In Lee County, Judge Hears Details of Turner Grain, Related Companies

by Lee Hogan  on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 4:30 pm  

The Brinkley headquarters of Turner Grain Merchandising Inc. and its related companies. (Photo by Lee Hogan)

A Lee County Circuit judge on Thursday excused a Dumas company from a blanket order issued last week in an attempt to preserve assets claimed by farmers who did business with Turner Grain Merchandising Inc. of Brinkley.

In a lengthy hearing, Gerald Loyd, president of Turner Commodities Inc. of Dumas, provided a few additional details on Turner Grain and its executives, including Jason Coleman. 

Ultimately, Circuit Judge Richard L. Proctor agreed that Turner Commodities was not connected to the claims eight Lee County farmers have against Turner Grain. The judge said the only connection between Loyd, Turner Commodites and the farmers was Jason Coleman and Dale Bartlett, two executives at Turner Grain who, along with Loyd, are shareholders in Turner Commodities.

"There is no evidence of dealings between Gerald Loyd or Turner Commodities and the plaintiffs," Proctor said. 

Proctor had barred Turner Grain and its related companies from disposing of assets. The order aimed "to protect the stability of the Plaintiffs’ farming operations and their livelihoods and to safeguard the assets of the Plaintiffs which are in the hands of Defendants of other third parties." But on Thursday he dissolved the part of the order that applied to Turner Commodities and Loyd. 

Turner Grain acts as middleman between the farmers who produce grains and the companies that purchase it. The company contracts to buy grain, takes possession of it, finds a buyer, and then pays farmers once it sells the grain.

But farmers are alleging that Turner has defaulted on its payments, leaving them worried about breached contracts and possible losses, which Arkansas' Agriculture Secretary Butch Calhoun has said could be upwards of $50 million. No one affiliated with Turner Grain has returned repeated calls for comment.

The eight farmers in Lee County have sued Turner Grain for fraud, saying the company hasn’t paid them for the grain it purchased from the farmers and then sold to a third party. Another group of farmers in Lonoke County filed a lawsuit against Turner on Friday.

The hearing was the first time a case related to the collapse of Turner Grain went before a judge. 

'Under a Lot of Pressure'

In his testimony, Loyd recounted the last time he spoke to Jason Coleman.

Loyd said he attempted to call Coleman and Bartlett multiple times after his monthly salary check from Turner Commodities bounced. Loyd also said funds were missing from Turner Commodities’ bank accounts, and that he believed Coleman to be the culprit.



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