Top 10 Ag News Stories of 2017 - Counting Down the Most Influential Stories

OMAHA (DTN) -- The DTN countdown of the 10 most influential stories in agriculture is an annual ritual in the DTN newsroom. Like the mad dash for the last few Christmas presents or the threat from Senior Analyst Darin Newsom to bring scrapple to the newsroom holiday snack party, a year's end would not be the same without our review of the stories that our reporters and editors feel had the greatest effect on you, our readers and customers.

Looking over the list of potential pieces, we were reminded of what a roller coaster 2017 was -- from deadly spring fires across the Southern Plains to the devastating floods spawned by harvest-time hurricanes. There were the threats of a loss of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and the fruition of the EPA promise to stick a fork in the onerous Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. There was also the government's failure to arrive at a real health care bill, but the surprising ability to create new tax law.

DTN/The Progressive Farmer had its own roller-coaster ride, from the lows of losing a beloved colleague, to the celebration of once again becoming a self-standing company focused on farming's future.

We hope the stories this week provide some reflection on what was and what could have been, as well as some thoughts about what yet can be.


No. 10 Boersen Farms Affected by Corn Slump

OMAHA (DTN) -- One of the most widely read stories on DTN in 2017 is our No. 10 agriculture news story of the year -- financial troubles for one of the nation's largest farms, Zeeland, Michigan-based Boersen Farms Inc.

In September, the more than 80,000-acre Boersen Farms asked a federal court to place its operation in the hands of a receivership, in response to a lawsuit alleging the farm defaulted on about $145.3 million in loans from CHS Capital LLC in August.

Boersen Farms bought the bulk of Decatur, Michigan-based Stamp Farms LLC's land-lease agreements and other assets in what was considered one of the largest farm bankruptcies ever in 2013.

An attorney for the farm's owner, Dennis Boersen, told DTN last fall the cheaper corn prices put pressure on the operation. When Boersen farms acquired the Stamp Farm assets, corn prices were higher. "They bought a lot of this property at $6 and $7 corn, and now it's trading under $4," said Cody H. Knight, a bankruptcy attorney with Rayman & Knight based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who represented the Boersens.

In October, court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Western Michigan showed a new lender, LT Capital LLC, agreed to take on the debt. The new lender then dismissed the court action against the farm. Boersen Farms faced lawsuits in other states.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State's office, an LT Capital LLC based in Zeeland filed for articles of incorporation with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Sept. 29, 2017. The filing documents list Brian Terborg as the resident agent of the LLC. A person of that same name is listed as CFO of Zeeland Farm Services Inc., a family-owned agriculture services business based in Zeeland.

Boersen Farms had been sued by equipment companies and others. The CHS lawsuit alleged Boersen farms used more than $200,000 in CHS' cash collateral toward buying a $614,000 house.

Boersen Farms also faced a lawsuit in Utah. In U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, equipment company TFG-Michigan filed a lawsuit claiming it has not been paid for more than 120 center pivots leased by Boersen Farms. Boersen Farms was found in contempt of court in that case. In U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, Boersen Farms was sued for breach of contract related to its pursuit of finding someone to acquire the CHS debt.

Commodity prices had a big impact in leading to problems for Boersen, stressed bankruptcy attorney Knight.

"Our law firm does all insolvency work. In the past five years, four of five cases have been in agriculture. You have to be big to survive, but even big farmers have been struggling," Knight told DTN earlier this year.

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