S.D. commission faces choice on out-of-state grain buyer

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Regulators will decide next week about how aggressively to pursue a Wyoming company accused of buying grain in South Dakota without a South Dakota license.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission had scheduled a hearing Tuesday for High Country Mercantile.

But the Cody, Wyoming-based company recently hired a lawyer. He sent a letter dated August 26 to the South Dakota commission, saying neither he nor the company’s president, Pam Connally, can participate September 3.

The attorney, David Beckett, wants the commission to reschedule.

“As you may be aware, HCM is a grain merchandizer that has purchased more than $3 million dollars of grain in South Dakota over the past five years from state-licensed grain elevators in South Dakota – HCM has not and does not purchase from producers,” Beckett wrote.

He continued, “HCM has never defaulted on payments to any of its sellers. And HCM is now licensed and bonded, although the process took longer than it should have because of HCM’s lack of understanding of what was required.”

Amanda Reiss, an attorney for the commission’s staff, said in a letter Wednesday she agrees with rescheduling now that she’s had a chance to speak with Connally’s lawyer.

Reiss had filed a strongly-phrased five-page amended complaint two weeks earlier, arguing that High Country Mercantile and Connally should face the maximum $20,000 fine possible under South Dakota law.

“Given the number of grain warehouses and grain buyers in this state, Staff does not have the time or resources to be hand-holding and begging operators for several months to get them to follow the law,” Reiss wrote.

The commissioners voted August 7 to seek an injunction against the company. That same day, High Country Mercantile later purchased a load of grain in South Dakota without a grain-buyer license, according to Reiss.

She said in the amended complaint that the commission staff had documented 78 loads of grain the company bought in South Dakota since January 30 when Connally was first contacted.

The commission’s ongoing docket can be tracked here.

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