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Hunter Brian Hanson, 21, of Leeds, N.D., with grain merchandising businesses located in Devils Lake, N.D., as Midwest Grain Trading and NoDak Grain, on Nov. 21 received a cease-and-desist order from the North Dakota Public Service Commission. (Derek Fletcher / Agweek)

ND PSC issues cease-and-desist against Devils Lake grain merchant

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Public Service Commission on Wednesday, Nov. 21, issued a cease-and-desist order against a 21-year-old grain merchant doing business as Midwest Grain Trading and NoDak Grain, both based in Devils Lake, N.D.

Wednesday's hearing in Bismarck was not attended by the grain dealer, Hunter Hanson of Leeds, N.D., or any legal representation. Hanson and his company have 15 days to request a hearing to consider the evidence in the case.

Konrad Crockford, director of the PSC compliance division, and Randy Christmann, a PSC member with responsibility for regulating state-registered elevators, told Agweek the agency since Nov. 9 has received more than 50 complaints of bounced checks totaling $5 million to $6 million. The PSC is moving forward with four formal complaints involving deliveries of yellow peas.

Crockford said Hanson had indicated on Nov. 15 that he was neither buying or selling grain as of that date.

Hanson contends that "there wan't $5 million in bounced checks" but there was about $700,000 and that the $5 million number "may include all grain that was picked up, outstanding contacts and only $700,000 "was cancelled checks."

In an interview in Fargo, Hunter repeated an explanation of his difficulties that was placed on his company website.

"We had a few misfortunate events that happened in the last couple weeks," Hanson said. "One was our hose that pumps out ground water out of the bottom of our (unloading) pit froze and pumped water into most of our bins causing wet and smelly grain," he said. "And also we had a misunderstanding in the office and checks where written out when they were not supposed to be, we tried to notify everyone that was effect. I am doing everything possible to resolve the issues that occured and I am personally sorry for the matters that happened."

Hanson said some of the payments involve grain that has not yet been picked up from farmers.

Midwest Grain Trading had a "roving grain buyer" license since May 16, 2017. That entity has a $400,000 bond on file from State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

NoDak Grain was licensed as a warehouse since June 25, 2018, at Tunbridge, N.D., about six miles west of Rugby, N.D.; and at Rohrville, N.D., since Sept. 11, 2018. Midwest Grain "should have a bond of $405,000" based on Midwest Grain Trading's purchases from Aug. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018, the order said. The surety bond with Corepointe Insurance Co..

The PSC lists four claims against Hanson's companies for failure to pay on yellow pea shipments.

• Nov. 14, Jan Leishman of Shafer Commodities contacted the PSC about non-payment of yellow peas at the Tunbridge facility.

• Nov. 20, Art Stacey, an attorney for Delmar Commodities, Ltd., Winkler, Manitoba, said a check from for yellow peas was returned unpaid. Additional yellow peas sold to Midwest Grain Trading have not been paid.

• Nov. 20, Dan Mostad, general manager for Berthold Farmers Elevator, LLC, Berthold, said his company had not been paid for yellow peas sold to Midwest Grain Trading.

• Nov. 20, Shawn Madsen, operations manager for Southland Pulse, Inc., Estevan, Saskatchewan, reported non-payment of yellow peas delivered to Rohrville, N,D.

Separately, the PSC said it still is working to determine which district court to file insolvency proceedings. Roving grain license cases typically are filed in Burleigh County at Bismarck. Warehouse license actions tend to be filed in the county where the facility is located—in this case, Ramsey County.