South Dakota regulators take slow approach on injunction for unlicensed grain buyer

Capitol News Bureau
KELO pierre capitol building

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The grain-warehouse staff at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will try to get a Wyoming grain purchaser into financial compliance so it can get a state license before a commission lawyer asks a state court next week for an injunction barring future purchases of grain.

The commission held a special meeting Wednesday regarding High Country Mercantile based in Cody, Wyoming.

The company’s president, Pam Connally, said by telephone she had been busy at work since the grain-warehouse staff notified her in January that the business needed a South Dakota license to buy grain in South Dakota.

The company paid for a bond in July to operate in South Dakota, but the protection won’t take effect until the company is licensed in South Dakota.

Connally said she’s been operating in South Dakota about 15 years and described High Country Mercantile as a middle man purchasing bird seed.

Commission staff presented emails documenting months of contacts with the company.

Commissioners Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen voted to seek an injunction barring the company from purchasing grain unless it is licensed. Chairman Gary Hanson opposed the injunction, saying he understood from his personal experience what it’s like to be the owner of a small business.

“This would be a devastating blow to my company,” Connally told the commission. She claimed she had been “in the dark” about South Dakota’s grain-licensing requirement because she hadn’t been told by a vendor.

High Country Mercantile is a federal S-type corporation. That means Connally doesn’t have any personal obligation for the company’s debts.

“Piecemeal, things were taken care of,” she said. She later added, “We have never defaulted on any kind of bill.”

Hanson told staff attorney Kristen Edwards she shouldn’t hurry to ask for the injunction. Edwards said she would be tied up on other matters through the end of this week.

Audio from the August 7 meeting is archived online.

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