Furnas County Farms, based in Columbus, NE, has filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code.

Furnas County Farms and related businesses began operations in the mid-1970s, under the direction of Charles Sand, Jr., an innovator who developed and refined three-site production, a process widely used in hog production today.

The company grew through the mid-80s and into the new century, with its 50,000-sow, farrow-to-finish hog operations scattered throughout Nebraska and western Iowa.

The company employs 375 people in Nebraska, buys goods and services from over 1,200 suppliers, and comprises about 15% of the state’s pork production.

With consolidation in 2000 came significant debt load, due primarily to severe equity restrictions imposed by Initiative 300, which forced the company to rely on debt financing to fund expansion. Difficult market conditions and animal health challenges added to the company’s demise, according to a company news release.

The company has signed a letter of intent with a potential buyer, but plans to solicit other offers to receive the best possible price. “It appears that there is a viable buyer, and we are hopeful that jobs, suppliers and local economies will be unaffected as a result,” says Steve Weiss, executive management consultant for the company.

Furnas County Farms is expected to operate business as usual through the sales process, adds Scott Burroughs, operations management consultant.

The pair was hired last year to facilitate the sales process and assist with the oversight of daily operations. Sand has retired from day-to-day business activities with the company.