LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A Cottonwood County, Minnesota, farmer at the center of an alleged conspiracy to falsely sell $46 million in non-GMO corn and soybeans as organic has asked a federal court to return farm equipment confiscated by federal authorities so that he can farm in 2023.
James Clayton Wolf was indicted by a grand jury last year on three counts of wire fraud as a result of the alleged conspiracy. Also indicted on Jan. 11, 2023, was Olson Seed LLC owner and operator Adam Clifford Olson of Windom, Minnesota. Olson now is named along with Wolf in the new indictment. A superseding indictment replaces a previous indictment.
In a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, Wolf's attorneys argue the second indictment added to the complaint pushed back the timeline on an expected trial into the upcoming growing season.
"Of course, no trial date can be set until Mr. Olson is ready to go," the motion said. "Thus, a second growing season is at hand without adjudication as to the merits of the government's claims. There is no judicial finding, nor could there be, of Mr. Wolf's culpability. Meanwhile, as Mr. Olson prepares his case and the government prepares its own against him, Mr. Wolf, who is presumed innocent, has the continuous right to make a living. The government's immediate desire for the implements cannot outweigh the hardship Mr. Wolf will suffer by his deprivation."
The court previously allowed Wolf to use his equipment to harvest his 2022 crop.
The government filed a response in opposition, arguing the court previously told Wolf he would have to make other arrangements in order to farm in 2023.
"The district court imposed some limitations and expressly warned Wolf that the farm equipment would not be returned to him for use in the 2023 planting season," the government said in a court filing.
Department of Justice attorneys said the delay in the case was more to do with "extensive" settlement negotiations with Wolf and less to do with the second indictment.
"Wolf argues the farm equipment should be returned to him for continued use because he incurred expenses related to farming in 2023," the government said in its opposition.
"Any such expenses were made at Wolf's own risk after the court held that as of at least Aug. 22, 2022, he was 'on notice that such temporary future return of property will not occur, and he should make other arrangements, if he intends to farm in 2023.' Wolf has had sufficient opportunity to make such other arrangements but he offers no facts that he attempted to do so."
The indictment alleges Wolf grew conventionally farmed crops using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which would be in violation of organic-farming standards. Olson was added to the indictment for his alleged role in the scheme.
For years, Wolf provided grain purchasers with copies of his National Organics Program certification, but according to the indictment, he withheld information the grains were not organically farmed. The scheme resulted in Wolf allegedly receiving more than $46 million in payments from grain buyers.
According to the indictment, Wolf allegedly directed some grain payments to a third party who then "spent the money for Wolf's benefit." His organic-farming certification was revoked in 2020; however, the indictment alleges Wolf "utilized an associate" to continue the scheme by selling non-GMO crops as organic.
Wolf and other associates communicated with a grain supplier and with buyers via email and telephone, including sending documents "falsely describing" the grain as organically grown.
Organic crops are grown without the use of GMOs or chemicals, and farmers are required to follow strict protocols when it comes to planting, fertilizing, harvesting, storage and transportation of the crops labeled as organic.
If Wolf is convicted at trial of the allegations, he would be forced to forfeit property derived from the proceeds of the alleged scheme. According to the indictment, that includes millions of dollars in a variety of Wolf's bank accounts, several tracts of land, 18 farm implements, several pickups and two sports cars.
Read more on DTN:
"MN Farmer Indicted on Grain Fraud," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
"2nd MN Farmer Indicted on Organic Fraud," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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