McMartin’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Raises Eyebrows

Ron McMartin Jr., president of McM Inc., a sprawling high-value specialty crop farm based at St. Thomas, N.D., last fall said he had  no plans of quitting farming, despite false rumors. Photo/Trevor Peterson, AgweekTV

Today I reported at Agweek.com about the liquidation of a prominent farming figure in the region.

Ron McMartin Jr., of St. Thomas, N.D., filed Chapter 7. He is one of the region’s largest red potato growers for the fresh market. Agweek did a takeout on McMartin on Nov. 14, 2016. At that time, McMartin sounded like intended to continue on with his McM Inc. farming operation in 2017 and beyond.

People I’ve talked to won’t want to be quoted about this one. One of the region’s prominent bankruptcy/business lawyers whom I’ve covered in numerous court cases involving farmers said he was surprised that McMartin had filed for Chapter 7 liquidation and not Chapter 11 reorganization. The lawyer noted that the mid-1980s financial crisis in the agriculture economy was led in this region by major, separate  bankruptcies filed by Jamestown, N.D., area farmers Fred Mutschler and Arvel Glinz. Another prominent bankruptcy lawyer said those involved  over-expansions, and then noted the Agweek story in November that indicated McM had been down-sizing for the past three years.

It is unclear how landowners in the McM farms will react. Nobody is talking about it for attribution.

Land leases likely will have to find new operators, one lawyer said. Some may involve multi-year deals, so not all will be the same.

Another  farm leader  from St. Thomas said McMartin was a friend and that he couldn’t comment. Still another farmer at St. Thomas said there had been rumors of  trouble, but nothing official until I told him so. “I figured it would probably be one of those deals where he keeps farming,” the man told me.

Personally, I hope McMartin’s situation is not the start of wider incidences. It is sure to create waves of problems for anyone involved.