Grain company ordered to pay $100K

By Bryan Cohen | Jul 18, 2011

Van Hollen

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Secretary Ben Brancel announced a $100,000 judgment on Friday against a grain company and its owner over alleged state grain security law violations.

Bowers Feed and Grain Inc., and owner Jim Vandenberg, a Brown County, Wis., grain warehouse keeper and dealer, allegedly violated state grain security laws by failing to hold a grain warehouse keeper's license or a grain dealer's license, repeatedly failing to pay cash on delivery for grain and continuously storing over 50,000 bushels of grain. Bowers also allegedly failed to maintain the quality of grain it was supposed to be holding in storage for others.

Wisconsin grain security laws require that grain dealers are licensed and, if not, that the dealer pay cash on delivery for all producer grain it purchases. The laws also require that no grain warehouse keeper hold more than 50,000 bushels of grain for others at any time without a current annual license from DATCP. In addition, grain security laws require that anyone storing grain for others maintains the quality and quantity of that grain.

State grain security laws are in place to protect farmers who sell grain to dealers or store their grain with warehouses. The laws require that a dealer or warehouse maintain sufficient stores of grain to return to the farmer or has the funds to pay the farmer when the grain is sold.

Van Hollen settled with Bowers in 2010, requiring the company to immediately obtain the required amount of grain in storage and make all producers whole who were owed money or grain. The settlement enjoined the company from purchasing grain from producers for 15 months.

The settlement also required forfeitures, which could have been reduced with Bowers' continued compliance with the judgment and the laws. Bowers allegedly failed to come into compliance and violated the settlement agreement. The Department of Justice moved for contempt three times and the lower court found the company in contempt and struck the forfeitures. The appeals court then agreed to reinstate the forfeiture amount of $100,000.

"We will continue to work with the DACTP to ensure the state's grain security laws are enforced," Van Hollen said.

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