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Published June 11, 2012, 08:10 AM

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Falkirk farmers selling assets

By: Agweek staff and wire reports, Agweek

Falkirk farmers selling assets

• FARGO, N.D. — Falkirk (N.D.) Farmers Elevator will not be reopening — at least not under that name, the company’s interim manager says. Art Perdue confirmed that the company’s grain buyers license that runs through July 31 will not be renewed under the Falkirk Farmers name. An “absolute auction” of the company’s rolling stock has been advertised and will be run by Wolff Auctioneers of Golden Valley, N.D., and will be held at 10 a.m., June 30. The sale will be held at the elevator site next to Highway 83 between Washburn and Underwood, N.D. The bill lists tractors and loaders, semi tractors and trailers, grain augers, conveyors and a grain vac, grain bins, liquid fertilizer tanks and other equipment. The sale bill, advertised online, includes some pinto beans. The company on June 7 mailed out letters to members, notifying them of a membership vote on July 25 to approve the sale of the facility to another company, who Perdue declined to name. Meanwhile, the North Dakota Public Service Commission is continuing to monitor activities at Falkirk Farmers Elevator in Falkirk and Hazen, N.D. The company has not closed its doors, but voluntarily stopped receiving grain. Farmers who had prepaid chemical and fertilizer had contacted the PSC when they were not allowed to receive the inputs they’d purchased. Perdue confirmed that lenders in the case include CHS Capital and American Federal Bank.

N.D. PSC hires lawyer for Anderson Seed

• FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Public Service Commission has hired an outside attorney to help deal with complications of the Anderson Seed Co. insolvency, commission staff says. Jon J. Jensen of Pearson Christensen & Clapp PLLP, based in Grand Forks, N.D., will help the agency sort out jurisdictional issues involving the Mentor, Minn., sunflower company, which had elevators or receiving facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The company became insolvent in April and its assets were sold to Legumex Walker Inc., based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At the same time, the Canadian firm also bought St. Hilaire Seed Co., also of Mentor, Minn., which is owned and was managed by the same family. The period for filing unpaid grain claims goes through June 14, says Sue Richter, PSC licensing director. Claims so far total $2.5 million, involving 43 individuals, some of whom are related. Meanwhile, Chris Nelson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission in Pierre, says the commission staff on June 6 filed a request for the commission to review their plan for distributing bond proceeds from the company’s Redfield, S.D., location. That part of the company was left out of a purchase of Anderson Seed assets, at least in part due to an environmental study of the site. “To my knowledge, that hasn’t been resolved yet,” Nelson says. There are an estimated $2.6 million in unpaid bills at the South Dakota facility, of which $2.2 million may be covered by the $100,000 bond. Nelson says he thinks Legumex had applied for a grain license but so far didn’t have one on June 7. It’s being reviewed by the staff. “The commission has done everything the law allows us to do in regards to this situation,” he says. He says the commission is looking at potential legal changes that could help give the PUC better tools to find out when a company is weakening financially so farmers are better protected.

Vilsack names Mitchell head of GIPSA

• WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has named Lawrence “Larry” Mitchell, the former CEO of the American Corn Growers Association, as administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Mitchell succeeds J. Dudley Butler, the controversial lawyer who resigned after the Obama administration weakened the rewrite of the rule governing the Packers and Stockyards Act. Mitchell began his duties at GIPSA on June 4. Mitchell has been a political appointee in the Obama administration as associate director of the Office of Advocacy and Outreach. Mitchell was also deputy administrator for farm programs at the Farm Service Agency from 1997 to 2001 during the Clinton administration. He served President Bill Clinton as legislative liaison while overseeing the Office of Public Affairs and the Office of the Executive Secretariat. Mitchell is a fifth-generation farmer from north Texas, where he raised grains, cotton, hay, horses and cattle before starting to work in Washington in 1989.

Red River diversion discussions underway

• FARGO, N.D. — Members of the Red River Diversion Authority’s new Agricultural Policy Subcommittee quickly discovered May 30 how much work they have ahead of them. In the first meeting, members broached a variety of issues they hope to discuss in the months ahead. The board was formed to address concerns from farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota who will be affected by plans for the Red River diversion. The agricultural subcommittee includes representation from a half-dozen farmers on both sides of the Red River and a few local government leaders and project consultants. The Red River diversion project is expected to affect 8,000 acres in the channel’s footprint, and to temporarily affect as many as 54,700 additional acres in the project’s proposed water storage and staging areas. Among questions the agricultural subcommittee hopes to answer in the months ahead: How will the Diversion Authority compensate farmers and rural property owners for impacts to their land? Will farmers have to sell their land for the project, or can they maintain ownership by agreeing to easements with the Diversion Authority? What type of insurance will cover farmland affected by the diversion project? What benefits might farmers see from the project, such as additional drainage? Subcommittee members acknowledge the answers to those questions won’t come overnight, but they hope to chip away at the solutions during future meetings. Although various studies by the Diversion Authority aim to reduce impacts from the project, subcommittee members acknowledged not all of the effects can or will be eliminated. The committee’s next meeting is June 20.