PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State regulators will hold a special meeting later this month on whether Banghart Properties should get a new Class B grain buyer’s license and whether the Gettysburg business violated the $5 million limit on its current license.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission set June 21 for the decisions. The new license year starts July 1.
One of Banghart’s independent marketers, Jeremey Frost, asked the commission Tuesday to issue a provisional license in the meantime.
Commissioner Gary Hanson sounded like he was ready to grant the license. He said Banghart hadn’t been found guilty yet of exceeding the $5 million limit.
“Even if they’re in violation, you don’t take their business away; you fine them,” Hanson said. By delaying, the commission was creating “unnecessary challenges” for the farmers that Banghart serves, he said: “It’s a fairness issue to me at this juncture.”
But the commission’s chair, Kristie Fiegen, said she wasn’t ready, and commissioner Chris Nelson said he preferred to wait, too. “There’s nothing in my mind that would prevent us from making a final decision on both of those questions on the 21st,” Nelson said.
Frost told the commission that Banghart has essentially been out of business since January, when one of the commission staff’s attorneys filed a complaint on behalf of the manager of the grain-warehouse program. The complaint alleges that Banghart made several millions of dollars of grain purchases after exceeding the $5 million limit.
Frost said farmers need to know before the wheat harvest starts on about July 1 whether Banghart can do business. “We can’t continue to put these guys off. We’ve been putting them off for months and months,” he said.
Banghart’s attorney filed affidavits Monday and Tuesday from Frost and his mother, Jan Banghart, in which Frost apologized for past statements and Banghart emphasized that she controlled the business including when payments will be made.
This came after Jan Banghart had issued a letter to several news outlets on May 21 accusing the grain-warehouse program manager, Cody Chambliss, of having “a vendetta” against her company. “His clear bias, inconsistent accounting system, and a pattern of providing misleading information to the PUC Commission show a blatant disregard for fairness,” the letter said.
Her letter added, “This is not the only time the PUC has cost SD Farmers tremendous monies, as we cannot overlook the disparity in how the PUC handles cases—leaving large, out-of-state billion dollar agricultural companies owing millions to our farmers unchecked while placing undue scrutiny on Banghart Properties.”