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Utica Grain keeps license, faces financial conditions

PIERRE — The state Public Utilities Commission decided Tuesday against suspending the grain-buyer's license but placed stiff conditions on Utica Grain Inc.

The company, whose president is Yankton businessman Ralph Marquardt, must submit monthly financial reports for third-party review and keep clean financial records.

Marquardt also guaranteed any producer would be made financially whole.

The company has locations at Irene, Meckling, Tabor and Utica.

Commission attorney Amanda Reiss asked for the suspension. She said the company was operating at a net loss and had been "for some time."

Mitch Peterson, a Sioux Falls lawyer, said the company now was in compliance with a requirement state Class A license holders have cushions of at least $100,000.

Marquardt told the commission he and his younger brother John assembled a plan.

"We're under completely new management. We are excited about the opportunity," Marquardt said.

Marquardt added that he would personally guarantee producers wouldn't lose a dollar.

Cody Chambliss, manager for the commission's grain-warehouse division, said the company estimated it faces a 2018 loss of $2 million.

"Based on the books, it appears they are operating at a loss each year," Reiss added.

She said some debts disappeared from the latest statement the company submitted to the commission's staff.

"We have no information about why these line items have been removed," she said.

Marquardt replied that he put cash into the company so that debt became investment.

Commissioner Chris Nelson said the staff did its job bringing "the very serious matter to us." Nelson told Marquardt the company's challenge will be to disprove the concerns.

"It will be done," Marquardt said.

Nelson warned he would seek revoking the license if conditions deteriorate.

"Not an easy situation," Commission Chairwoman Kristi Fiegen said. She added, "This is on a short leash now."