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NDPUC digesting Anderson Seed info

FARGO, N.D. -- As of Feb. 23, the North Dakota Public Utilities Commission had not moved to change the brokerage status of Anderson Seed Co., a Mentor, Minn.-based sunflower company whose assets have been sold in the wake of nonpayment reports.

"We are still working on our paperwork, and -- unfortunately -- are still in the infancy draft stages," says Sue Richter, director of licenses for the NDPUC in Bismarck, N.D.

Richter says farmers are concerned. PUC staff has answered about 70 phone calls in recent weeks, some multiple calls from 20 to 30 individuals. She hadn't tallied the unpaid deliveries but preliminary notes indicate North Dakotans could be owed $2 million or more, she says.

"Keep in mind that while a lot of that is cash, we do have some claims that will be made against our Credit Sale Indemnity Fund," Richter says. "We don't have the specifics at this point."

North Dakota's self-funded indemnity fund has a balance of nearly $7 million, she says, but can only be used on sales where farmers turn over title to the elevator and price grain later. She says the Grabanski Grain Co. insolvency at Grafton, N.D., more than a year ago, is still pending, as well, and that credit sales balances there total $380,000.

Richter says she's in close contact with South Dakota Public Utilities Commission officials, who suspended the license of Anderson Seed Co.'s Redfield, S.D., processing plant recently and is in the process of revoking it. The SDPUC said more than 20 farmers were owed more than $2.6 million.

Richter has also been in touch with Minnesota Department of Agriculture officials. Harley Olinske Jr., supervisor of the MDA Fruit, Vegetable and Grain Unit, says as of Feb. 23 they have gotten some phone calls from concerned individuals who had sold grain to Anderson Seed. The department has sent them forms to fill out that would make the complaints official, but has not received any back yet. So there is nothing yet to investigate in Minnesota.

"You have a company here that has locations in three states and there's going to be a lot of work for all three different states to decipher where the claims belong," Richter says. "We're keeping tabs with each other."

One farmer who contacted Agweek operates in the Burleigh and McLean County areas in North Dakota. He declined to be further identified but says he's anxious to get information on the situation because he's owed six figures. He says Legumex Walker Inc., the Canadian company that purchased Anderson Seed assets, referred him to a St. Cloud, Minn., law office phone number for Anderson Seed. Legumex, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, repeated that a purchase deal didn't include grain assets of the company, only facilities.

The farmer says he understands Anderson Seed is technically separate from St. Hilaire Seed Co., which has no apparent solvency issues, but he wonders if the $19 million Legumex paid for the two companies, might eventually come to him.

"I'm just trying to figure out where is my grain or my money," he says. He says he was paid $300,000 but is still owed about $120,000. "It would help to have an answer to know just what's happening. Springtime is coming and we're going to have to make some decisions."