Vreba-Hoff faces foreclosure threat 10.13.2010

Written by David Green.


Vreba-Hoff Dairy is stuck in a position of having too few cattle and at the same time too many.

By not being able to operate at full capacity, Vreba-Hoff dairy owners claim they’re unable to make payments on fines levied by the state’s environmental agency.

But that’s just the problem, says the state. The two dairies northwest of Morenci are unable to adequately handle the manure created by the livestock, and that’s what brought the forced reduction in herd size.

A $580,000 lien against Vreba-Hoff’s two dairies was recently approved in Ingham County Circuit Court, on behalf of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE). Judge James Giddings is giving the state and the dairy until Oct. 18 to reach a settlement.

The lien covers $180,000 in unpaid penalties assessed against Vreba-Hoff—due to the concentration of pollutants applied to fields in irrigation—and $400,000 in financial assurance.

The MDNRE is seeking a reduction of 600 cows a month until the dairies meet standards set for manure application onto fields.

Vreba-Hoff’s troubles compounded last week with news that a mortgage company is seeking foreclosure on $55 million in loans.

Rabo Agrifinances, based in Delaware, filed a complaint Oct. 5 in federal court in Grand Rapids, alleging Vreba-Hoff has defaulted on loans; allowed property taxes to go unpaid; and failed to plant crops on a significant portion of the mortgaged land. Furthermore, Rabo claims the Michigan dairies are being devalued by the state government action listed above.

Rabo wishes to place the properties in receivership to prevent continued diminishment of value.

In addition to the Vreba-Hoff I and II dairies, the foreclosure affects Waldron Dairy in Hillsdale County; Blue Stream Farms near Convoy, Ohio; Wild Cat Farms near Payne, Ohio; and Williams Dairy Farm near Prospect, Ohio.

Rabo Agrifinance loaned the money to Vreba-Hoff in 2007 and 2008.

A judge will hear an emergency motion Oct. 19 to rule on the receivership request.

Chesterfield Dairy east of Morenci was placed in receivership in September 2009 with a debt of $8.5 million owed to AgStar Financial Services of Minnesota. Vreba-Hoff served as a consultant and developer of the dairy.

Chesterfield closed and was sold at auction. Bridgewater Dairy of Montpelier, Ohio, announced the purchase of the dairy in September and will reopen the facility under the name Oakshade Dairy.

  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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