Dean Chapter 11 – HUGE Step 1: Company Steps Up and Will Honor Previous Obligations to Farms

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A HUGE first step will take place in the Dean Foods Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceedings.
Dairy Farmers will get their payments for milk delivered in the month prior to the date of the Bankruptcy Filing, an almost unprecedented event.  This news was confirmed by a Dean Foods source familiar with the situation on the evening of Thursday, November 14th.
Dean Foods announced on Tuesday, Nov. 12th, 2019, that it had initiated Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the United States District and Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston.
From the moment that filing became known, farmers, who are generally seen as unsecured creditors in a milk company bankruptcy, were extremely concerned that they would never receive payment for a month’s worth of milk. In hard dollars, this would be equal to tens of thousands of dollars to multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of a producer’s herd.
In this case, officials in the Milk Procurement Division of Dean Foods advocated on behalf of payment for their producers.  In a court document titled  “Docket 29, Declaration of Robert Bruce Matson In Support of Debtors Motion to Pay Critical Vendors,”  Matson, Dean’s Senior Director of Milk Procurement, lays out a brilliant and passionate case on why these farmers deserved payment.
Nationwide, this would have been a loss of several millions of dollars scheduled to flow into dairy farm communities across the country. Those monies in turn would pay farm employees, pay feed bills, machinery repair bills, and a host of other expenses related to farm business operations.
These payments are known to apply to independent producers who contract directly with Dean Foods – it is not yet verified if this also applies to co-op handlers.  That will be clarified as quickly as possible.  Also needing more certain clarification will be payment for Nov. 1-11 milk deliveries to milk plants.  With the Nov. 12 filing date, all deliveries from that day forward will be secured as the company works through the Chapter 11 process.
The ability to make those payments, along with flexibility on how to make those distributions, was enabled by Court Orders entered on Wednesday evening, Nov. 13th, in US Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas.
From that point on, it was up to Dean Foods officials to make determinations on what portions of the Settlement payment would indeed make their way to farms.
In an unprecedented bankruptcy in the dairy and food industry, an even rarer occurrence has taken place with this full payment being delivered to what the court defines as an unsecured creditor. Classification as ‘critical vendors’ helped achieve that end.
Officials at Dean Foods deserve an extraordinary amount of credit for taking farmers into consideration in their court documents and pleadings and getting this money to them which will be crucial for ongoing operations as the company determines a future.  If you have the opportunity to say “Thanks” to any of them, please do so.
While we are a very long way from a more stable future in this Chapter 11 Reorganization of the country’s largest milk processor, this is a HUGE first hurdle to cross.
Before this very complex bankruptcy is over, there will be many ups and downs, good days and bad days, and unexpected twists and turns. But on this Day 3 of Bankruptcy proceedings, many farm families are breathing a lot easier.
We hope for a brighter future for both farmers supplying the plants, and the employees processing and distributing the milk.
This will be a ‘one step at a time process.’  More information will be shared as it becomes available
Timeline thus far in a rather fast-paced and frenzied week:
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12th: Bankruptcy documents filed
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13th:  Court pleadings and Orders entered for ongoing operations
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13th: By close of day, over 125 document filed on court’s docket in less than 48 hours.
  • Thursday, Nov. 14th: Word received farmers would receive payment for their previous month’s milk.
  • Monday, Nov. 18th: Payments expected to be delivered to farmers
We are most thankful to a God who has answered many prayers with this news. The prayers for wisdom and guidance continue as we work to a more stable future.
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A UT National Championship – Born of Corn, with TN Ag!

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A #FlashbackFriday – 20 year Anniversary post looking back at UT’s National Championship Win in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4, 1999!  Ag was involved! 

[[ Note – this was originally published on 9 January 1999, in a column I contributed to the Kingsport Times-News. ]]

“Corn may not grow at all on Rocky Top, but it had a huge impact on the harvest of college football’s national championship bu a Big Orange combine!

Yup, in more ways than one, summer’s slim stalks with big ears mean that we vapid Volunteer fans can at last sigh with satisfaction that a crystal football will now adorn the University of Tennessee’s trophy case! Whoever would have thought that something as humble as a kernel-filled, cylindrical-shaped object born of the soil would give birth to the reality that Tennessee footballs now reigns as pigskin royalty?

This championship born of corn actually took root last January when those corn-fed Nebraska ‘Huskers shucked our fair Vols of all hope of a ’97 championship in the Jan. 1998 Orange Bowl, whenNebraska won 42-17.  Fulmer and staff, although disappointed, made the best of the situation and learned what proper nutrition and conditioning contributed to crossing the Championship line, and they worked harder.

And, as Tee Martin and Peerless Price and Al Wilson entered spring practice with a newfound determination, so farmers entered their fields to plant seeds of corn destined to help pay for a BCS National Championship game.

It took 160,000 acres of prime cropland to grow the specialized white corn which ended up as the primary sponsor of the ‘Tostitos’ Fiesta Bowl!

Since Frito-Lay needs over 300 million pounds of corn to fill America’s demand for Tostitos, these corn fields need to be as proficient at kicking out kernels as Jeff Hall is at kicking points between the uprights!  All told, Frito-Lay utilizes over 1 billion pounds of shelled corn each year to fill all of its corn snack sales!

Tostitos became the Fiesta Bowl sponsor in 1996, and thus began a corn farmer’s contribution to Phillip Fulmer’s tortilla shower on Monday evening!  [Jan. 4, 1998].

Although the corny side of Fiesta activities was courtesy of Illinois farmers, local agriculturists have played a major role in this year’s championship season as well.

Seeing the need for a stable, reliable supply of farm inputs, a team of Tennessee farm leaders had the foresight to form an organized system of stores over 50 years ago.  Now known as Tennessee Farmers Co-op, this agribusiness shifted its marketing scheme a couple of years ago, just as the Tennessee secondary adjusted to contain FSU’s Warrick, their lightning quick receiver.

Since Tennessee’s farming community now includes a large amount of part-time farmers and rural homeowners, the Co-op system saw the need for reaching a broad-based audience with ever-changing product lines.  And what better way to reach millions than through the Vol Network?!?!

Yes, for the past several years, your farm neighbors have helped bring you the familiar resonations of “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”  Through TFC’s sponsorship of our beloved John Ward and Bill Anderson, football fanatics everywhere have benefitted from the dollars of farmers which brought every moment of the championship march to the radios of all true UT supporters!

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The Tennessee Beef Industry Council, a non-profit organization which educates the public about beef’s benefits in a healthy diet, is responsible for the “Beef, It’s What You Want!” commercials on the Vol Network.  These advertisements are funded through beef check-off funds, collected every time a farmer sells cattle in the state of Tennessee.

[[[ Note: In 2017, The Tennessee Beef Industry Council celebrated its 30th Anniversary as a Vol Network Sponsor, and they celebrate Beef Day every season  at Neyland stadium ]]]

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And who’s to say how beef’s protein contributed to the muscle power of linemen as they protected Tee Martin and sacked opposing quarterbacks?  Would there have been a National Championship without steaks and burgers?

As a farmer’s daughter, I first became a UT fan while riding with my dad in a combine.  John Ward and Bill Anderson kept me posted on the exploits of Dewey Warren and Curt Watson.

As a student at the University of Tennessee, I sat for many long hours in the stadium with John Majors at the helm.  I swung in the Upper Deck to the stadium-wide strains of “Hey Jude” as the Orange finally defeated the “the Bear.”  [Alabama Coach Bear Bryant]

John and Bill have been my connection to Neyland in the past few years as cows had to be milked at gametime, or harvest and crops or cattle had to be tended.

UT Football is almost as much as part of my heritage as agriculture, and my memories of each overlap and become intermingled until the turf of the stadium ripples back into the pasture grasses from which it evolved.

And on a cold January night when ice had to be broken on ponds so cattle could drink, the UT Volunteers were destined to bread through the ice and drink of the joys of a National Championship!

Farming was there – and farming will be there until the next time we hear again “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”

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Another Ag / John Ward / Vol Network tie – not a part of the original column:  Dairy Farms in Tennessee were an early sponsor of the Vol Network, through an in-state dairy checkoff program.  John Ward was in his early days as a broadcaster, and was helping to figure out a way to help introduce Coach Doug Dickey in his first season as head coach.  Ward sold ads to the Tennessee “Milk People,”  A slogan “For the Lip that Lasts, Drink Milk!”   In Mr. Ward’s Tribute in June of 2018,  Coach Dickey spoke fondly about this relationship during the Celebration of Life.  A video of Dickey’s tribute is here.

And John Ward even did some ads for Milk himself.

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PS – Where has this column been hiding for 20 years?  Kind of ‘old-school filing’  (yet very effective!) with file pocket folders and Rubbermaid tubs!

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Here’s to hoping we’ll hear those Magic Words again in the near future!  Since Coach Jeremy Pruitt has said his favorite food is ‘corn’bread, maybe that’s an omen?!?!

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