Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service
BISMARCK — Hunter Hanson "totally destroyed me, financially," said Leon Schmaltz, who farms near Harvey in central North Dakota. Schmaltz was one of four victims who testified Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the sentencing hearing for Hanson, 22, who pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and money laundering charges after his grain dealing scheme unraveled, leaving farmers and elevators being owed millions of dollars. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland sentenced Hanson at the top of a sentencing guideline range, eight years in a federal prison, plus three years of probation.
MINNEAPOLIS — Federal prosecutors in the Jerry Hennessey fraud case recommended to the court how the $5.3 million in restitution should be split among victims of the former elevator manager, which will be a fraction of percentage of what is owed. Hennessey, 56, is serving an eight-year prison sentence for the many years he spent defrauding the Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator in western Minnesota. The fraud, with much of the money spent on big-game hunting trips around the globe, was discovered in September 2018.
MOTT, N.D. — An ambitious man from Mott was an early victim of the 1980s farm credit crisis and would play a key government role in getting money back in the hands of farmers. Milton J. “Milt” Hertz ran a 26,000-acre farm, with 750 beef cows. The farm had up to 30 full-time and seasonal employees and ran five of the iconic Steiger tractors that were made in Fargo. His son, Shane, graduated high school in 1980 and was at his side.
FARGO — Ken Knudsen would just as soon forget the farm stress of the 1980s, but he hopes today’s ag lenders remember its lessons. Knudsen, 63, had a front seat to the farm credit crisis of the 1980s, when one in four farms failed because of economic losses. He says that today he isn’t seeing the restructuring and a shake-out of farm numbers in the Upper Midwest that he did back then.
FARGO — The impact of the U.S. trade war with China on farm commodity prices is bad, but it is not clear whether low prices and a lack of markets will turn into a credit crisis like the one that crippled the ag industry in the 1980s. The Steffes family’s auction business in the Fargo and Arthur, N.D., areas served farmers and lenders as they dealt with the decade-long 1980s crisis. The times and challenges were instrumental in growing the Steffes Group into a multistate auction name.
WEST FARGO, N.D. -- U.S. Department of Agriculture checks to farmers will play a vital role in economic survival in 2019, a year of devastating wet conditions and marketing losses due to a tariff trade war with China. Most of the money that flows to farmers comes through the USDA’s Risk Management Agency. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency delivers most other support programs, including Market Facilitation Program payments to offset the farm effects of a tariff war.
GRENORA, N.D. — Wade and Breann Fischer likely won’t go to Bismarck on Nov. 12, the day Hunter Hanson is scheduled to be sentenced in a federal court for generating losses for claimants up to $11.2 million. If the court schedule holds, the date will be the one-year anniversary from when the Fischers realized the young grain trader from Leeds, N.D., had cheated them out of $144,000 — roughly three years of their farm profits.
BUTNER, N.C. — Jerry Hennessey, who used money from the elevator he managed in Minnesota to pay for big-game hunting trips, on July 29 reported to the low-security area of Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota sugar producers are spearheading a new super PAC, called the Committee for Stronger Rural Communities, formed July 19, to help get Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., reelected in 2020. American Crystal Sugar Co., a Moorhead, Minn.-based farmer-owned sugar production and processing cooperative, made an initial $150,000 contribution to the super PAC, which raised $300,000 in its first week.