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Published January 10, 2013, 03:03 PM

ND beef company restarts payments to producers

State ag department delays penalty action.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says he’ll hold off an effort to penalize North American Bison Cooperative LLC because it appears the company has resumed paying off the $324,000 its associated, but now defunct, company still owes beef producers.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture had announced recently that it would move forward with a judgment action against NABC, alleging the company had ceased payments to farmers and therefore owed a portion of a fine initially waived.

Goehring’s department had fined the company $50,000 in the spring of 2012, but had waived $49,000 of the penalty under the understanding that the company would repay a half-dozen producers who were still owed for livestock delivered to North Dakota Natural Beef LLC from late 2011. After that, the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) had come to a separate agreement in which the company was supposed to pay a total of $5,000 a month to the farmers, starting in June 2012, prorated for each farmer’s claim against the company. Producers reported that only one of those payments had been made.

Wayne Carlson, livestock services manager for the state department of agriculture, says the department learned on Jan. 9 that NABC had come to a new agreement in December with GIPSA.

Gayne Gasal of Jamestown, N.D., one of the producers still owed by NDNB, told Agweek for a Jan. 7 article that he hadn’t been paid since August 2012, when he received an NDNB check dated July 19, for $1,002.91. On Jan. 8, Gasal called to say he’d received another check dated Dec. 31, 2012, for $1,504.37 — again from NDNB, and not from NABC.

Dieter Pape, NABC president and CEO, in a Jan. 4 e-mail to Agweek said NABC, as majority shareholder of NDNB had “reached out” to GIPSA to continue making payments to unpaid beef producers. He said that Tim Lundstrom, NABC’s chief financial officer, will make sure that happens. He acknowledged that the NABC agreement is $7,500 a month, reflected in the increase in Gasal’s payment. “NABC feels it is the right thing to do,” he explains.

Pape stands by his earlier statements that producers were largely paid.

Goehring questioned how beef inventories of more than $700,000 had been eroded away with expenses, and says his department will continue to monitor whether the farmers are actually paid off.