Continental megadairy files for bankruptcy

First Posted: 9/9/2010

CONTINENTAL - A rural megadairy associated with a Wauseon firm that recruited Dutch dairy farmers to the Midwest has filed for bankruptcy protection, this time in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Toledo.

Van Ham Dairy Leasing LLC, a company that owns the real estate on which Van Ham Dairy LLC has operated outside Continental for 7 years, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The filing last week lists the real-estate holding company as having assets of less than $10 million and liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million. Van Ham Dairy, which has about 2,200 cows, according to state inspectors, filed for bankruptcy protection in May.

The leasing company shares its main business address with Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development LLC, a Wauseon firm that has battled lawsuits from farmers and lenders alike as dairy prices have foundered in recent years.

Cecilia Conway, a Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development spokesman who last month had told The Blade that the company had no plans for further bankruptcy filings among its subsidiaries and investors, called the most recent case "very disappointing."

''We really hadn't foreseen that there were other filings that would need to happen," Ms. Conway said. "This client is doing something similar to what GM did, to keep operating his farm. He's got very aggressive lenders that aren't being cooperative with him, and this will allow him to get reorganized and continue to operate."

She continued to blame poor milk prices and high grain prices for the economic squeeze Vreba-Hoff's clients are experiencing. "It's not just here; it's nationwide," she said.

This year, two other Vreba-Hoff real-estate subsidiaries filed bankruptcy reorganizations in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis. Midwest AG Investments LLC filed for reorganization in June to protect its assets, including agricultural land in Sandusky County, Ohio, and Lenawee County, Michigan.

In July, two northwest Ohio dairy farms were sold as part of a $5 million foreclosure lawsuit against Vreba-Hoff filed by AgStarFinancial Services, a lending cooperative based in Mankato, Minn., that has named the Wauseon firm in other suits.

Wild Cat Dairy in Paulding County was sold for $1.81 million at a public sale, and Blue Stream Dairy in Van Wert County was sold for $1.4 million, according to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

AgStarFinancial is listed as the main creditor in the Van Ham Dairy case as well, holding a $7.6 million mortgage.

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