Insurance company denies claims by potato baron

Insurance company denies claims by potato baron
FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The group that insures an Idaho potato company said in court documents filed Friday it should not have to pay the legal bills of a North Dakota man who serves as chairman of the company.

Ronald Offutt Jr., of Fargo, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Twin City Fire Insurance Co. of breach of contract and asks it to cover defense costs in a separate suit over alleged price fixing. Offutt is chairman of Idahoan Foods LLC, which is named as the insured entity on the policy.

Twin City said in its response that Offutt is not covered because the potato lawsuit does not "arise solely by reason of his serving" as chairman of Idahoan Foods. The insurance company is asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.

Offutt is among the defendants in a federal lawsuit filed in June by Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. against United Potato Growers of America, affiliate United Potato Growers of Idaho and other parties. It accuses potato growers of driving up prices while spying on farmers with satellites and aircraft fly-overs to enforce strict limits on production.

The defendants have denied the charges and asked that the suit be dropped.

Offutt is the founder and chairman of R. D. Offutt Company, the nation's largest producer of potatoes, and RDO Equipment Company, the largest network of John Deere construction and agricultural equipment dealerships in the United States. Both corporate headquarters are located in Fargo.