By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald
The future of Lapeer Grain remains up in the air, and farmers are scrambling for alternatives.
Lapeer Grain posted a notice on Oct. 23 stating it would not pay for the grain farmers had harvested. Soon after the notice, several farmers filed a complaint with the state. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development subsequently suspended the company on Oct. 31.
Jennifer Holton, a spokeswoman for the state agriculture department, said farmers and producers have been paid through Oct. 31. She said Lapeer Grain still has grain from farmers on hand the company hasn’t paid for.
“This is a lengthy and complicated process,” Holton said in an email. “MDARD is working as quickly as possible to not only do this right, but also ensure farmers can become whole.”
Lapeer Grain has retail outlets in Deckerville, Imlay City and Lapeer, according to its website. It also has licensed grain dealers in Capac, Palms, Jeddo, Lapeer and Imlay City.
Holton said there have been about five claims filed with the Farm Produce Insurance Authority as of Monday.
“The Farm Produce Insurance Authority is still scheduled to meet in mid-December; however, they may not be able to review claims at this meeting,” Holton said. “The members will be developing a plan to continue moving forward.”
Holton said the company’s creditor has put together a package to sell the 2015 grain contracts as well as the three facilities owned by Lapeer Grain — Imlay City, Lapeer and Capac.
Pigeon-based Cooperative Elevator Co. has acquired licenses for bin space at Jeddo, Palms and Imlay City, Holton said. As part of the Imlay City lease, Cooperative Elevator has assumed all of the 2014 deliverable contracts for corn and soybean.
The last time Berlin Township farmer Dave Naeyaert used Lapeer Grain’s facilities in Capac was more than a year ago.
Since Naeyaert was a kid growing up in Capac, he said there has always been a business accepting grain. This transition period has been a difficult one, he said.
He said farmers have to travel farther to places like Imlay City where they can offload their grain.
“It’s a lot of inconvenience because of this uncertainty,” he said. “At the present at least, grain is being accepted in Imlay City.”
Naeyaert said if a business should come in from a different market to take over the Capac facility, it will be harder for farmers because the incoming business most likely will not have the same interest in boosting the local economy.
“Once you get an out-of-the-area company, their business is to make money,” Naeyaert said. “To try to cultivate a growing relationship with the farmer will be gone. It will be strictly business. You lose a local feel.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 9, 2014)