Mikkel Pates / Agweek Staff Writer
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—A federal judge in Iowa on Oct. 5 sentenced Darrell Duane Smith of Forest City, Iowa, to nearly 15 years in prison for making millions in unauthorized withdrawals from the accounts of investors to fund his "biofuel dream," as prosecutors described it. Chief U.S. District Judge Linda R. Reade said Smith, 62, will be behind bars until age 77, plus three more years of supervised probation. She said Smith refused to accept responsibility for his crimes and attempted to obstruct justice by trying to influence victims while in prison.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—In their biofuels fraud prosecution of Darrell Duane Smith, prosecutors focused on several victim stories, including the family of veterinarian Clyde L. Odom Sr., who lived in Alaska and Mississippi and died of liver cancer in Mississippi in October 2012. Smith made 33 unauthorized transactions totaling nearly $1.2 million. After Odom's death, Smith forged the signature and initials of his son, Clyde L. Odom Jr., of Tuscaloosa, Ala., to extract trust funds, and even set up bank accounts under the son's name.
FARGO, N.D.—Ag bankers should brace for a "long" ride on a black swan—an unpredictable, unforeseen event with extreme consequences. The period of soybean price reductions due to the Chinese trade war, initiated by the Donald Trump administration, will have a "long" effect, says a North Dakota State University distinguished professor of agricultural economics. William Wilson, who consults with agricultural entities worldwide, spoke Sept. 27 at the annual North Dakota Bankers Association's Ag Credit Conference in Fargo at the Holiday Inn.
FARGO, N.D.—Not all farmers are in the same boat for financial stress, experts say. About 25 percent of farmers are doing very well, 50 percent are OK, and 25 percent are struggling, said a keynote speaker at the North Dakota Bankers Association Ag Credit , which ran Sept. 27-28 in Fargo. John Blanchfield, of Damascus, Md., the Agricultural Banking Advisory Service, a consulting firm, after spending 25 years at the American Bankers Association in Washington, D.C.
ASHBY, Minn. — Members of the Ashby Farmers Elevator Cooperative soon will have to vote to dissolve and sell or lease its assets, while the scale of the former manager's fraud has now risen to $4.9 million. Long-time general manager Jerry Hennessey, who has yet to be charged, spent some of that money on big-game hunting trips, including $500,000 on taxidermy alone, an attorney says.
SIDNEY, Mont. — This is the second year in a row for early sugar beet harvests at Sidney Sugars Inc. on the Montana-North Dakota border. Mike Steffan and his son, Jeff, raise beets just to the north of the factory in Sidney. Their Steffan Farms started opening fields on Sept. 17. The family has been raising beets for Holly Sugar at Sidney since 1926, when his grandfather came over from Germany.
MILBANK, S.D. — Valley Queen Cheese Factory Inc. recently opened the Valley Queen Heritage Center, an interpretive center in downtown Milbank, chronicling its nearly 90 years in cheese making. The space was available, and the company moved a cheese retail store into an available vintage space downtown.
MILBANK, S.D. — Cheese plants in northeast South Dakota are booming, and that is providing economic opportunity for some farmers and communities in the Interstate 29 corridor, according to industry leaders in the region. Doug Wilke, chief executive officer of Valley Queen Cheese Factory Inc., of Milbank, was one of the officials who met with a half-dozen journalists as part of a value-added dairy tour sponsored by the South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development. The tour was coordinated by Development Counsellors International of Denver.
GRANVILLE, Iowa — Richard Schnepf started harvesting soybeans on Sept. 15, despite the aftereffects of big rains in early September. He thinks that's a good 10 days ahead of time. Schnepf farms about 500 acres, raising corn and soybeans and feeding hogs, and is involved in other ag-related businesses. A week before harvest, Schnepf was pulling a few waterhemp weeds along the field edges, checking for lodging after rains in early September.
ARVILLA, N.D. — Farmers stuck with low-priced soybeans and edible beans due to trade war tariff retaliation are looking for places to store a big crop until marketing returns to normal — perhaps six months away. One company, Columbia Grain International LLC at Arvilla and Larimore, N.D., has leased two large flat storage buildings 21 miles away near Grand Forks to store edible beans and soybeans for delayed-price marketing. Soybean dilemma