Agribusiness failures sting Iowa farmers

IOWA - Farmers flocked to Walterman Implement Inc. in Dike for its unbeatable deals on Case IH combines that cost $250,000 or more apiece.

But then the dealership's owner, Leon Walterman, was accused of defrauding lenders and suppliers and misappropriating corporate funds.

As a result of his business' bankruptcy, hundreds of farmers in Iowa and surrounding states could lose money — from a few thousand dollars to six-figure sums — and face a tangled web of litigation that could take years to play out.

"The whole deal stinks," said Dave Thorland of Thompson, who farms with his brother, Steve. They lost a $16,000 payment to the Dike dealership and received no compensation from Case.

The Walterman case, pending in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Cedar Rapids, has shed light on practices shunned by some farm equipment dealers but embraced by others. Financing methods used by Walterman and others can make it possible for farmers to purchase expensive pieces of farm equipment, but they also put farmers at risk.

Several years ago, Case closed down a dealership in Kahoka, Mo., that used similar financing, and farmers lost thousands of dollars apiece, according to farmers from that area and other equipment dealers. More recently, the failure of a Case dealership in Ontario, Canada, resulted in farmers paying six-figure settlements to lenders.

Source: DesMoinesRegister
calendar icon 22 February 2006
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