Bruce Oakley To Give Turner Grain Money To Judge

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 3:28 pm  

A harvesting combine fills a delivery truck with soybeans. | (Shutterstock)

A North Little Rock company said Monday that it plans to hand over the money it owes Turner Grain Merchandising Inc. of Brinkley to a judge to decide how to divide it among Turner's creditors.

"We have a small amount of [Turner's] money because they do deliver to us and sell to us, but we turned that all over to our legal department," David Choate, vice president of grain and barge operation for Bruce Oakley Inc. of North Little Rock, said. "Because we're not in a position to divvy out who [Turner] owes and who they don't owe."

Choate didn't say how much money will be placed in the trust.

The move comes as Turner appears to be on the verge of filing for bankruptcy protection, leaving the farmers with whom it does business worried about breached contracts and possible losses. It also has at least one elected official calling for a hearing on the matter by the state House Agriculture, Forestry & Economic Development Committee.

"We have had several farmers from the Midsouth call us -- wanted to know if we had any money of theirs that they could access, just kind of a state of panic," Choate told Arkansas Business on Monday.

Sources told Arkansas Business last week that the grain merchandiser is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy protection with company losses in the millions of dollars. Farmers who have done business with Turner might also be exposed to losses in the millions, sources have said.

Turner Grain President Dale Bartlett and Vice President Jason Coleman have not returned calls for comment.

Meanwhile, Little Rock attorney Donald K. Campbell III confirmed to Arkansas Business that a "small group" of Arkansas farmers has hired him to deal with the Turner fallout. But Campbell declined to provide more details on Monday.

The case of Turner Grain has raised more questions than answers.

Choate said farmers from as far away as Mississippi have called Oakley searching for money they say Turner owes them. Turner also has producers in Louisiana and Missouri. The amount of debt is "going to be pretty widespread when it all falls out," Choate said.

Incorporated in 2002, Turner Grain acts as a middleman between the farmer and the client who wants to buy the grain. It will buy the farmer’s supply and hold it until a customer wants to purchase it.

But Turner Grain is not a broker whose role is limited to taking a commission for matching sellers with buyers. Turner's business is referred to in the industry as a "principal" or "jobber," actually contracting to buy and taking possession of the farmer's grain and delivering it to the ultimate buyer.



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