Capitol News Bureau

PUC Looks For Independent Receiver To Be Appointed In H And I Grain Case

PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is taking another run at getting money from bankrupt H and I Grain.

Regulators now want a state circuit judge to appoint an independent receiver.

The judge already decided the commission couldn't be receiver.  That led the three commissioners to decide Thursday to go the independent route.

Commissioner Chris Nelson said the judge didn't see the commissioners as independent.

"I don't think he specifically ruled out an independent receiver. I'm willing to give that a try," Nelson said.

Commissioner Gary Hanson wanted to make a second run at getting the commissioners named as receiver.  But Hanson said he was willing to pursue Nelson's avenue instead.

"The independence issue is one we need to argue in court," Hanson said.

Nelson acknowledged an independent receiver shouldn't have the same bias the commission does and would be outside the commission's control.

The commission shut down H and I Grain of Hetland in 2017.  The commission has regulatory authority over grain traders under state law.

Farmers from Kingsbury, Clark, Beadle, Brookings, Lake and Minnehaha counties lost millions of dollars of crops they had delivered to H and I Grain.

Circuit Judge Patrick Pardy ruled H and I still owed farmers $3,775,484 for corn and soybeans.

Farmers see the commission as a way to recover money from commodities company CHS Hedging.

CHS Hedging allegedly lost money to H and I Grain too.

The Minnesota company went to court in 2017 seeking more than $1.9 million from H and I owners Duane and JoAnn Steffensen.

Son Jared Steffensen opened a trading account in 2011 with CHS Hedging. His parents signed a guaranty for him. CHS Hedging shut him down in July 2016.

The parents later filed a counter-claim against CHS. They said Jared didn't disclose how much or how often he was trading.

Kingsbury County farmer Chad Murphy told the commission Thursday he saw documents indicating a CHS employee made a lot in money from the son's trades. 

The commission wanted to be receiver so H and I Grain could be sold to the producers who weren't paid for crops they delivered.

CHS Hedging opposed the commission's request. Judge Pardy sided with CHS Hedging during the hearing September 19.


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