Federal agriculture officials have granted 23 farming operations hurt by the August shutdown of Turner Grain Merchandising Inc. in Brinkley an additional 90-day extension before they must begin repaying U.S. Department of Agriculture marketing assistance loans.
The decision will give the producers until late January or early February, depending on when they signed up for the loans, before they must begin making payments. The extension follows two earlier extensions, the first for 15 days on Aug. 20 and the second for 60 days on Sept. 5, granted after the USDA shut down the commodities broker after farmers complained they weren't getting paid for grain worth millions of dollars and that they were issued checks that couldn't be cashed.
Four lawsuits are now pending, seeking to recover about $15.7 million for crops delivered to Turner Grain. Also, Dale Bartlett, president of Turner Grain, filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 5.
In a Friday letter, J. Michael Schmidt, the USDA deputy administrator for farm programs, notified Linda Newkirk, executive director of the Farm Services Agency's Arkansas office, that no interest on the loans would accrue during the extension. Schmidt noted that the older extensions would begin expiring Oct. 30.
"Given this deadline and that a bankruptcy attorney has recently been appointed as a receiver for Turner Grain, it does not appear that the issues related to these outstanding marketing authorizations will be resolved in the near future," Schmidt wrote.
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Butch Calhoun on Monday praised the additional extension, which was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. Pryor and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., introduced legislation in September to require the USDA to extend loan terms when farmers face nonpayment because of a buyer filing for bankruptcy.
Business on 10/21/2014