Missouri Cattle Feeder Back Behind Bars

Nov 22, 2019  | 7 min  | Ep4514

In 2018, a Missouri livestock producer spoke to this program about his time behind bars for defrauding the government over cattle sales.

Less than a year after his interview, the subject of our story is again in trouble with the law - this time at the center of a double murder investigation.

You can find more on the topic in a special section of our website -- Market-to-market.org slash justice.

Colleen Bradford Krantz continues our series with part three of “Justice in Agriculture.” Producer contact collen.krantz@iptv.org


Missouri cattle producer Garland “Joey” Nelson said he knew he was violating his Farm Service Agency loan agreement when, in 2013 and 2014, he sold cattle that were collateral without notifying government officials. According to court documents, Nelson, then 20, also hid some of the profits in a friend’s bank account, later moving it to his own, and he used alternate versions of his name to avoid detection.

During an interview last year, Nelson told Market to Market that he had gotten in over his head financially while trying to build a commercial cattle feeding operation. He ultimately pled guilty to fraud charges.

But after spending more than a year in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, Nelson was released in March of 2018, hoping to make a fresh start on his family’s farm near Braymer. Later in 2018, he told Market to Market that he’d learned some hard lessons about farm management.

Joey Nelson, Braymer, Missouri: “I can tell you all the things you don’t want to do when it comes to feeding cattle that way or loaning money from them, getting entirely too deep with somebody. I mean, it was a bad experience but I learned from it. I learned who you can trust and who you can’t trust, and just how far to go before things get too bad.”

Within nine months of making that comment, Nelson would, again, be under investigation. This time, for the July 21 disappearance of two Wisconsin cattle producers. Caldwell County, Missouri officials announced that human remains found on Nelson’s farm were believed to be, based on DNA tests, those of the missing men, Nicholas and Justin Diemel.

On October 23, 2019 Nelson, now 25, was charged with, among other crimes, two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the brothers’ deaths.

Sheriff Jerry Galloway, Caldwell County, Missouri: “Charges of murder are Class A felonies, which carry a range of punishment of life in prison, or death.”

The Wisconsin men had previously sent cattle to Nelson to feed and sell on their behalf. Court documents say the father of the Diemels told officials the brothers had traveled in late July to Nelson’s Missouri farm to pick up a $250,000 check. They were not heard from again.

Those documents also say that Nelson acknowledged taking a rental truck used by the Diemels, and disposing of two bodies he said he found on his farm. In addition, a used rifle cartridge was found in Nelson’s clothes. He told officials he had been hunting small game. Nelson is being held in the Caldwell County Detention Center, pending a trial.

Dr. Michael Rosmann, an Iowa-based psychologist interviewed long before the men disappeared, said he should not comment on the Nelson case, never having met the young man. But, typically, in other, less-serious cases, producers who get in trouble often make decisions that were intended to keep their farm or ranch financially viable.

Dr. Michael Rosmann, farmer psychologist “I think there are some farm people who will resort to illegal activities to get ahead because they feel compelled to do whatever it takes to hang onto the land and resources needed to farm. And their motives aren’t always to hurt anybody but they end up hurting people anyhow.”

Occasionally, farmers who cheat federal programs or mislead consumers are accused of using the profits for purchases the government would describe as being for “personal enjoyment and pleasure.” In 2016, for example, an Idaho farmer was sentenced to three years in prison for selling regular alfalfa seed as organic. Court documents say he used the profits to buy an RV and a boat.

Dr. Michael Rosmann, farmer psychologist: “People will do things that they normally wouldn’t do just because their livelihood is under threat. And they’ll do what they think they have to in order to maintain the quality of farm operation that they’re accustomed to. Doesn’t make it right. It is just a factor that contributes to why this phenomenon occurs.”

In rare cases, some psychologists believe, those farmers who were charged have committed suicide to avoid either serving time in prison or facing the public shame. Rosmann says the data shows a shift away from older producers taking their lives.

Dr. Michael Rosmann, farmer psychologist: “Now, we’re seeing younger farmers from age 45 up to their late 60s as the most vulnerable for self-harm, and we’re trying to figure out why that is…Possibly it has something to do with a sense that I only have a few more years to succeed and it’s make or break time.”

During his Market to Market interview a year ago, Nelson described feeling badly for another farmer who was in prison because of the impact it had on his wife and children.

Joey Nelson, Braymer, Missouri: “He farmed and he was there for his kids every day of their life until that point, and you know his wife still has to farm.... She’s got to do it all by herself. They don’t think about that stuff.”

Nick Diemel, a 34-year-old from Navarino, Wisconsin, left behind a wife and four children. Justin Diemel, of Pulaski, Wisconsin, was 24.

In his interview, Joey Nelson described how he felt the day he was released in 2018 after spending 13 months in Leavenworth’s minimum-security satellite facility on fraud charges.

Joey Nelson, Braymer, Missouri: “You get nervous about everything you do from that point forward. Everything you go to do, you are like, ‘Okay, now can this be twisted or turned around where I might get in trouble for it?’”

By Colleen Bradford Krantz, colleen.krantz@iptv.org

More from this show

Grinnell Mutual Insurance