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Missouri Agriculture Department seizes grain-shipping business

Monday, February 23, 2009 | 6:21 p.m. CST; updated 10:44 p.m. CST, Monday, February 23, 2009

COLUMBIA — A northeast Missouri trucking company and grain elevator has had its license suspended and owes area farmers and other sellers at least $1 million, state regulators allege in court records.

An Audrain County circuit judge granted a petition Friday by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, freezing the assets of T.J. Gieseker Farms and Trucking of Martinsburg.

Attorney General Chris Koster, who represented the state agency, said the family-owned business has assets of less than $1 million but more than $2 million in debts.

"A grain elevator is like a bank," Koster said Monday. "Customers entrust their grain to these companies with the understanding and legal guarantee that their assets will be protected."

Cathy Gieseker, the owner and sole employee of the business, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday. A relative said she was hospitalized and referred questions to the Agriculture Department.

A routine audit revealed financial irregularities connected to the business, said J. Chris Klenklen, administrator of grain regulatory services for the Agriculture Department.

"A great number of farmers were concerned about getting paid," Klenklen said. "She owed a lot more money than what she was telling us."

Klenklen hesitated to specify how many farmers are potentially at risk of losing money. He and other state officials will hold a community meeting in Martinsburg on Wednesday to answer questions from farmers planning to file legal claims related to the asset seizure.

The state's petition says that Gieseker Farms and Trucking — also known as T.J. Gieseker Trucking Inc. — had a letter of credit for $297,000 on file with the Agriculture Department.

Such credit guarantees typically represent 1 percent of a company's annual sales, Klenklen said. That means the company potentially bought and sold an estimated $297 million of grain each year.

Klenklen said Gieseker served as broker between grain farmers in northeast Missouri and buyers in St. Louis; Louisiana, Mo.; Mexico, Mo.; and Quincy, Ill.

The company still has about $100,000 worth of grain stored in elevators across the state as well as $557,447 in its bank account, according to the state's petition seeking appointment as legal trustee and receiver of the business assets.


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brian woodhurst February 24, 2009 | 9:17 a.m.
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