Reconciliation rules against accused North Dakota farmer’s application for crop insurance

During Tuesday’s court hearing by phone, Michele Donarsky, one of Tronson’s attorneys, told Senchal that if Tronson is unable to sign up for crop insurance, he will limit the crops he can grow on his farm to crops that were insured last year.

Donnarsky said the other major concern Tronson faces with the indictment is that it is now on the OFAC sanctions list.

“The effect of his being on that list is that his banks will no longer deal with him,” she said. “He can’t even get an operating line of credit,” she added.

Even while Tronson was being investigated by the RMA, Donnarsky said, he continued as of this year to buy federal crop insurance policies and receive payments for crop losses as well as disaster payments.

“Darren has been taking crop insurance every year since then. He filed claims and they’ve been adjusted.”

Donnarsky did not respond to an email seeking comment on the case.

North Dakota Assistant US Attorney Melissa Burkland told the judge that crop insurance “is not an entitlement program, it’s state insurance.” She added that the government believes Tronson lied about crop insurance claims over many years. The federal government also should not accept the insurance risk of someone accused of fraud.

“At some point, the government can — especially when there’s an indictment — say we don’t want to reinsure this farmer. We lost a lot of money doing that,” Burkland said.

The federal government accused Tronson of planting fewer seeds and using less fertilizer than recommended by the North Dakota State University Extension Office to achieve a yield equivalent to the county’s T-Yield production of 205 tons of potatoes per acre. The indictment asserts that Tronson saved substantially more costs than would be required if it followed good agricultural practices.

In 2017, yields of comparable irrigated potatoes were over 300 tons of potatoes per acre while Tronson’s yield was about 20 tons of potatoes per acre. In 2018, other producers in Grand Forks County produced an average of 229 average weight potatoes per acre, while Tronson Farm produced nearly 60 average weight potatoes per acre.

The indictment also noted that Tronson continually underestimated inputs by moving his potato production to new lands and using different potato varieties, so insurance for his crops would be based on a county T-Yield rather than an actual production date (APH). The indictment cited that Tronson created 46 different APH databases through 2018. Its average production was 41 cwt per acre while T-Yields production was 189 cwt per acre.

Relying on T-Yield rather than APH, the indictment indicated that Tronson had paid nearly $5.7 million in damages for the potatoes since 2000.

Tronson, DL Farms, and the federal government have moved back and forth on civil cases in recent years. Tronson had filed a civil complaint against the USDA, RMA and Federal Crop Insurance Corp. , in July 2021 seeking court review after the RMA first determined that DL Farms had failed to use Good Agricultural Practices. The issue hinges on RMA’s claim that Tronson did not apply recommended levels of phosphorus and potassium to its 2019 potato crop.

Prior to filing the indictment, the Department of Justice, on behalf of the USDA, filed a civil lawsuit against Tronson and DL Farms as well. The criminal trial of the Tronson case continued through March 12, 2024, with attorneys for both Tronson and the federal government stating in February court that they would “probably resolve this criminal case without trial” following the civil court’s decision. issue.

In his affidavit, Tronson also indicated that in 2021 he received disaster payments for soybeans, potatoes and dry beans. Under disaster assistance rules, farmers who receive disaster payments are required to purchase crop insurance policies for those commodities over the next two years or make those disaster payments as well.

Tronson also added in his affidavit that without crop insurance he would not be able to grow potatoes, dry beans or soybeans in 2023. He would be left with growing corn and wheat. “But until then, my crop will not be insured through at least 2024.”

Chris Clayton can be reached at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClayton @DTN

Chris Clayton can be reached at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClayton @DTN