In farming (and award programs), we salute people who succeed. We praise those who work hard to grow their business. We often root for them on the climb up, then analyze and criticize them when they get there.
For over a decade, the Top Producer of the Year (TPOY) award program has searched for and celebrated the best and brightest in agriculture. So it is with sadness and dismay when we see one of our finalists fall down.
Top Producer learned this week that Stamp Farms, L.L.C., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
on Friday, Nov. 30, along with affiliate companies Stamp Farms Custom AG, L.L.C., and Stamp Farms Trucking, L.L.C. Estimated liabilities exceeded $50 million, with more than 200 total creditors cited in the bankruptcy filings. Monsanto was the largest creditor listed with a $3.9 million claim.
Mike Stamp was one of the Top Producer of the Year finalists, and Stamp Farms and Northstar Grain were featured on the cover of Top Producer’s November issue
. Our staff learned Nov. 9 – at least a week after the issue hit your mailboxes - that audits revealed irregularities and big changes were occurring at Stamp’s operations.
I have received many emails from readers suggesting we dig into Stamp’s farming situation and determine what happened. Our staff is committed to analyzing this situation and passing any valuable information we learn. To that end, look for reporting online and in the January 2013 issue.
I have also received emails asking how Top Producer could include Mike Stamp as a finalist for Top Producer of the Year? I would like to remind our readers that he was a finalist….but not the final winner. Our 2012 Top Producer of the Year was Gregg Halverson of Black Gold Farms.
I took time this week to read over last year’s judging comments. Our panel takes the job of choosing Top Producer of the Year very seriously. One of the judges requested an additional two weeks to make the final decision about the winner last year. All of the 2012 finalists brought talents and business skills to the table that made them worthy of being named a finalist.
Regarding Mike Stamp, every judge was impressed by how much he had accomplished in his farming career. Nothing in the financials that our judging panel reviewed looked irregular. As the information was presented to us, we saw a debt to equity ratio that while was high, but still acceptable. There was concern among the panel about how much Stamp was leveraged, but sometimes the more you’re leveraged, the more exponentially good life is when things work out. The flip side is it’s exponentially bad when things don’t work out.
As we all know, things can change very quickly in agriculture. Failure is part of the natural cycle of any business, and we can learn from it. I promise that Top Producer will run more follow up stories as to "why that didn’t work" and write balanced articles that ask deeper questions. Keep reading, and we’ll keep learning together.