By Les Zaitz
VALE – The financial vise continues to squeeze Vale farmer Galen Jantz.
A receiver has taken over his personal farm holdings in Malheur County, including 230 head of cattle and 700 acres growing corn.
A temporary conservator has been appointed to take over managing what’s left of his financial resources.
And creditors will meet next week in Boise to consider what to do with the financial wreckage of Farmers Grain, the Nyssa grain brokerage now being liquidated.
A full account of the collapse and Jantz’s role in it remains elusive, with relatives saying the details may all come out in court proceedings in the weeks and months ahead.
Jantz himself is under the care of a therapist, and now lives at an undisclosed location in Wisconsin, according to court filings.
“He recognizes there were mistakes made along the way,” said his brother, Dwayne Jantz. “He has deep regrets that so many people were involved. That so many people felt this problem is a very deep concern of his.”
A native of Buhl, Idaho, Jantz formed Farmers Grain in 2013, building storage structures in Nyssa and providing farmers in the region a new place to store and sell grain, particularly corn.
In 2016, both Farmers Grain and Jantz suffered losses, according to attorneys involved in the case and court files.
The trouble may trace back to contracts Jantz executed a year ago to buy and sell large quantities of corn. In June 2016, Farmers Grain entered a contract for 5,000,000 bushels of corn and a month later contracted for another 5,388,000 bushels of corn. The contracts with CHS Inc. in Moses Lake, Wash., showed Farmers Grain was both the producer and the buyer, but those affiliated with Farmers Grain didn’t respond to questions or said they couldn’t explain the contracts.
Steve Neighbors, the conservator of Jantz’s estate, said those contracts are “at the heart of the demise” and that Jantz may not have “crossed all the i’s and dotted all the t’s.” He said Farmers Grain paid CHS $6 million last year and is listed in bankruptcy filings as owing another $2.8 million.
“Farmers Grain believes it doesn’t owe them that,” he said.
Matt Christensen, attorney for Farmers Grain, didn’t return a message seeking comment.
CHS officials declined to respond to specific questions.
“While we appreciate the opportunity to respond, we hold every customer’s financial and business information with CHS, no matter the circumstances, in the strictest confidence,” the company said in a statement to the Malheur Enterprise on Monday.
At the end of 2016, Idaho farmer Chris Unruh, identified in court records as a partner and “close friend” of Jantz, loaned Farmers Grain $4.2 million.
Jantz personally wasn’t doing well either, according to court filings. Rabo AgrFinance, which said it loaned money to both Jantz and Farmers Grain, said in Malheur County court filings that by the end of 2016, Jantz was insolvent. He had assets he valued at $5.1 million but liabilities of $5.9 million, meaning he owed more than he had.
Additionally, Rabo said Jantz’s farming operations lost $936,997, meaning it cost Jantz nearly $1 million more to run his operations than he made.
On Sept. 5, a state court agreed with Rabo to appoint a receiver to take control of all Jantz’s assets that had been used as collateral for loans from Rabo.
The lender said the collateral was in “imminent danger” of being sold or otherwise removed. Rabo said someone needed to step in immediately.
“Livestock collateral must be fed and watered and cared for or it could perish,” Rabo said in its court filing. “Growing crops collateral must be properly tended and fertilized and harvested or it could be lost.”
One reason for speed, Rabo said, was that Jantz wasn’t in the area any longer.
In a separate legal action, Jantz’s family and colleagues asked that a temporary conservator be appointed to take over what was left of the farmer’s assets. The filing including filings by Jantz’s wife, an adult son, his brother-in-law, and his brother urging a conservator be put in place.
The filing said Jantz faced “extreme pressure and stress” when he tried to run Farmers Grain after it filed for bankruptcy in April.
The stress also came from efforts to “protect his community of farmers, family, friends and neighbors from great losses from their dealings with Farmers Grain.”
Those efforts “ultimately proved insurmountable” and Jantz “essentially abandoned the area in order to focus on his mental and physical health.” The filing said Jantz was in Wisconsin.
Jantz didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
Neighbors, named the temporary conservator, said he would likely seek appointment permanently to manage Jantz’s affairs until his health recovers.
“He’s pledged everything and he wants nothing,” Neighbors said. “I need to make sure that Galen isn’t on the streets.”
Have a news tip? Contact Malheur Enterprise publisher Les Zaitz at firstname.lastname@example.org
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