The case of so-called modern-day cattle rustling in southeastern Washington is getting more complex by the day.
Now, Easterday Ranches has filed for bankruptcy in federal court.
This follows accusations by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. based in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. Tyson Fresh Meats employs more than 41,000 people and is one of the largest meat processing companies in the U.S.
Tyson alleges that Easterday invented 200,000 head of cattle on paper -- then “fed” the fictitious beasts. Then, Easterday sold its prime cattle feedlot to a competing meat company. In its own lawsuit against Easterday, Tyson wants at least $225 million in compensation. In its bankruptcy filing, Easterday acknowledged that it owed Tyson a debt in the same amount.
Some of Easterday’s creditors were looking for payment even before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.
In the tight-knit agriculture business network in the Columbia Basin, news of the large-scale bankruptcy has sent companies scrambling after their money owed down the chain.
One business seeking payment from Easterday is owned by Jesse Froehlich. He runs Yakima Mechanical Services, which repairs large equipment. For the Easterdays, the company worked on a large boiler used to make cattle feed.
“Sometimes they would pay late, but they’d always pay,” Froehlich said.
He says his company had been working with Easterday Ranches for nearly 20 years. “I hope they can get through this and do well. Hopefully they can get this straightened out.”
Another supplier, farmer Brad Curtis in Mesa, Washington, grew and delivered high-moisture corn to the Easterday operation for cattle feed.
“[The Easterdays have] been great to work with over the years,” Curtis told the Northwest News Network.
Easterday Ranches owes about $125,000 to Curtis.
“It’s not due ‘til June,” he said. “They’re not delinquent. Hopefully I’ll get paid, but you never know in a situation like this.”
The bankruptcy is having wider ripples than just those owed by Easterday Ranches. Nicole Berg, a farmer in the Horse Heaven Hills, says she’s trying to get paid by a related member of the Easterday family with a hay business. Berg’s farm sells wheat straw and had sold a stack of straw to English Hay, which is owned by people related to those caught up in the Easterday bankruptcy.
“We’re all intertwined. And if you pull out a piece, it’s like a Jenga game,” Berg said. “[If a piece comes out], it will get a little rattled. I think people are scrambling to see where the impacts are.”
The bankruptcy paperwork lists both debts and assets totaling somewhere between $100 million and $500 million. The case filing also lists 20 large debts owed by Easterday’s businesses, including the $225 million involved in the Tyson lawsuit.
Here’s where else Easterday Ranches owes money:
- More than $8.6 million to Segale Properties with a P.O. Box in Tukwila, Wash.
- More than $1 million to Animal Health International, based in Greeley, Colorado.
- More than $489,000 to Sun Basin Operations, with an office in Quincy, Wash. and headquarters in St. Paul, Minn.
- More than $274,000 to Cenex Harvest States, which makes feed pellets for cattle out of Hermiston, Ore. Its corporate headquarters are in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
- More than $213,000 to Pacific Ag Products, with headquarters in Sacramento, Calif. According to its website, Pacific Ag is the nation's largest crop residue harvest and supply company.
- More than $145,000 to ITC Services with an office in Moses Lake, Washington. The company makes large tarps for hay stacks and silage.
- More than $140,000 to Western Stockmen's LB, a JR Simplot Company based in Seattle.
- More than 125,000 to Brad Curtis Farms of Mesa, Wash.
- More than $123,000 to Pegram Construction, Inc., in Othello, Wash.
- More than $106,000 to Tri-Cities Grain, in Pasco, Wash. Tri-Cities Grain provided corn, wheat or other grains to the ranch.
- More than $75,000 to Copenhaver Construction in Creston, Wash.
- More than $77,000 to Viterra Canada Inc. of Saskatchewan, Canada.
- More than $56,000 to Production Animal Consultation of Scott City, Kansas.
- About $44,000 to Layne Of Washington out of Pasco, Wash., a septic tank service.
- More than $17,000 to Empire Rubber & Supply, out of Portland, Ore. The company sells industrial rubber and conveyor belts.
- More than $16,000 to ECS Northwest in Pasco, Wash., which appears to be an electrical company.
- More than $15,000 is owed to Oregon Trail Veterinary Clinic of North Hermiston, Ore.
- More than $10,000 to Tarp-It, Inc. out of Ellensburg, Wash.
- More than $10,000 to Yakima Mechanical Services out of Yakima, Wash. This company worked on the large boiler that Easterday Ranches used to make cattle feed.
Locations of Easterday Ranches business operations listed in the documents:
- 5235 N. Industrial Way, Pasco, WA 99301
- 152330 S. Nine Canyon Road Kennewick, WA 99337
- 8230 Blanton Rd., Eltopia, WA 99330
- 1499 Rd 12.5W, Royal City, WA 99357
- 515 Bellflower Rd., Mesa, WA 99343
- 4021 West Klamath, Basin City, WA 99343
- 16001 Rd D SE, Othello, WA 99344
- 11701 R-170, Mesa, WA 99343.