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July 17, 2017 06:02 PM

State Says It Should Have Known About Grain Elevator's Financial Problems

DeSmet, SD

Dozens of farmers in South Dakota aren't just worried about the weather, they're also wondering how they'll pay for the next crop they'll plant. 

It's all because of a grain company that has been shut down in three locations. 

You may think that drought is the biggest problem facing farmers in South Dakota, but more than 60 farmers in six counties in eastern South Dakota are facing a double whammy.  They didn't get paid for last year's crops and here's why: 

In June the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission came in and shut down H&I Grain and its three locations in Hetland, Arlington and DeSmet.  The PUC suspended the grain company's license in South Dakota after its financial statement showed losses due to its speculation on grain prices. Meanwhile dozens of farmers who had agreed to be paid later for the crops they hauled to H&I elevators never got their money, farmers like Kyle Lee.

“Yes, it has a big impact on me. Literally the afternoon I found out about this… the day prior I was on the phone spending about $30,000… going to spend about $26,000 on a building. And that's where the money was going to come from. So you know. I can't do it,” Lee said.

The farmers have banded together to hire a lawyer to try to recover some of their money.  But it won't be easy. And most farmers won't be eligible for the bond money H&I had to pay to the state for a license because it doesn't apply to them. 

"Currently under South Dakota law if a farmer hauls that grain and he doesn't sell it at the time, he has no protection. That would be the equivalent of you putting money in your checking account and the bank fails and they tell you there is no federal deposit guarantee anymore," Farmers’ Attorney Todd Wilkinson said.

The PUC now says it was deceived about what was really going on with the company when it issued its license last June.  

KELOLAND investigates has discovered what caused the company to lose up to $10 million; something the PUC says it didn't know anything about.

We'll have the rest of the story tonight in our investigation into what happened to the estimated $8 million owed to South Dakota farmers Monday on KELOLAND News at 10. 

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