The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has filed a complaint against the South Dakota Hutterian Co-operative arguing that the co-op has been operating as a grain trader without a license.
Filed on 15 July, the complaint points out that the co-op has never held a grain buyer license from the Commission, despite acting as a grain buyer and adds that the co-op requires a license and bond in order to buy grains from individual farmers.
“The manner in which SDHC conducts business is not different from any other co-operative. Co-operatives by their nature operate and exist for the benefit of their members. This does not exempt co-operatives from licensing laws. In fact, this Commission issued some 85 grain buyer licenses for co-operatives for this licensing year,” argues the complaint, adding that the co-op “has not been receptive to Staff’s requests to become properly licensed and bonded”.
Despite applying for a license after the complaint had been filed, the co-op asks not to have to comply with state regulations on financial reporting for grain dealers. According to AG Week, the co-op’s attorney Julie Dvorak told a meeting of the Public Utilities Commission on 30 August that compliance would come at a significant extra cost to the co-op and its members. She argued that as a co-op only open to Hutterites, a Christian faith whose adepts practice a near-total community of goods, and, as such, the reporting requirements were unnecessary. She added that producers were always paid and explained that the co-op had a bookkeeper and an accounting firm who deals with tax reporting.
The co-op has obtained a 90-day temporary exemption to enable it to cope with the busy harvest season but it will have to comply with the requirement at the end of the period.
Commission chair Chris Nelson told the co-op’s representative that making an exception in the case of the co-op would lead to other requests for exemptions, reports AG Week.