Dems nominate 2 for utilities commission seatsCandidates point to Anderson Seeds debacle as reason to vote out incumbents.
By: Chet Brokaw, The Daily Republic
ABERDEEN — The two Democratic candidates tapped Saturday to run for the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission said they will criticize their incumbent Republican opponents for not doing enough to protect farmers from a failed grain-buying company. Delegates at the Democratic state convention nominated Matt McGovern, 40, a Sioux Falls lawyer and the grandson of former Sen. George McGovern, to run for a full six-year term on the commission that regulates grain warehouses and natural gas, electric and telephone utilities. McGovern likely will face current PUC member Kristie Fiegen of Sioux Falls, a former state lawmaker.
Democrats also nominated Nick Nemec, 53, a farmer from Holabird and former state lawmaker, to run for a four-year term on the commission. He likely will face PUC Chairman Chris Nelson, former secretary of state.
Fiegen and Nelson both were appointed to the panel last year to fill vacancies. Both have declared their candidacies, though the Republican Party will nominate candidates for the commission at its state convention next week.
McGovern told delegates that the current commissioners should have done more to protect farmers hurt by the collapse of Anderson Seeds Co. Inc., which owes farmers in North Dakota and South Dakota an estimated $4 million for sunflowers the farmers delivered to the company.
“It’s just a horrible scandal and an absolute failure of the PUC to protect farmers as they should,” McGovern said.
Nemec said the Anderson Seeds incident was one of the main reasons he decided to run for the commission, calling it an example of South Dakota’s failure to properly regulate businesses.
“This is a travesty,” Nemec said.
Nelson said the Democrats’ criticism is unfair because the current three members of the commission — all Republicans — have done everything they legally could to protect the unpaid farmers.
“For them to say we failed is an absolute falsehood because we complied with state law in every regard,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the commission later this month will unveil a proposal to strengthen laws covering the regulation of grain warehouses and grain buyers.
The PUC has said Anderson Seeds appeared to be in good financial shape when it was licensed as a grain buyer in 2010, but the commission revoked the company’s license after receiving complaints early this year from farmers who were not paid for sunflowers they delivered to the Redfield operation.
A Canadian company has said it has an agreement to purchase the Redfield site. But officials have said it appears there will be no money left to pay farmers after the proceeds of the sale are used to repay a secured bank loan secured. Farmers who have not been paid for grain are unsecured creditors, meaning they get paid only after secured creditors.