PUC to propose new grain regulations after Anderson Seed debaclePIERRE — Just a few years ago the Legislature, at the request of the state Public Utilities Commission, completely overhauled South Dakota’s laws regulating grain buyers and grain warehouses.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Just a few years ago the Legislature, at the request of the state Public Utilities Commission, completely overhauled South Dakota’s laws regulating grain buyers and grain warehouses.
Evidently they didn’t go far enough.
PUC Chairman Chris Nelson will be joined by vice chairwoman Kristie Fiegen at a mid-morning news conference today to discuss the latest set of legislative proposals.
Nelson and Fiegen are new on the commission, having been appointed in the past year. They face election in November.
They are responding to the financial failure of Anderson Seed Co. at Redfield.
PUC spokeswoman Leah Mohr said Tuesday the points of the legislation will be distributed at the news conference.
Last week Nelson and Fiegen received their political party’s nominations for election to the PUC at the South Dakota Republicans state convention.
The prior week, South Dakota Democrats nominated Nick Nemec and Matt McGovern. Democrats immediately identified the Anderson Seed incident as a defining difference.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed the two Republicans to the commission last year to fill the vacancies left by the resignations of Republican Dusty Johnson to accept a Daugaard chief of staff job and Democrat Steve Kolbeck to receive an executive position in the private sector.
Nelson and Fiegen now get to defend the PUC’s role and explain the intricacies of what the PUC does and doesn’t regulate in the grain trade.
The defense is already under way as can be seen on the PUC website, where there’s a lengthy but concise set of explanations at http://www.puc.sd.gov/ Warehouse/andersonseed.aspx on the Internet.
The PUC bond required of Anderson Seed didn’t cover, and wasn’t supposed to cover under state law, many of the grain transactions that took place between producers and Anderson Seed.
What’s also interesting to note in the PUC explanations are the references to changes made in state laws by the Legislature during the 2008 and 2009 session. The 2008 changes were in a big package of legislation, five separate bills, specifically intended to modernize the grain buyer statutes in South Dakota.
The news conference scheduled for today is being conducted as a PUC event, rather than as a campaign or political one. It will be during a break in the Governor’s Ag Development Summit at the Ramkota in Pierre.
Four of those bills didn’t receive a negative vote in the Senate or the House of Representatives. The only nay votes — two in the Senate, three in the House — came on the bill raising the licensing and related fees.
The 2009 changes came in a package of three separate bills. They didn’t get a single nay vote in either chamber.
The PUC conducted a financial inspection of Anderson Seed’s books in mid-2011 and didn’t find anything amiss.
But three complaints of slow payments were received from producers on Jan. 14, and the PUC determined the producers were later paid in full.
Because of those complaints, the PUC ordered a financial inspection that was conducted Jan. 17. The inspection found trouble brewing. The company’s license was suspended Feb. 17.
The news conference scheduled for today is being conducted as a PUC event, rather than as a campaign or political one. It will be held during a break in the Governor’s Ag Development Summit being held at the Ramkota in Pierre.