WOOSTER, Ohio – A Wayne County Common Pleas Court judge ordered a local grain elevator owner to 5 years probation, 500 hours of community service, and a minimum restitution of $20,000 per year to the Ohio Farmers’ Indemnity Fund, after his fraudulent reporting practices caused local farmers’ losses exceeding $1 million.
Charges. Richard Hartzler, owner of Hartzler Feed & Seed in Rittman, was charged with tampering with records after an investigation conducted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture concluded he submitted false financial documents to continue operating his grain elevator.
Hartzler was issued a cease and desist order in April 2001 after the department discovered he did not have sufficient inventories and assets to cover grain obligations in excess of $1 million.
Reimbursed. The state’s farmer-financed indemnity fund has since reimbursed farmers a total of $752,450.88.
The department’s Grain Warehouse Section handles claims to the indemnity fund, which must be approved or disapproved by the Commodity Advisory Commission. Claims for indemnification must meet strict guidelines, including proof in the form of receipts.
In the case of a grain elevator insolvency, grain depositors with receipts are reimbursed 100 percent by the state for any grain stored in the elevator.
Delayed price and basis transactions are reimbursed 100 percent of the first $10,000 of the loss and 80 percent of the remainder. To date, the indemnity fund has reimbursed farmers more than $4.1 million.
ODA responsibility. The ODA is charged by Ohio law to license and regulate agricultural commodity handlers in Ohio. All licensed handlers are required to meet certain net worth requirements, verified by financial statements submitted annually to ODA.
In addition, handlers are required to have insurance coverage equal to full market value on all grain in their facilities to protect all parties from possible financial loss.