Public notices prompt paper’s look at grain company suspensions

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Ruth Witmer, Hoosier State Press Association

Public notices are important resources for keeping readers informed about groups and businesses in the community — even more so when they are developed into stories.

Earlier this month, a couple of notices caught the eye of Jessica Bricker, editor of the News-Banner in Bluffton. The notices arrived in an email to be published in the paper and indicated that there was an issue with two area grain companies.

Bricker consulted with Glen Werling at the News-Banner who puts together the paper’s weekly ag page. As it turned out, the companies’ licenses had been suspended and they were prevented from buying grain from farmers.

The information might have only been printed in notice form. “Instead it went across the top of the front page,” Bricker said. “I think it was more helpful that way.”

Read Bricker’s story below. Read Steve Key’s column “Public notices source of vital story ideas for newspapers” here.

Bricker’s story illustrates how public notices can be expanded into local coverage.

“We’ve been talking about getting away from meeting coverage … to have something that’s just kind of enterprising like this,” said News-Banner Publisher Doug Brown.

“The best part of this was that I didn’t ask her to do a story,” Brown said. “She just picked it up and said, ‘yes, this is newsworthy,’ and just ran with it.”

The story was published on March 6 in the News-Banner and is included below. Brown said the piece is an example of how public notices can further serve readers. “Here’s a good application for it,” he said.

For Bricker, the paper’s notices are another tool to find and tell stories.

“It’s certainly a teaching lesson for me and other reporters to pay attention to those,” she said.

“I haven’t really tapped into that resource until now. I think that it’s important for the public to have access to that information,” Bricker said. “It lets people know what’s going on in their communities. It’s really important.”

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State suspends licenses for 2 grain companies

Jessica Bricker, News-Banner (Bluffton)

Two grain mills operating locations in Wells County have had their licenses suspended temporarily by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

Legal notices were published in Thursday’s News-Banner notifying farmers of the suspensions for Agland Grain and Salamonie Mills.
The notices were “to all customers intending to store, grain bank, deferred pricing or sell grain” as of March 3.

“The Indiana Grain Buyers and Warehouse Licensing Agency has temporarily suspended Indiana grain buyer/warehouse license(s)” issued to both mills, the notices read.

During the suspensions, the facilities will be supervised by the ISDA director or a designated representative. The locations “may operate the facility, but shall not incur any additional obligations to producers,” the notices read in part.

This means the business is restricted in certain new purchase of grain.
A senior ISDA official said Thursday that legally the department cannot comment on the reason for the suspensions but suspensions last at most 20 days.

“Overall the end goal today is to work with the business owners, lift the suspension and have business return to normal. That’s always the goal for our agency,” the official said, adding later, “We’re very hopeful for that.”

The facilities can submit to the ISDA “requests for approval of removal of any grain from the assets” of their facilities.

“Any person owed grain and/or payment for the sale of grain” from the mills are to contact the ISDA.

Specifically listed in Agland’s notice were locations at 1136 Clark Ave. in Bluffton and 6025 N. Main St. in Uniondale.

Specifically listed in Salamonie Mills’ notice were locations at 156 Hale St. in Markle in Wells County; 525 N. Wayne St., Warren; 619 N. Main St., Warren; 10643 S. Hartford City Road, Warren; 10199 S. Wayne Road, Warren, and 1649N-200E, Huntington.

“The IGBWLA’s mission is to ensure the financial integrity of the grain marketing infrastructure, while allowing the industry to be competitive, innovative and efficient,” the ISDA website reads. “The agency has oversight of approximately 220 licensees that own more than 400 facilities.”

A request for comment from the facilities was not returned before press time.

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