S.D. regulators delay decision on prosecuting Wyoming grain buyer

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Top officials for two agricultural groups have sent letters urging enforcement action by South Dakota officials against a Wyoming company that allegedly bought more than 100 truckloads of grain in South Dakota without a South Dakota license.

The letters came from Brenda Forman, executive director for the South Dakota Association of Cooperatives, and Kathy Zander, executive director for the South Dakota Grain and Feed Association.

Zander said it was in “the best interest of the State of South Dakota” for the Public Utilities Commission to prosecute High Country Mercantile, based in Cody, Wyoming.

“As you know, it takes just one failure to create uncertainty in the grain business, which impacts all licensed and bonded grain buyers in South Dakota,” Zander wrote.

Both Forman and Zander are lobbyists during South Dakota’s annual legislative sessions. Zander also holds an appointment as chairwoman for the state Transportation Commission that oversees South Dakota highway and bridge projects and rules such as speed limits.

The commission’s chairman, Gary Hanson, deferred action Tuesday. He said the matter will come back up at the commission’s October 1 meeting.

High Country Mercantile president Pam Connally participated by phone. She wanted more time so her lawyer, David Beckett, could become familiar with the case.

A commission attorney, Kristen Edwards, had already agreed to allowing a deferral. But Edwards said Tuesday she hoped Connally and her company didn’t misunderstand the serious allegations they face.

“There is no wish to drag this out any further than necessary,” Connally said, adding that she wants to get the matter resolved.

Commissioner Kristie Fiegen asked the staff to check how High Country Mercantile has handled license requirements in other states.

“I believe we’ve already started that process,” Edwards replied.

Edwards filed an amended complaint last month that said High Country Mercantile first became aware of the need for a South Dakota license on or about January 30.

The commission voted 2-1 August 7, with commissioners Fiegen and Chris Nelson for, and Hanson against, to seek a circuit court injunction against High Country. The company received a South Dakota license August 12.

The commission staff’s amended complaint said High Country made more than 100 purchases in South Dakota without a license, including more than 30 after the company was informed it needed a license.

Edwards wants the commission to issue a fine up to the legal maximum of $20,000.

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