PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A Nebraska business has agreed to surrender its South Dakota grain-buying license.
Organic Producers of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota also will pay a $5,000 fine.
The decision to accept the settlement Tuesday marked the first time the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission had taken such an action over a grain-buying matter.
The North Bend, Nebraska, cooperative engaged in 33 transactions with 12 South Dakota producers between June 30, 2019, and November 8, 2021, when the co-op didn’t have a valid South Dakota grain-buying license.
OPINS could have faced a fine of as much as $20,000 under South Dakota law.
The co-op can apply for a new South Dakota license in June 2023.
Amanda Reiss, an attorney for the commission’s staff, said the original complaint against OPINS was filed in June and the two sides had “many long discussions” since then because they were “on very different pages.”
“We understand it’s odd, it’s unique,” Reiss said about the co-op’s agreement to give up its Class B license.
Ryan Cwach, a Yankton attorney representing the co-op, agreed. “Ultimately both sides felt this was the best approach and compromise over everything,” Cwach said.
Commissioner Kristie Fiegen said the outcome was good but wanted more information about how it was reached. “Everyone was paid, so we’re grateful for that,” Fiegen said. “When I look at these sheets of paper, it’s like, what do I not know?”
Cwach said OPINS was bonded throughout the process but there was “a good legal question” whether the bond was valid. He said personal circumstances led to an oversight on renewing the license. He said the sides disagreed on the number of transactions and his client was reluctantly willing to forego any more business in South Dakota for the next six to seven months if that’s what it took to reach agreement.
Reiss said the bond was maintained but a new bond was required for each licensing year. “Thankfully everyone was paid. We did not have to access that bond,” Reiss said.
Commission chair Chris Nelson called for the settlement’s acceptance. “Obviously both sides must have been involved in some pretty intense negotiations, and I appreciate that,” Nelson said. “Very rarely does this commission want to put somebody out of business.”