Handling Legal Issues on the Farm

Farming is a business, and like every other business out there legal issues will arise from time to time. Who do you call for legal advice? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call another farmer who knows exactly what you’re dealing with? Well, you can.

“I started farming on my pedal tractor in my parents’ driveway at about age three and I never looked back,” says John Schwarz, aka “The Farm Lawyer”.

Schwarz farms in Cass County, Indiana and has been an attorney for 18 years. He says about 90% of what he does as a lawyer is farm related, ranging from fence line disputes to grain contracts, and includes issues with government entities like USDA or the county.

“A lot of the same issues I’ve had on my farm. You know, I had a wetland conversion on our farm. We had a situation where the county wouldn’t dip out or dredge out a ditch and the ditch became filled and it wasn’t draining. It backed up a tile on our farm, blew up the tile and then made this a wet area. This was even before I went to law school.”

Schwarz also reviews a lot of contracts from wind and solar companies wanting to lease farmland. He says those contracts are typically very long.

“I tell clients that 40 to 50 years is a long time. These lease agreements presented by the solar company or the wind company, they’re slanted in their favor- it’s just way it is. They’ve put a document together that best serves them.”

Schwarz encourages farmers to spend a little money and have a lawyer review your contracts, especially if that lawyer can say, “Well, if this were my farm, what would I want done?”

“For example, the solar lease. I’ve always thought if my farm is going to be leased, I want them to take the whole farm. I don’t want to be left with five acres here and little areas I can’t do anything with. If you want to lease the farm for solar, then take the whole thing. And just about every client I’ve worked with agrees with that.”

From estate planning to farm and grain contracts, learn more at TheFarmLawyer.com. We’ll hear more from Schwarz in the coming months to discuss specific ag related law issues, like USDA wetland compliance, and how these issues can best be resolved.

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