Manager's Corner

Manager's Corner

Three Indicted in Stamp Farms Fallout

Three employees of now-shuttered Stamp Farms in Decatur, Mich., have been indicted on charges they conspired to commit bankruptcy and crop insurance fraud while benefitting financially, a court filing shows. 

The filing also claims Robert Dennis Trowbridge, Jr., Andrew Paul Trowbridge and Larry Stambeck conspired to make false claims to investigators. 

“Through 2012 … [they] were employees of and friends of Michael David Stamp. As a result, they knew that Michael Stamp was in financial trouble; that Michael Stamp was unable to pay his bills; that Michael Stamp had filed a bankruptcy case in his own name; and that bankruptcy cases had been filed in the name of his former corporate farming businesses,” it states.

Mike Stamp was an ambitious farmer. A self-described “full-circle farmer,” he revitalized the local rail line and purchased and upgraded Northstar Grain, a historic feed mill and grain storage facility. These investments allowed area farmers to increase their shipping options and improve margins, a move that earned him a spot as a 2012 Top Producer of the Year finalist.

Yet an ugly twist emerged. Stamp Farms Trucking, Stamp Farms Custom Ag and Royal Star Farms, all owned by the Stamp family, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Nov. 30, 2012. Estimated liabilities exceed $50 million, with more than 200 creditors cited in filings.

In 2013, Cargill announced it had acquired Northstar Grain, and two separate auctions saw Stamp’s farm assets go to area farmer Dennis Boersen for $22.8 million and nearly 2,000 tillable farmland acres to an Indiana investment group for $16.5 million. 

Also in 2013, the U.S. opened a criminal investigation into Stamp Farms for possible fraud. The investigation has been conducted by USDA—Office of the Inspector General and the Secret Service as well as Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations. 

Stamp himself has not been indicted in the case. His wife, Melissa, faces sentencing April 15 after she pleaded guilty in December to one felony count of fraudulently concealing assets in a bankruptcy. 

Go to for updates on this case as it develops.

By Sara Schafer


Be Agile to Achieve Business Goals

Most people have a bad relationship with chaos, argues Mike Richardson, an international business coach, author and peer group facilitator with Vistage International.

“When the context keeps shifting on us, it is hard to understand what will come next,” explained Richardson, a Vistage International chair, during the 2015 Top Producer Seminar in Chicago. “As life gets more chaotic, then the secret is to be agile.” Richardson suggests using the observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) loop, developed by a military strategist. Shrink your loop by practicing this decision-making process to the point where it becomes second nature, Richardson says. It will also help you capitalize on opportunities.   

By Nate Birt


Handlers of Grain Show Rail Gains

Grain handlers reported “dramatically” improved rail service this winter compared to a year ago, notes Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. Gains in reliability and responsiveness are particularly evident in the western Corn Belt, where grain facilities and producers have been challenged by shortages of engines and rail cars.

“We continue to be pleased that rail service for the 2014 harvest has overall been very commendable,” says Steenhoek, whose organization partnered with the University of Minnesota starting in November for a series of grain-handler surveys. 

Of grain-receiving locations surveyed from Feb. 13 to Feb. 27, 96% said turns per month—the number of times a railroad service travels between points of origin—were faster than a year ago.  

By John Phipps


Come to Terms With Your Money Misunderstandings

Everything you believe about money is probably wrong. But that’s OK because the important thing is you believe in money. It turns out, as with ruby slippers, belief is what makes it work.

Felix Martin’s surprisingly readable but fact-enriched narrative covers the origins, history, philosophy and economics of money in superb style. His anecdotes—such as when Irish banks closed with labor trouble for seven months, somehow leading the Irish economy to develop alternative currencies and credit mechanisms—are revealing. But it is his gentle dismantling of our misunderstandings about money that truly inform.

All forms of money, from paper currency to gold bullion or electronic data, are tokens of a shared social technology, not the stores of value we often imagine. Just getting your mind around the abstraction of money requires effort and expert explanations, which Martin engagingly presents.

Our foggy grasp of money leads us to bad decisions, illogical policy and disastrous crises. Martin has concrete ideas about how to stabilize our financial system, such as splitting regulated and unregulated functions into separate bank systems. For something as fundamental as money, you’d think we’d have an operator’s manual. This book could be it.

Recommended App: Amber Waves

This publication from the USDA—Economic Research Service presents food, agriculture and rural data analysis and stories. The app functions as a virtual library. Users may download individual issues. After downloading, the Amber Waves publication functions similarly to other electronic magazines. Users may save stories to their “Favorites” list. Within each issue, the table of contents acts as a dynamic tool that allows users to easily navigate from story to story. A menu links the reader to each story. Stories include graphs and diagrams.Recommended App: Amber Waves


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