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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Veblen West Dairy Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Richard Millner's dairy empire continues to crumble. In March, his giant, polluting Veblen East Dairy was placed in receivership under Agstar. Now its sister CAFO, Veblen West Dairy, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The papers hit the court the same week that Mayor Lavonne Jacobson claimed that the Veblen Dairy is one of the community's biggest assets.

When your biggest asset is a bankrupt dairy that violates state environmental regulations, you've got trouble. (Mayor Jacobson nonetheless won another two-year term, beating challenger Ralph Parsons 35 votes to 30.)

Of course, Chapter 11 doesn't mean the end of business (that's Chapter 7). Chapter 11 allows the debtor to reorganize and keep control of the business. It may also allow the debtor to dodge litigation... and that concerns me, since action by the courts and government seem to be the only way to make Millner fulfill his obligations to his neighbors and business partners.

I wonder: what if we had not subsidized Millner's Veblen operations by funneling to it money from Korean investors jumping the green card queue? Might domestic shareholders with a sincere market interest in the operation have held the dairy more accountable for operating honestly and legally and turning a profit?


  1. Real investors might have more closely scrutinized the business plan. The Koreans no doubt just saw it as the cost of buying a green card. I give you money you give me a green card. They had no expectation of actually making money on the "investment".

  2. This is why the voters in 1998 passed Amendment E-to prevent a non-family artificial entity having legal status in SD as it relates to ranching/farming. When a business is able to hide behind the "corporate veil", awful things happen to creditors, community, and to the environment. The main purpose for E was to maintain individual resposibility in order that all of our resources-people, water, air, and local economies are protected and respected. unfortunatley this will not be the first and only "misfire" in South Dakota's misguided approach to growing the dairy/livestock sector. Our goal should always be to increase the number of owners-producers in this state not necessarily the number of livestock. Problems begin when the owner no longer is the one doing the chores.

    Charlie Johnson


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