The closings of two grain elevators in Missouri have lawmakers proposing immediate changes in Missouri law as well a long-term look at the problem.
First, the T. J. Gieseker Farms and Trucking case in Martinsburg; then, the closing of Gallatin Grain Company. The Gieseker case could total $15 million in losses to as many as 300 farmers. Those numbers might be too conservative. Early estimates on the Gallatin case estimate a range of losses from $7 million to $20 million with 60 to 70 farmers affected.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture is involved in both cases. The Attorney General and the Audrain County prosecutor are investigating potential fraud in the Gieseker case.
Rep. Steve Hobbs (R-Mexico) acknowledges there are more questions than answers in the Gieseker case.
"Every day, I find out someone different who was involved in this and to different, varying degrees," says Hobbs. "I think as information comes out, as the investigation unfolds, there is going to be a lot of surprised people at how something like this could happen."
The losses to the agricultural community could be devastating. Hobbs says such huge losses won’t just hurt farmers.
"It will trickle down to the local lumber yard, the grocery store," Hobbs says. "When you take that much money out of a community, it’s devastating."
Hobbs proposes legislation to be considered this session. HB 915 would raise minimum bonding requirement of grain elevators from $20,000 to $50,000. The maximum bond would rise from $300,000 to $1 million. Also under consideration is making it a misdemeanor if a grain dealer makes trades beyond his capacity.
An Agricultural Task Force is being formed by the House Speaker to review other legislation to prevent future losses, which could include an indemnity fund to make farmers whole after the financial collapse of an elevator.
Other legislation being considered this year is HB 923 .