SD PUC Proposes changes to grain legislation - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

SD PUC Proposes changes to grain legislation

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The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is now taking the next steps in trying to improve grain buyer policies to ensure farmers don't get left high and dry.

Earlier this year Minnesota-based Anderson Seed Company closed its doors with paying farmers for their commodity.

Wednesday in Pierre leaders from the PUC met to discuss ways they plan to solve the problem for the future.

It's been several months since Ray Martinmaas dropped off load after load of sunflower seeds to Anderson Seed Company in Redfield.

In February, the plant closed; leaving Martinmaas and many other farmers thousands of dollars in the hole.

Wednesday in Pierre, the PUC discussed possible law changes that could be made in the next legislative session to prevent what happened at Anderson Seed from happening again.

"Our hope is that if we can get the tools to find the financial problems sooner, the losses won't grow to the level that they did with Anderson Seed," South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman, Chris Nelson said.

Nelson says the commission is hoping lawmakers will pass five key changes in 2013:

  1. Require current financial information at the time of grain buyer license application.
  2. Information provided on license application is given under penalty of perjury.
  3. Grain buyer bond amounts are based on the dollar amount of project grain purchases. Narrow the range of project purchase amounts to more specifically fit the bond amount.
  4. Require grain buyer to notify the commission if at any point the buyer is out of compliance with the financial requirements for licensing. Commission could the use existing authority to proceed with license revocation, if warranted.
  5. Grain buyers must be able to provide copies of their financial records at their license location or at the commission office upon request by the commission.

"I don't see where the changes are gonna help us. Increasing the bond, that doesn't do anything to help us. If a company goes under, increasing the bond didn't do anything to help us," Martinmaas said.

Farmers that sold seeds to Anderson Seed are still owed $2.6 million from the company.

According to state law when Anderson Seed closed its doors the banks received their assets first leaving only a $100-thousand surety bond.

Recently the PUC obtained that bond it plans to use it to pay a portion of the $2.6 million Anderson Seed owes farmers.

"We have to pay for them not obeying the law," Martinmaas said.

Martinmaas says he doesn't believe he will ever see the nearly fifty-thousand dollars he's owed.

The measures still have to be introduced and passed through the legislature before they would go into effect.

But nelson says they are hoping the legislature will pass the measures so they can prevent the situation like Anderson Seed's from happening again.

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