but we could buy outbound grain and then use it as seed. We had that right long before Monsanto had their patent right," Bowman argued.

Thanks to a pro bono defense, he was able to take his fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court earlier this week.

He admits to being a little disorganized as he waded through mounds of legal documents stacked up in one bedroom of the rural farmhouse, but he says there is a method to his madness, including storing back-up copies in the old freezer in the barn.

Bowman is a 75-year-old bachelor farmer, so it should come as no surprise that he would have a little independent streak to him. And he does.

He displays that as we are about to walk outside when he grabs a Monsanto hat off of the top of the refrigerator and slaps it on his head.

"Here. I will wear this so you can get a photograph of that," he quipped.

That is when he dropped this bombshell when he revealed the fact that he couldn't even hear his case being argued before the nation's high court, because he is hard of hearing and his assigned seat was in the very back.

"So you went through all this, get there and you can't even hear your own case?"

"Nope. Didn't even hear my own case. That aggravated me," he said.

Maybe that is just as well since he later learned from his attorneys that his side did not appear to make a favorable impression on the court.

"They should be looking for current justice and not future problems. They said if I would win it, it would bankrupt Monsanto. That is no reason to be against me if I am right," said Bowman.

But don't feel sad for Bowman. No matter what he says, he would do it all again.

"It's taken a lot of my time and as slow a typer as I am I probably got a million dollars in minimum wage typing," he said.

And Bowman still farms about 300 acres in rural Sandborn.

"My dad always said if you are going to farm with junk you better have a hell of a lot of it."

And he does. In fact it would take three shots of ether to get his truck started so he could go to lunch. He has to hurry because he has a radio interview with Food Nation when he gets back.

The High Court is not expected to rule in this case until June.