The Montana Department of Agriculture finished reimbursing 54 Montana and North Dakota farmers last week for roughly $1.2 million lost when Missoula-based Sustainable Systems LLC failed to pay for oilseed this spring. Sustainable Systems was a major local proponent in biofuels before switching to food-grade vegetable oil production in 2004.
The Indy reported in April that Sustainable Systems voluntarily surrendered its commodities license and the Department of Ag began selling off the company's assets to cover the debt to safflower growers. The department dispersed the money to farmers in three separate payments in June, July and August. Last week's final payment totaled $135,413.
Montana has completed its portion of the reimbursements to all 54 growers, but Department of Ag information specialist Ron Zellar says several farmers in North Dakota are still waiting on money from a state surety bond there. That process should wrap up soon, he says. However, Sustainable Systems remains in debt to several Montana businesses. Zellar adds that repaying the farmers was the department's first and only financial priority.