25 Years Ago - A Struggle to Improve Farm Laws for Everyone

25 Years Ago - A Struggle to Improve Farm Laws for Everyone
By: Amy Jacquin

About 25 years ago, a Puxico farmer made national news.

Wayne Cryts took a stand against the government over soybeans stored in a New Madrid elevator that went bankrupt. He ended up losing his farm and filing bankruptcy himself.

Cryts appeared on national talk shows, met all sorts of famous people, and had a song written about him. But that's not why he says he wouldn't change a thing.

His is a story of a farmer who stood up for what's right, and still lost his land. In the late 70's a storage elevator went bankrupt and the government froze all assets inside. Including Wayne Crites' 32,000 bushels of beans valued at $350,000.

But the government said Cryts still had to pay his commodities loan originally granted based on those beans. So Cryts pulled his trucks up to the elevator and took his beans anyway.

"I had a farmer call, who explained he'd been through the same thing and lost everything," says Cryts. "Basically, he said I was going to lose everything anyway, and said I should fight it. I talked with my family, and we decided we didn't have anything else to lose."

"It took us 2.5 years, and it was not easy," says Cryts. "But we generated a lot of publicity about what was wrong with the law, and we were able to get it changed."

His rebellion lead to many court proceedings, including federal charges of conspiracy. And later, obstruction of justice. Cryts even spent a month in jail. But eventually a grand jury refused to indict him, and two 12-person juries found him not guilty.

Now, 25 years later, and Cryts still isn't sure if it's truly behind him.

"The judge imposed a fine on me from one of the civil charges," Cryts explains. "It was $320,000 with an additional $50,000 a year at 10 percent interest. So someone figured it up and I should owe more than $30 million!"

Cryts climbed from bankruptcy into construction work, and most recently the maintenance supervisor for Puxico schools.

"I enjoy this job, and I look forward to every day," he says.

He says the high-light of his struggles is that the law was changed.

"Now the law gives 120 days to determine ownership, and farmers generally get to retain their property," he says. "I've had farmers call who've said, I've been through an elevator bankruptcy and I did get my grain back, thanks to you helping get the law changed. So that makes it worthwhile."

Cryts says the problem is not with our government, or even our laws, but rather a lack of people willing to get involved.

Grateful farmers who've gone through bankrupt elevators since, contact him to say thanks.

"We need more justice in this world," Cryts remembers an appropriate quote. "But sometimes justice does not always land in your lap. Sometimes you've got to stand-up for it... "

Cryts certainly stood strong, and affected big change. Then-President Ronald Reagan spoke in support of the changes in the law, as did then-Governor Bill Clinton.

Some students at Advance High School used Cryts' story as a history project a few years back. That project was even displayed in the Smithsonian for a while.