With grain buying license revoked, Buckwheat Growers has shut down its business, meanwhile an investigation continues by the Department of Agriculture, seeking claims from customers of the association.
A Minnesota Department of Ag (MDA) investigation into the Buckwheat Growers and Union Creek Organic business began in June when a customer made a bond claim for not being paid for grains.
Once the investigation began, there was a cease and desist order put on the business, keeping them from doing further business until a thorough review of books could be performed. Buckwheat Growers manager Harold Matthews said the MDA does not have jurisdiction over all of the company’s products, so they were able to open for about four days to sell. In that time period, they completely sold out of that product.
Buckwheat Growers was not just about buckwheat grains, they were a grain buyer and produced feeds that were quite popular with their customer base, including organic farms. They also cleaned, dried and ground grains for customers.
Matthews said the business has gone back to the financing lender Wadena State Bank.
Nick Milanowski, section manager of fruit, vegetable and grain program with the MDA said that the investigation continues as customers have a 180-day window to submit claims. He said once that window closes, more information about what may have led to the bond claim would be available.
Matthews said that in having the cease and desist order placed, Buckwheat Growers lost their grain buying license. He mentioned that it is nearly impossible for a business to get another grain buyers license once it’s lost. Without the ability to buy grain, they are unable to perform 85% of their business.
“You can’t make it on 15%,” Matthews said.
Matthews said customers have felt the loss of the business and have asked that if there is ever a chance of return, they are ready to do business again.
“We had a very good product,” Matthews said. He said someone else could buy the business and continue operating, but it would not be the Buckwheat Growers Association.
Milanowski said the number of claims and the dollar amount of those claims could not be released at this time.
The MDA issued an advisory to farmers who have conducted business with the Buckwheat Growers Association of Wadena, also known as Union Creek Organic or Union Creek Feed and Seed. The MDA is encouraging anyone who has not received payment for grain or who had grain stored at the Buckwheat Growers Association facility to submit a bond claim with the Department.
The facility, in accordance with the law, held a $50,000 bond with the department to help grain sellers and depositors mitigate any losses. To submit a claim, a farmer will need to take the following steps:
Include supporting evidence. This is including but not limited to scale tickets, purchase agreements, purchase receipts, non-sufficient funds checks, contracts, warehouse receipts, assembly sheets, etc.
Send in the form and supporting evidence by email to email@example.com, fax to 651-201-6108, or mail to: Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Fruit Vegetable & Grain Unit, 625 North Robert St., St Paul, MN 55155
Farmers should submit a claim as soon as possible. The deadline for claims is dependent on the date of non-payment.
Milanowski said a public notice will be published as to when customers need have their claims filed.
The MDA will review all submitted claims, associated paperwork, internal documents, and records from inspector visits to determine which claims are valid. In the case of multiple valid claims, a pro-rated share is calculated and dispersed.
Questions on this process can be directed to Christine Mader at 651-201-6620 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Nick Milanowski at 651-201-6076 or email@example.com.