Farmers in southeast Arkansas have filed suit in Lee County Circuit Court seeking an undisclosed amount of money or return of their grain for which they contracted with Turner Merchandising Inc. to sell.
Turner Grain Merchandising and related firms in Brinkley have drawn the scrutiny of state officials for their default on payments to farmers across the Delta, but the filing on Monday is the first court action.
The complaint does not put a dollar value on the claims though widespread but unconfirmed reports have put the losses as high as tens of millions of dollars.
The default has been described as a threat to the economy of the Delta, which is heavily reliant on agriculture. A hearing on the matter by joint House and Senate committees will be at 10 a.m. Friday in Room A at the Multi-Agency Complex at the Capitol, according to the General Assembly's meeting and events calendar.
Farmers named in the lawsuit say they have either not been paid for their crops or have been issued hot checks.
Plaintiffs include four brothers in a family partnership -- Keith Wilkison, Roger Wilkison, Donnie Wilkison and David Wilkison -- who, with their father, Donald Wilkison, farm 15,000 acres in Monroe and Lee counties; plus Randle Foran, Lance Gray and Stanley Bartlett.
Defendants are Turner Grain Merchandising, Neauman Coleman & Co. LLC, Agribusiness Properties LLC and several others, all of which are interrelated.
On Aug. 14, agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily shut down Agribusiness Properties, a grain warehouse, which in effect has curtailed activities at Turner Grain, which is a dealer. The license will be revoked if issues are not resolved by Sept. 14.
The lawsuit contends that "some or all" of the individual defendants are commodities brokers, though Turner Grain is not a brokerage. Turner Commodities Inc. is based in Dumas. The other firms are in Brinkley.
The complaint says that as brokers they are bonded and insured under the Commodities Futures Trading Act.
Individual defendants are Neauman Coleman, Jason Coleman, Dale Bartlett and Gerald Lloyd. Other businesses that have been sued are Ivory Rice, Neauman Coleman and Co., Brinkley Truck Brokerage, Agri-Petroleum Sales, LJTC LLC and Turner North LLC.
The plaintiffs are seeking liens on any grains contracted or delivered or sold. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Louis Etoch of Helena and David A. Hodges of Little Rock, declined to comment on the case.
Attempts to contact the defendants for comment were unsuccessful.
Business on 08/21/2014
Print Headline: Grain payment defaults draw suit