Farmers cannot sue Express Grain for damages because the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, court records show.
The farmers claim that Express Grain, under the management of UMB Bank, misled them about the company’s financial situation. The company has hired vendors to cross the delta, prompting farmers to bring their crops to Express Grain this season, Barrett said.
âIt was an intensive marketing effort that the bank had to know about,â he said.
In the spring, Express Grain president John Coleman touted the company’s future and a $ 3 million facility upgrade
in a story of the Commonwealth of Greenwood where he said business had “grown every year.”
Coleman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
While only three farmers are named as plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, Barrett said he represents at least 65 farmers who sold their crop to Express Grain and were not paid for it.
The missing money takes an emotional toll on farmers, some of whom have told Barrett they would be bankrupt if they don’t see any soon.
“Everything they’ve worked their life for, this bank is trying to take away from them,” he said. “I have had clients who have spoken about suicide. I have had several clients who cried in my office.”
The impact of farmers not paying for a harvest season will be felt across the delta, Barrett said.
âAll these little Delta communities where people shop, their employees shop, everyone is going to be affected,â he said. “I don’t mean made uncomfortable – but if it were allowed it will ruin people’s lives and ruin the economy of this part of Mississippi.”
Lee O. Sanderlin is an investigative and political reporter covering the state of Mississippi. Got a tip for the story? You can call him at 601-559-3857, send him to [email protected], or message him on Twitter @LeeOSanderlin.