PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has closed a Pine Bluff rice mill after the company laid off 35 workers without notice while defaulting on $10 million in state loans.

The "cease and desist" notice issued to Southwind Milling Co. prohibits the movement of rough rice in or out of the mill, department spokesman Adriane Barnes told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ( ).

Barnes said the company will remain closed until it secures more bonds or finds more cash capital and can comply with the state Public Grain Warehouse Act. Barnes said the department's decision to close the facility was prompted by "financial deficits" found in company records when it sought to renew its state license to store grain.

A new management team arrived in January, which expanded the payroll and costs, according to former employee John Workman. Workman was in charge of Southwind's sales team when he was laid off on June 12.

"Sales were good," he said. "I booked a lot of contracts and brought back a lot of customers they lost because of mismanagement last fall."

But Workman said the company was a small competitor in Arkansas' rice industry. Arkansas is the largest rice producer in the U.S.

"Because of a lot of overhead and being poorly run, they didn't have enough money to buy rough rice," Workman said.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,