April 26, 2009
A Culbertson, Mont, oilseed processor has ceased processing operations and is cooperating with the Montana Department of Agriculture in efforts to pay farmers who delivered safflower seed to the plant.
Sustainable Systems LLC and a parent company agreed to sign a consent agreement allowing the department to sell its agricultural commodities, including crops, seed and processed cooking oil held at several Montana locations.
Legal notices have been published in area newspapers stating that the company's $113,000 surety bond in Montana will be distributed to pay a percentage of what is owed to growers in the state.
A separate process is taking place in North Dakota under a different legal framework. Under the terms of the consent agreement, agricultural commodities will be sold and Sustainable Systems will provide additional money in the future to satisfy the contracts for delivered safflower.
"We plan to work through this an orderly process that will maintain the value of assets for the benefit of growers," says MDA Director Ron de Yong. "Our first priority is to get producers paid."
In addition to the delivered crops, Sustainable Systems signed 2008 contracts with about three dozen other safflower and sunflower growers who have not yet delivered their seed. The company has agreed to work separately on contract issues with those producers.
The Culbertson plant has been operating since 1956, producing safflower cooking oil most recently under the Montola bran. At full production, the firm had 19 employees crushing and refining oil from crops.
Last month, the company voluntarily relinquished its license to purchase agricultural commodities, and has cooperated with the investigation and planned liquidation to pay growers.
"The voluntary cooperation should speed up the process of getting money to growers and allowing future development of the bio-products industry in Montana," says de Yong.
For more on this story, contact Andy Gray at the MDA at (406) 444-3730, or by e-mail at [email protected].
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