Kentucky Ag News

Comer blasts handling of Eastern Livestock scandal

Commissioner Comer blasts handling of Eastern Livestock scandal; says victims deserve better

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Surrounded by members of the agriculture community at the Kentucky State Fair, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer slammed the bankruptcy process that has failed to provide justice to the farmers, markets, truckers, veterinarians and others whose cattle or services were stolen in the collapse of Eastern Livestock.

"The farmers who fell victim to this scandal depended on this income to pay their employees and feed their families," Commissioner Comer said. "It is a travesty that, after almost two years of legal wrangling, they are still being held hostage in this bankruptcy process. The payments to the victims are long overdue."

Hundreds of cattle farmers and markets lost millions of dollars when Eastern Livestock, a cattle brokerage company, filed for bankruptcy and failed to pay for livestock and services. Several of the perpetrators pled guilty to criminal charges in what has been called a check kiting scheme. Eastern Livestock was forced into bankruptcy in December 2010. A bankruptcy judge appointed a trustee to manage the payments to the victims, many of whom have now asked that the trustee be removed.

"This process has been a nightmare for my business and for many others in Kentucky's farm and livestock market community," said Jim Akers, COO of Bluegrass Stockyards. "Where is the justice for all of us who trusted in this legal process? We will not continue to sit idly by while our money is eaten up in legal fees and court costs."

Akers and others are supported by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, and livestock groups all across the Southeast. These groups rallied together to call for the bankruptcy judge to remove the trustee and place this matter into a global mediation that would expedite settlement for the victims.

"We are in this case to speak for the small farmers who cannot afford high-powered lawyers," said David Maples, executive vice president of the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association. "This sad chapter in our farming community needs to come to an end."

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, center, criticizes the lack of progress in settling with the individuals and businesses that were victimized by Eastern Livestock in a news conference Thursday at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. With Commissioner Comer are David Maples, left, executive vice president of the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, and Jim Akers, COO of Bluegrass Stockyards. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo by Chris Aldridge)