0000_CP_MW Easterday operations 7

The feedlot in Pasco, Wash., that Cody Easterday sold to Agri Beef. A judge Sept. 22 denied a motion by Tyson Fresh Meats that would have given it a chance to pursue the feedlot through bankruptcy court.

Agri Beef has bid $14 million for more than 600 trucks, trailers, tractors, tools and other equipment belonging to the bankrupt Easterday farms and ranches in Eastern Washington.

The offer, made through an Agri Beef affiliate, Blue Tag Farms, sets the minimum price. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Whitman Holt in Yakima on Wednesday approved a Friday deadline for submitting higher bids.

Four auctioneers have shown an interest in holding an on-site auction. Jason Rosell, an attorney for the Easterday companies, said auction companies may still be interested in bidding up the price.

Auctioneers, however, would have to move the rolling stock and hold the sale elsewhere. Farmland Reserve Inc. bought Easterday farmland, and Easterday has until Oct. 31 to move the equipment.

Rosell said it was better to sell the equipment all at once, rather than piecemeal at an auction and rely on individuals to move the property.

"We're hopeful that auctioneers ... are having those creative discussions with local landowners about how they can purchase the equipment, move it off our land by Oct. 31st and run an auction over the next 60 to 90 days," Rosell said.

"The 600 pieces of equipment really translates into what we are estimating to be more than a hundred semi truckloads," he said. "It's a huge logistical undertaking."

Cody Easterday and other family members filed for bankruptcy last year, shortly before he pleaded guilty to defrauding $233 million from Tyson Fresh Meats and $11 million from another company.

Easterday bought and fed cows for the companies, but billed them for 200,000 head of nonexistent cattle. He used the proceeds to cover losses trading in cattle futures markets, according to prosecutors.

He has agreed to pay restitution and is scheduled to be sentenced for wire fraud Oct. 5. His sentencing was delayed from July, in part to let bankruptcy proceedings play out.

Easterday has several other large debts, some to financial institutions that loaned the business money.

Farmland Reserve, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, paid $209 million for Easterday farms in Benton County.

Before filing for bankruptcy, Cody Easterday sold the family's Pasco cattle feedlot to Agri Beef for $16 million. Agri Beef recently also bought rolling stock at the feedlot for $1 million.

Tyson, an Agri Beef competitor, alleges Agri Beef paid too little for the strategically located feedlot and has offered $25 million if the bankruptcy court voids the sale.

A hearing in front of Judge Holt on whether Tyson will have standing to pursue its claim has been reset to Sept. 22. Tyson and Agri Beef both have processing plants in the area.

The bankrupt Easterday companies recently sold a 1985 Beechcraft King Air C-90A turbojet aircraft to a buyer in North Carolina for $680,000.

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