Universal Cooperatives, an Eagan-based farm supply co-op, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 30, 2014 - 9:23 PM

Eagan-based Universal plans to sell off various businesses, including assets of three subsidiaries.

Universal Cooperatives Inc., an inter-regional farm supply cooperative headquartered in Eagan, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to sell several of its businesses.

Included in the filing are five wholly owned subsidiaries: Bridon Cordage in Albert Lea, Minn.; Heritage Trading Co. in Kansas City, Mo.; and three Eagan-based firms: Universal Crop Protection Alliance, Agrilon International and Pavalon Inc.

Court documents indicate that Universal and its businesses employ 171 people — 56 of them on salary and 115 on an hourly basis.

In a statement, Universal said that it was filing motions “to ensure the timely payment of employee wages and benefits, to maintain its operational and cash management functions, and otherwise complete a smooth transition into operating under the protections of Chapter 11.”

Calls to Universal’s attorney for additional information were not returned.

Universal provides manufacturing, distribution and purchasing services for the farming industry.

One of its businesses, Bridon Cordage, manufactures polypropylene baler twine and other industrial twines and fibers, and distributes other baling products such as netting. Its 130 employees work at plants in Albert Lea and Jerome, Idaho.

Heritage Trading Co. is a diversified distribution firm focused on feed/farm stores, with fencing and livestock equipment as its two largest product types.

Those businesses are profitable and “all or substantially all” of their assets will be sold “as the best way to maximize value for all stakeholders,” according to court documents. Assets from other Universal business units will also be sold.

Filings indicate that Universal owes nearly $8 million to its top five creditors and more than $10 million to its next 25 highest creditors.

The company filed its Chapter 11 petitions earlier this month in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.

It has obtained post-bankruptcy financing from Bank of America, according to the company statement, “to support operations and enhance continuity for customers, employees and business partners.”

Universal has 14 voting members and more than 50 associate members. Its five largest voting members are CHS, Land O’Lakes, Southern States Cooperative, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and Growmark.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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