LINCOLN, Nebraska — A South Dakota grain marketing adviser is again in a legal dispute — this time, in Nebraska.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission on Oct. 22, 2021, opened a complaint that requires Banghart Properties LLC, also known as Fearless Grain Marketing Storage & Arbitrage, Fearless Grain Marketing, and Fearless Grain of Gettysburg, South Dakota, to “cease and desist” all operations as a grain dealer in Nebraska. Fearless Grain is headed by Jeremy Frost.

The PSC will set a hearing date at a later date. The company and its aliases will have to show why it should not pay a civil penalty for operating without a license.

On Sept. 5, 2021, the Nebraska PSC Grain Department sent the company a letter stating that any company purchasing grain from a Nebraska producer must obtain a “grain dealer license.” The letter indicated that “all grain dealer activity” by the company in Nebraska must cease. The PSC provided information on the application process.

On Sept. 15, the company filed an “incomplete application,” according to a press release. The release doesn’t say what was missing.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

On Oct. 12, the PSC sent a second letter.

On Oct. 14, the PSC grain department learned the company had “entered into contracts” with Nebraska producers, despite the cease and desist notification. The PSC reviewed the contracts that indicated the companies had “purchased various amounts of commodities.”

Said PSC Chairman Dan Watermeier in the release: “Despite our efforts to bring this company into compliance, Banghart Properties leaves us no choice but to pursue action against it.”

The complaint says Banghart Properties LLC and “its various aliases” had acted as a grain dealer without a license.

“With harvest season well under way it is imperative that our producers/sellers are aware of this company and the fact that it does not hold a license to conduct grain dealer activity in the state of Nebraska,” Watermeier said.

The following Frost-related companies are registered with the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office:

  • Banghart Properties LLC was filed June 22, 2018, at 126 Hilltop Drive, Gettysburg, South Dakota. The registered agent is Jan Banghart. Jan Banghart is Frost’s mother.

  • Fearless Grain Marketing Arbitrage and Storage LLC was filed Sept. 27, 2020, and became inactive Oct. 18, 2021, at 1003 South 8th Street, Onida, South Dakota.

  • Fearless Grain Marketing Storage & Arbitrage LLC (Note, reversal of the words) was filed Oct. 11, 2021, with an address of 111 West Garfield, Suite 2, Gettysburg, South Dakota. The owner’s name is Jan. K. Banghart.

  • Fearless Grain Marketing LLC was filed May 3, 2017, at 1003 South 8th Street, Onida, South Dakota, managed by Jeremey John Frost.

This is not the first time a state has told Frost's companies to stop dealing in grain. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission on May 13, 2021, announced Frost had been assessed a $20,000 fine and had been ordered to to provide weekly updates on the status of “each outstanding contract” until “all such contracts are fulfilled, paid in full, or transferred.” Frost acknowledged he “operated as a grain buyer without a license” but the agreement indicated the agreement “does not reflect the confession of any single issue, but a negotiated global settlement.”

As of Sept. 27, 2021, Banghart Properties, doing business as Fearless Grain Marketing Storage & Arbitrage of Gettysburg, South Dakota, was listed as a "grain broker" on a list of South Dakota Grain Warehouses/Grain Buyers maintained by the South Dakota PUC. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission confirmed that Banghart Properties LLC had achieved a grain dealer’s license in June 2021, with the required $50,000 bond.

Frost, in a phone interview with Agweek on Oct. 26, said Fearless Grain Marketing has had difficulty operating in grain marketing since the state actions. He said he now “works for” his mother, but said he doesn’t manage her grain transactions. He noted she has grain dealer licenses and bonds in Colorado, South Dakota, and pending applications in North Dakota.

Rob Konrad, of Pierre, South Dakota, an attorney both for Jeremey Frost and Banghart Properties LLC, said his company will “respond to all allegations” made by Nebraska authorities and that his clients “dispute some of important factual allegations” but wasn’t specific. He said his clients would “cooperate” to “try to reach an amicable solution.” He said Banghart employs Frost as a “GMA,” (grain marketing adviser). He said the Banghart/Frost companies are “unaware of any instance where any farmer or producer has been financially harmed” by a Banghart transaction and described the dispute as a “technicality and compliance” issue.”

In a separate, but related matter, Frost since May 2021 has been involved in an arbitration action with the National Grain and Feed Association against Indigo Ag Inc, claiming over $100 million in damages, including potential stock valuations. Indigo Ag, meanwhile, sued Frost for $8.5 million in federal court for exceeding authority in committing farmers to deliver grain, among other issues. On Oct. 20, 2021, U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker, in Memphis, ordered a separate trial to determine whether both parties agreed to dispute issues in arbitration.

Banghart connection

While Banghart is listed as the registered agent of several of Frost's business names, the Banghart Properties website lists only Frost as a "grain adviser," with no other employees mentioned. The website lists its services as "Cash grain marketing and negotiation in basis with spread understanding. Cash trading straight to end-users, trading companies, processors, and elevator’s: sunflowers, millet, milo, soybeans, corn, winter wheat, spring wheat, pool selling power/elevator margin knowledge, leverage of spread and trade info. Assisting the farmer with the development of a grain marketing plan individualized to his/her operation and comfort level."

The website www.fearlessgrainmarketing.com also opens to the Banghart Properties website.

On Banghart’s LinkedIn profile, she lists a wide-ranging professional career, but only recently related to grain. Since February 2018, she said has been “assistant to CEO” at Fearless Grain Marketing of Onida, South Dakota.

She made headlines in early February 2016 when she resigned as director of the South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield, South Dakota. According to news reports, she resigned after employees alleged unsafe working conditions and accused the administration of unethical and intimidating tactics. She and other administrators denied it.

The center is part of the South Dakota Department of Human Services. The center employed 337 people with around-the-clock support services for 135 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Banghart worked as assistant director for eight years before taking over in 2015 when the previous director retired.

From May 2016 to an unspecified date, Banghart on LinkedIn lists a position as “regional director” at Benchmark Human Service, a company with corporate headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, owned by A.W. Holdings LLC, also Fort Wayne, Indiana. The holding company was first registered in South Dakota on Dec. 21, 2015, with CT Corporation System, of 319 S. Coteau Street in Pierre as its registered agent.

Also, since May 2012, her LinkedIn resume lists she has been owner/rental manager for Banghart Properties, of Huron, South Dakota. Banghart, a native of Hoven, South Dakota, in her Facebook information, lists a degree in 1992 from Huron University, Huron, South Dakota, as well as some study from Northern University, Aberdeen, South Dakota. Frost also received a business degree from Huron University in 2000.