A Trump-backed candidate for one of North Carolina’s Senate seats is wooing farmers. Years ago, he was accused of defrauding them.
Agriculture is North Carolina’s biggest business. It’s why state Republican Rep. Ted Budd has presented himself as an ally to farmers in his latest bid for a pivotal U.S. Senate seat—backed by an unexpected endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Yet, a review of court documents by The Washington Post reveals Budd’s role in a family bankruptcy scandal that cost farmers millions, a fact the hopeful candidate failed to disclose. The suit centers on his father, Richard Budd, and his actions as CEO of seed firm AgriBioTech. Records show that a former trustee for farmers and creditors alleged that Richard Budd fraudulently transferred millions of dollars in assets to family members, including Ted, who’s named as a defendant in a civil case filed by the trustee. Ted Budd was also one of 11 people named as “co-makers” on a $10 million loan to AgriBioTech—made by the Budd family to the company when it began experiencing financial distress in 1999—that became the subject of the trustee’s lawsuit. The agriculture firm eventually declared bankruptcy on Jan. 25, 2000, just seven months after the Budd loan had been repaid. In June, about six months earlier, Richard Budd had traveled to Wyoming to reassure farmers that the company was stable and encouraged them to send their seed to its facilities so they could be paid. About 1,200 alfalfa and turf growers across 39 states followed his guidance, and when AgriBioTech declared bankruptcy, more than $50 million in payments to farmers and creditors were never made. Budd’s father denies claims that any fraudulent transfers occurred between him and his son. And although a spokesperson for the Senate candidate acknowledged he was a “co-maker” on the $10 million loan to AgriBioTech, they declined to say whether any of his personal assets (over $10 million worth) came from funds transferred to him by his father. The case was eventually settled. “Budd entities” agreed to pay less than half of the total initially designated for farmers and creditors.