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Sunday, April 26, 1998

Judge weeds out grass suit

DALLAS (AP) -- A judge has mowed down a grass farmer's bid for protection under the state's "veggie libel law."

State visiting Judge Bill Sheehan threw out a case filed by Pat Anderton, the owner of a Plano turf farm, against James McAfee, a state agricultural extension agent. McAffee had written in a newspaper column in late 1996 that Texturf 10, a grass brand grown by Anderton, did not respond well to the humidity in the Dallas area.

Ms. Anderton said her grass had been slandered and she sued under the "veggie libel law."

The law was designed to prevent uninformed challenges to the wholesomeness of perishable food products. It allows producers to sue those they believe falsely disparaged their products.

The judge did not indicate the basis for his ruling, made public this week.

Doyle Anderton, president of farm management for the turf farm, said the lawsuit wasn't about money and wasn't about eating grass.

"What we're trying to do is get him to keep his lip shut," he said of McAfee. "If they're loose cannons, they don't understand the impact of what they say."

The Texas Attorney General's Office, which represented McAfee because he is a state employee, argued that agricultural extension advisers like him need to be able to dispense good-faith counsel without fear of being sued.


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