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Corn vending machine company remains silent two years after alert to farmers

by Samir Knox | March 18, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
A Missouri farmer harvests grain from his field.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) Weights and Measures Division issued a consumer alert about the company Corn Xpress, which sold "corn vending machines" to farmers across Missouri in 2021.

Two years later, the MDA says the company has yet to reach out or work with the state to make its machines comply with Missouri law.

MDA updated its consumer alert this week, stating the company had yet to take any action with the state government.

"Missourians and small businesses have purchased these devices, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, believing they are legal," MDA said in the consumer alert. "However, devices have been removed from service in Sikeston, Jackson, Advance and Wappapallo because they do not meet standards set forth in state law. Additionally, devices have been removed from service in other states including the state in which they are manufactured -- Mississippi."

A representative for MDA said they were not aware of any efforts by the company to reach out to, or refund, any farmers who bought these machines.

Corn Xpress, a Mississippi company, marketed its corn vending machine as a way for farmers to make more money with an additional income stream. The company also stated the machines could better serve hunters, maximize profits for farmers and eliminate middlemen.

"It's essentially like a soda vending machine. ... You could come by and put in your money, get the amount that you wanted and use it to feed birds or feed deer," said Christi Miller, the communications director for MDA.

The company also marketed the product directly to deer hunters as a cheap, easy way for consumers to get corn, feed and seed at any hour of the day.

"Our user-friendly machines make, store and dispense fresh agricultural products and sell on demand without an attendant. ... It will become the preferred way to purchase agricultural products," the company said in promotional materials for the product.

The company also advertised low up-front costs for owners and low maintenance and operating costs. However, the vending machines still do not comply with the regulations of Missouri and several other states, according to the MDA.

The primary issues with the machines were with weighing, accuracy and a lack of proper sealing. According to the MDA, the machine sells product by weight, but it did not have a weight measuring system, violating Missouri's Method of Sale law. It also lacked an accuracy system, as is required for machines that dispense by weight or volume.

The machines also had no sealing mechanism and nothing to make sure its contents weren't tampered with.

"To our knowledge, they still do not comply with the rules and regulations," Miller said.

At the time of the initial consumer alert in 2021, the company had not replied to requests from the MDA to comply with Missouri regulations. According to Miller, this is still the case.

The MDA issued a Notice of Violation to the company that barred them from selling any more products in the state until it brought the devices up to Missouri standards.

"We put that out there so other people who might want to buy those machines would know, we also notified the people that might have already bought them," Miller said.

The product was unveiled at a farm show in 2015 and was featured in FARM SHOW Magazine. The Corn Xpress machine was listed in that magazine for $40,000.

According to its feature in FARM SHOW Magazine, the company was led by three Mississippi medical professionals, James Hall, Chip Chisholm and Dan Barnes. Chisholm had the idea -- brainstorming with Hall and citing his desire to buy corn at all hours of the day. After that, the founders of Corn Xpress hired an engineer to build the product.

At the time, the article noted the founders charged around 20 cents per pound in their vending machine and $11 per bushel, a large increase from the amount Mississippi farmers made selling their crops through grain elevators at the time.

Miller also said there are other devices that serve the same purpose that are legal for trade and sale in Missouri.

"Our agency continues to assist farmers, ranchers and consumers. We keep chugging along and helping them any way we can," Miller said.

Corn Xpress did not respond to requests from the News Tribune for comment.

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