Auction highlights remnants of once-mighty Farmer’s Grain

By Les Zaitz

The Enterprise

VALE – The dismantling of Galen Jantz’s farming enterprise continues with a big auction next week as attorneys and creditors continue to fight over the remnants.

Jantz is the former Idaho farmer who moved to Vale, established a cattle and corn operation, and then built a grain brokerage in Nyssa he called Farmers Grain.

The business dissolved in bankruptcy and lawsuits earlier this year, and Jantz reportedly has moved to Wisconsin.

Left behind is a trail of creditors, including bankers, equipment dealers and neighboring farmers, struggling to get what they say is owed them. Farmers Grain filed bankruptcy owing $23 million. A financier sued Jantz and his entities for $15 million, including $8 million in financing he guaranteed for Farmers Grain.

The Farmers Grain operation already has been auctioned off. Buyers got trucks, trailers and equipment. An Idaho cattleman put in the winning bid for the Nyssa property, including silos and buildings, but the deal won’t be certain until early next year, and the fate of the brokerage isn’t clear.

Meantime, U.S. Auction is moving onto the Jantz estate east of Vale for an auction at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 7. The auction will run from the Jantz shop, 1547 Vale View Road. Up for sale will be tractors, trucks, trailers, harvesting equipment, and ATVs. The collection includes everything from salt blocks to grease guns.

“This is going to be very, very good equipment,” said auctioneer Keith Couch. He said the auction will be live streamed online and bidders can arrange phone buys.

He expects the auction to last about four hours. He said auctioneers would sell equipment in bid sessions that will last no more than two minutes in most cases. He said some of the equipment to be auctioned was acquired by Jantz from earlier U.S. Auction sessions.

Couch expects bidders from around the country.

“We’ve had calls from Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska,” Couch said.

A state judge last week settled what would become of the money raised through the auction.

The decision came after a legal dispute emerged between Steve Neighbors, appointed as conservator for Jantz, and CFO Solutions, appointed as receiver for assets pledged to Rabo Agrifinance as collateral by Jantz Family Farms and Jantz Land Co.

Neighbors, represented by Vale attorney Dustin Martinsen, argued in court filings that the money should go him as conservator to take care of Jantz. CFO, represented by Eugene attorney Brad Copeland, responded that the law didn’t allow Neighbors to shut out creditors who had liens against the farming operation.

In last week’s decision, the court ruled that creditors who financed particular pieces of equipment would be paid. Other funds would be held until the dispute between the conservator and receiver was settled.

Meantime, court filings show that winding down the Jantz enterprise has been costly.

CFO Solutions filed in Malheur County Circuit Court seeking $61,640 in fees and expenses for a month’s work as receiver. The Portland law firm of Sussman Shank, another firm representing the receiver, submitted to the court a claim for $32,794 in fees and expenses for 18 days of work in October. Matt Christensen, a Boise attorney representing the defunct Farmers Grain, applied in federal bankruptcy court for $33,881 in fees and expenses.

State court filings show the receiver by the end of October had accumulated $481,855 from the sale of cattle, grain and from rents. That money will eventually be used to pay creditors.