At Boutin Jones, our roots as a homegrown law firm in Sacramento’s Central Valley have made us a natural partner with the region’s agricultural businesses. We have a keen understanding of the unique nature of these businesses, which have to navigate a complex blend of issues including family ownership, generational shifts, real estate growth, weather patterns, consumer trends and relentless hard work.
Our agribusiness clients reflect the rich diversity of the population and agriculture of our region as well as the global scope of their reach. Our clients include the world’s largest prune grower, the fourth-largest seed producer in the world, a top 20 USA wine company, an international commodities company, regional cooperatives, family wineries, orchard developers, rice growers, tomato growers and solar farms.
We are proud to be the lawyers that so many agribusinesses trust.
Both local farmers and multi-national corporations have chosen Boutin Jones’ corporate team to achieve their business goals. Whether it’s putting together contracts that support a farmer’s growing season or leading mergers and acquisitions that span continents—we bring the experience of having successfully completed agribusiness deals that have shaped the region. We have restructured ag companies, worked with lenders who focus on agribusiness finance and assembled intellectual property agreements for the unique assets of agribusiness, such as crop design and seed quality. We blend high-level corporate, securities and finance skills together with a down-to-earth approach that helps agricultural companies accomplish their business goals.
Growers, ranchers, winemakers, milling operators, feed manufacturers and distributers have employment law issues that are unique to agribusiness and require employment law advice from a team experienced within the industry. Whether it’s tackling the different wage and hour and overtime regulations that apply to farmworkers, responding to Department of Homeland Security audits, conducting I-9 verification, or handling immigration and customs enforcement actions, our employment lawyers have the needed experience to counsel agribusinesses on human resources issues. We also help agricultural clients in the same way we help any business owner—we provide practical legal advice on ever-changing employment laws. We work with claims of harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination and other complaints, and we suggest solutions that keep farming operations running smoothly.
When employment disputes turn to litigation, we have a proven track record. In one instance, we helped a major farming organization defend itself against a variety of claims and prevailed on summary judgment on all causes of action. We’ve also negotiated numerous favorable employment settlements that were to the advantage of our farming clients and allowed them to move past claims in an efficient manner.
In sum, our agricultural clients have a full-service employment group that is always prepared to help with HR triage, advice, investigation and, if necessary, litigation.
Estate Planning, Tax and Succession Planning
For decades, agricultural families have been coming to the attorneys at Boutin Jones for estate planning and tax and succession planning. The challenges of preparing for the generational transition of a farming operation is one that our estate planning lawyers have met many times over with creativity, skill and diplomacy. We listen carefully to family founders who have built a farm or other agribusiness to understand their wishes for the future of their farm. We consider tax law, charitable contributions and business operational issues, and we find solutions that avoid family friction by developing a plan for a successful transition—whether that means handing down a farm to all or part of the next generation, selling property, creating leases and crop share arrangements or paying for outside management. In short, in order to head off future problems before they occur, we help determine who in the next generation will lead the family business into the future, and who won’t, and then tackle the question of how all family members will be fairly treated and compensated. Boutin Jones has handled estates valued at over $500 million and has earned the trust of many of the region’s most successful farms, wineries, orchards, processors and packers.
Our litigators are routinely chosen by California rice growers, commodities companies, farmers and property owners when their futures are at stake. Our ag-based trial work has taken us from Placer, Yolo, and Solano Counties to the Middle East, and many places in between, and resulted in consistently positive results for our clients. One such result was a $2.3 million jury verdict that was awarded to our client by a Placer County jury in a case involving a disputed rice purchase. We have also negotiated many favorable settlements that keep our agribusiness owners out of the courtroom and where they want to be—in the rice fields, vineyards and processing plants that support their families. We account for the role that insurance, including crop and commercial general liability insurance, plays into an agribusiness litigation matter, and we understand the unique financing that pertains to agribusiness, such as crop liens. Our litigators have a broad understanding of the unique relationships that exist in agribusiness (for instance, between a grower, packer, processor and distributor) and how that interplay often factors into whether disputes lead to the courtroom or get resolved.
Central Valley farmers have trusted Boutin Jones’ real estate team to successfully sell and acquire tens-of-thousands of acres of farm and ranch land. Whether it’s a sale from one farm operation to another, or from a farmer to a developer or investor, our team understands the issues and moving pieces that must be addressed in an agricultural property transfer. We know the importance of both reserving and obtaining rights when selling off or acquiring ag land, and have extensive experience addressing access and drainage rights, joint-use and maintenance rights, mineral rights and crucial water rights. When necessary to make sure that important water assets are properly preserved or transferred, we partner with water rights experts with whom we have worked for years. Conservation easements and mitigation banks are other areas of expertise where we have earned quite a reputation. Whether land is used to farm crops, graze cattle or plant orchards, we prepare and negotiate leases that benefit our clients. Our real estate team enjoys working with farming clients on agricultural transactions, and we are often referred work from within the farming community based on the strength of our agribusiness relationships.