The farmers that grow Ka‘u Gold-branded oranges in Naalehu in Hawaii County have filed for bankruptcy for the second time since 2008, seeking again to reorganize debt. The oranges are among the Hawaii-grown, Hawaii-branded produce found in local grocery stores.
In Friday’s filing, as in its similar 2008 Chapter 12 family farm case, Morton and Keiko Bassan listed both assets and liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million. The new filing estimates the number of creditors at between 50 and 99, and they include the Federal Land Bank, state Department of Taxation, County of Hawaii Real Property Tax Division, Honolulu law firms, credit card companies and the West Hawaii Today newspaper.
Attorney Barbara Franklin of Honokaa, representing the Bassans, could not be reached, nor could Ted Pettit, the Honolulu attorney who had represented the couple in 2008. His firm is listed among the creditors in the new case.
Financial statements indicating amounts owed to each creditor in the new case have yet to be filed.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings are reorganizations that are "limited to farms or fishing boats, but basically (they are) for the family farm," said Howard Hu, the trustee appointed to monitor the Bassans’ reorganization plan and pay out funds to creditors.
The 2008 filing cited crop theft and an inability to prevent the thefts from a portion of the Bassans’ farmland as contributing to financial difficulties that resulted in the bankruptcy petition.
The reorganization plan in the 2008 case called for the Bassans to subdivide and sell some of their property in order to pay off creditors, but "that was just about the time real estate took a dive."
Hu said the Bassans were unable to sell the land and meet their commitment for the reorganization, so the case got dismissed.
Since the dismissal essentially nullified the 2008 case, the new filing is akin to the farmers starting from scratch in the bankruptcy process. The Bassans’ farming and wholesaling activities can continue as the case progresses. A creditors’ meeting has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 18 in Hilo.