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PSC candidate stops in Belfield: Reisenauer focuses on farmer’s story

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Belfield farmer Kevin Kessel, right, speaks to Public Service Commission candidate Todd Reisenauer Thursday at the Trapper’s Keeper Restaurant in Belfield. The first-time Democratic candidate said Kessel’s experience with the PSC to recoup funds lost in Anderson Seed Inc.’s 2012 insolvency is common among farmers.

BELFIELD — Democratic Public Service Commission candidate Todd Reisenauer brought his campaign to western North Dakota on Thursday, hosting a one-on-one meeting with local farmer Kevin Kessel at the Trapper’s Kettle Restaurant in Belfield.

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Despite initially being slated as an informal “meet and greet” at the restaurant, Reisenauer said he wanted to allow Kessel’s story to be the focus of this particular campaign stop.

Reisenauer, flanked by family members, said Kessel’s experience “exemplifies what’s going on with a lot of farmers” as oil companies and agriculture workers come into contact more and more often.

Kessel and a number of other farmers were embroiled in a legal dispute for almost two years over money they said they were owed by Anderson Seed Inc., which went insolvent in 2012 and was unable to pay for roughly $4.8 million in sunflower seeds. He claims the Public Service Commission, which ruled in favor of settling for $685,000 with Anderson Seed in November 2013, was slow to respond to the issue because the more lucrative oil and gas business is “what’s making national news.”

Kessel told Reisenauer he only received his cut of the settlement — roughly $89,000, well short of what he was initially owed by the seed company — in July.

Reisenauer called Kessel a “poster child” for how the PSC should not handle agriculture issues when they arise. The first-time campaigner said he will continue to point to Kessel’s experience in the lead-up to a planned PSC debate with current Chairman Brian Kalk in September and elections in November.

“What concerns me is that your story, that you’re not alone out there,” Reisenauer said.

He said the PSC grew up in a time of “gentlemen’s agreements” and is outdated.

“It needs to be updated, it needs to be reformed, it needs to have new ideas,” he said. “And most importantly, it needs to be a resource that people know about that they can turn to when they feel like they’ve been taken advantage of.”

Following the meeting with Kessel, Reisenauer made a planned stop in Dickinson, appearing at the Downtown Dickinson Association’s Alive@5 concert.

Faulx is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207

or tweet her at NadyaFaulx.