Falsified documents and unanswered questions, farmers impacted by grain mill failures speak out
HUNTINGTON COUNTY, Indiana (WANE) – Farmers in Huntington and Wells counties lost millions of dollars due to local grain mill failure in 2020. Now these farmers are speaking out, warning that another grain failure is on the horizon if things don’t turn out money.
“It’s like, who do you trust?” Farmer Deb Ruble said. “You have a bank over there, you have the Grain Buyers and Licensing Agency in Indianapolis where you think no mistakes would be made. I know we are human, but these mistakes kept happening. It should have been taken.
WANE 15 spoke to farmers impacted by the closures, many are still frustrated, injured and looking for a change.
Salamonie Mills and Agland Grain are a flour milling company that supplies a wide range of agriculture-related products including feed and grain storage in Huntington and Wells counties.
In March, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Indiana Grain Buyers and Warehouse Licensing Agency (IGBWLA) temporarily suspended the mill licenses. According to court documents, the factory owners defaulted on two separate loans of more than $ 8 million to First Farmers Bank & Trust.
Then, in April, owners voluntarily relinquished their permits at all locations, effectively shutting down factories for the foreseeable future. First Farmers Bank & Trust seized the properties of Salamonie Mills and at the end of July all the locations were sold at public auction for a total of $ 633,700. Agland Grain’s properties remain closed and its licenses inactive for the time being.
When the flour mills gave up their licenses, the Indiana Grain Buyers and Warehouse Licensing Agency collected and reviewed company records to identify farmers who may have been affected by the shutdown. In July and August, the state held information meetings for producers affected by the closure of Agland Grain.
In December, the Indiana Grain Indemnity Corp distributed millions to farmers in Salamonie Mills and Agland Grain.
Farmers seek change and state responses
Over 200 farmers and / or groups have been affected by grain elevator business closures, losing more than $ 9.2 million. On Monday evening, a dozen of these farmers sat down with WANE 15.
Several farmers say they were shocked and caught off guard by the original temporarily suspended the mill licenses. Many thought the suspension was temporary. But it wasn’t until the owners voluntarily surrendered their permits that it sank.
“It changes the life of my family, my grandchildren, I mean it affects generations when you’ve lost $ 450,000,” said farmer Gary Kratzer. “What if you think I lost more than that because it cost me around $ 350,000 to plant the crop in the first place.”
For many, agriculture has been passed down from generation to generation. With the failure of the factory, many are worried about the future of their families. But could grain mill failures be avoided? Some farmers believe it.
In September 2019, at least three farmers had bounced checks from Salamonie Mills. These checks were paid in October after the factory owner received a second loan from the bank.
Ned Ruble and his wife Deb were among the farmers to receive a bad check. At the time, they didn’t go to the Indiana Grain Buyers and Licensing Agency, they went to the owner of the mills instead. However, it was not until the grain mills went bankrupt and the state sent them documents that they said Ned’s signature on a deferred price agreement document had been forged.
The top of the photo (right) shows the signature which the state says was signed by Ned in December 2019. However, he denies signing the document. Here is what he says about his signing of a 2018 price agreement.
“It’s not my signature,” Ned Ruble said. “I’m really annoyed about this. A few weeks ago we received the document and there is a forged signature. They took it upon themselves to write a contract, sign my signature and date it. I didn’t even know it existed.
Others claim that the IGBWLA broke several laws and was never held accountable.
“It was all caused by the agency not doing its job,” Kratzer said. “We cannot see the financial statements of the banks. We cannot the financial statement of Salamonie Mills. We cannot see what their inventory is. So we have to rely on this agency to do its job and they haven’t.
State lawmakers Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Marke), Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington) and Matt Lehman (R-Berne) say financial documents show the owner of the grain mill had a deficit for years before failure. . Reports show the company had negative net worth in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
During farmers’ conversations with WANE 15, many did not understand why this was not detected until a second loan was given to the bank in 2019. Part of the reason they think it is should have been detected is that the IGBWLA is supposed to audit grain mills every year.
“What do I want to see happen?” Make some changes somewhere, ”said farmer Jennifer Freds. “Hold these people accountable for what they are supposed to do to protect us. We shouldn’t have to fight this agency to get our money.
Farmers in several counties, not just Huntington and Wells where the factories were located, were affected. Refunds range from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Indiana Grain Indemnity Fund is set up by farmers, with farmers’ money to help those affected when grain mills fail. Like insurance, in the event of default, the fund pays farmers for their losses. However, almost a year after the failure and many have yet to receive their funds.
“How would you like to work 12 months a year and at the end of that year wanting a paycheck and being sorry there is no money to pay you,” Freds said. “It’s like that for us. “
Bills drafted following the failures of Salamonie Mills and Agland Grain in Huntington and Wells counties are currently awaiting a hearing in State House and the Senate.
Farmers call on lawmakers to support House Bill 1483, and Senate Bill 364, and if they oppose the bills come and talk with them. Many farmers believe that if change does not happen quickly, more farmers across the state will soon face the same fate.