Why Would You Need an Agriculture Attorney?

They may save farmers money, time and worries

By Benjy Schirm

The lawyers who keep the farming industry running and help sustain billions of Americans each day are called agriculture attorneys. But what does an ag law attorney actually do?

“It touches upon every area of law,” says Cari Rincker, one such attorney. “It’s just in a specific industry. I tend to do transactional work on a national scale: business planning and contracts, estate planning and compliance issues, federal permit issues, zoning issues, easement concerns—all in the interests of farmers and livestock producers.”

At its core, a small farm is a family-owned business, and with that comes all of the issues that independent business owners face each and every day. Sometimes business owners are great at creating a product, but the business acumen or future planning may not be a strong suit. Sooner or later, a problem may arise—maybe a contract, a warranty, or a lender/debtor. And when this happens, an attorney can help to solve the issue more efficiently and will allow you to get back to what you do best.

“My favorite time [to be contacted] is before there is a problem,” Rincker says. “I like to be involved from the onset to ascertain if this is the right business model, what can be tweaked or shored up, and what are the contractual obligations that need to be investigated.”

Besides looking to the past and what can be improved, an agricultural attorney can also help you plan for the future. “I can learn about their agricultural operation; I can learn about their business structure; and oftentimes, but not always, family businesses are multi-generational, which has special dynamics within the business and also in respect to estate planning and succession planning issues as farms transition from one generation to the next,” says Rincker.

These attorneys can also create action plans for when things go wrong and help to protect your hard-earned living and land. “A common fear or issue in livestock operations is animal cruelty and animal welfare concerns,” Rincker says. “I’ve had clients with alleged animal abuse claims, and it is very helpful to have a plan in place before any of these allegations come about.”

Having a trusted person to call in the bad times rather than searching for one when things go wrong provides invaluable peace of mind. If you don’t plan ahead and an agreement between farms goes south, things can get nasty. Just as in any business dispute with multi-million-dollar companies, attorneys can help to quell the storm.

“When two farmers go into business together and then need a business divorce, I can step in and help with the commercial litigation or landlord-tenant disputes involving a farm,” Rincker says.

Imagine having a trusted consiglieri to bounce ideas and future plans, examine your day-to-day work, and make you more profitable and protected going forward. That’s what an experienced and reputable agricultural attorney can offer you and your family farm.

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