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Monday, September 20, 2010

Press AWOL on Huge Veblen Dairy Bankruptcy Sale

Last week David Newquist said the traditional press just doesn't have the time or motivation to cover agriculture. Here's support for that contention: I'm hearing from my sources that the bankruptcy auction to liquidate the environmental atrocity known as Veblen East went forward last week. The buyer, "Vista Family Dairies LLC," apparently bid $21,300,000: $800 for each of 5000 head of cattle and $17,300,000 for the facility. That's the minimum requested bid for the cattle and $1,300,000 more than the minimum requested bid for the facility. The bid is also less than half the $50 million Veblen East cost to build.

No information for Vista Family Dairies LLC is available online, not even corporate papers or fictitious name registration on the Secretary of State's website... and if I'm reading state statute correctly, Vista Family Dairies LLC needs to have such papers filed before conducting business like bidding in a bankruptcy auction.

Vista Family Dairies is likely not the happy family operation its name implies. I'm betting it's Veblen East owner Rick Millner, who is surely scurrying around northeastern South Dakota and beyond trying to find investors who don't know his history of fleecing business partners, stiffing suppliers, and driving dairy operations into the ground through bad business and environmental practices.

And those potential investors won't know the history of either Millner or Veblen East because the local media haven't covered it. In all my blogging about Richard Millner's troubled dairy operations, I have relied on primary source, court documents, and AgWeek. Emily Arthur-Richardt of the Aberdeen American News did a good job in 2007 on the story of the Veblen East Dairy getting built with money from rich foreigners buying their way to the front of the line for green cards. However, on Millner's environmental violations and bankruptcy, the South Dakota press has been mostly silent. (Readers, you are welcome to submit links and articles to prove my memory faulty!)

By one account, polluting Veblen East and its bankrupt twin dairy Veblen West make up 15% of South Dakota's dairy industry. If a hospital or credit card call center that made up 15% of its industry in this state polluted the neighboring watershed, went broke, and was auctioned off to a mystery LLC, the media would be covering it... wouldn't they?

The Veblen East auction and pending Veblen West bankruptcy activity are big financial and environmental news. On this important story, the professional press are AWOL.

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