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Agribusiness and Food

Agriculture and food processing are increasingly sophisticated industries that require expertise in many areas. With more than 200 attorneys working out of eight offices across Michigan, we have the legal expertise and business acumen necessary to help growers, processors and distributors of food products thrive in an era of increased regulation and litigation. We help our clients cultivate and position their businesses for long-term prosperity.

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We routinely advise clients on entity formation, selection and governance issues, and assist them with domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, tender offers, antitrust, franchising, dealership and licensing matters. We have expertise in representing agribusiness cooperatives, as well as converting cooperatives into corporations. We advise clients on compliance with state and federal reporting requirements, including Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and SEC reporting.

Data Solutions:

We assist clients with all matters of data governance, including creating and implementing record retention and management policies, data privacy and security policies, employee technology and electronic communication policies, and Internet and social media policies. We counsel clients in data breach guidance, eDiscovery and legal hold matters. We also assist clients in requesting and responding to information requests, including requests under state and federal Freedom of Information Acts.

Economic Incentives:

As part of our development of agribusiness facilities, we add value for clients by identifying, securing and monetizing financial incentives from the federal, state and local units of government. We have assisted projects by securing USDA financing and grants, farmland and open space preservation abatements and credits, New Markets Tax Credits, tax abatements, Community Development Block Grant funding, private bonds, brownfield redevelopment financing, tax increment financing and job training funding.

Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation:

We regularly advise clients with respect to 401(k), defined contribution and traditional pension plans, establishing Employee Stock Ownership Programs and setting up employee health and welfare benefits. We advise corporate clients in negotiating executive compensation packages and bonus programs. We also assist clients in understanding and complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Energy Use and Production:

We assist clients in all aspects of energy and communications infrastructure, from generation to consumption, including negotiating wind turbine, cell tower and oil and gas leases, developing power supply options, securing gas, electric and communication utilities for development and expansion projects, siting and permitting alternative energy sources and negotiating power supply contracts with regulated utilities and independent power producers.

Environmental Permitting, Compliance and Litigation:

We assist clients with all matters of environmental issues, from obtaining air, water, wetland and other permits, to counseling on waste and byproduct management issues. From small family-owned farms to international concerns, we regularly represent clients in defending administrative and regulatory investigations and actions, as well as litigating land use and natural resource issues. We also assist with environmental due diligence when our clients are acquiring real estate, acquiring other entities or divesting themselves of real estate.

Estate Planning:

We assist clients, from family farmers to CEOs of international corporations, in preparing wills, trusts, generational transition plans for the family farm and agribusiness succession planning.

Financial Services:

We assist clients in reviewing and negotiating financing packages and other commercial and financing transactions, and also represent them in workout, insolvency and bankruptcy matters. Our attorneys have significant experience with angel funding, first and second stage funding, private bond funding and other sources of non-traditional financing.

Food Safety Modernization Act, USDA and FDA Compliance:

We counsel growers, processers and distributors of food, supplements and feed on a wide range of FSMA issues, from applicability of regulations and registration, to inspections, investigations and recalls. We also assist clients in preparing and implementing crisis management plans relating to investigations and recalls.


We represent clients in agribusiness related EB-5 immigrant investor visas, adjustment of status and removal of conditions. We also assist clients in obtaining and maintaining E-2 visa status and other nonimmigrant visa statuses for owners and key workers. We counsel owners in immigration compliance and other regulatory matters.

Insurance and Risk Management:

Our attorneys have significant experience counseling clients on insurance coverage, recovery and premium matters. We assist clients in negotiating policies to best protect their interests, as well as litigating coverage issues when insurers reject claims. In addition, we counsel clients on risk management and risk avoidance strategies in order to avoid unnecessary costs and reduce insurance premiums.

Intellectual Property Protection:

We assist clients with a wide array of copyright, trademark and patent issues, including application, registration, prosecution, licensing and litigation. We also assist clients with trade secret issues, including assisting them with preparing internal management plans, drafting and enforcing non-disclosure agreements, and prosecuting and defending claims involving trade secrets.

Labeling and Marketing Law:

Advising clients with USDA, FDA and state regulations relating to mandatory and voluntary product labeling, compliance with truth-in-advertising law, and navigating environmental and green marketing regulations. We defend clients in administrative and regulatory proceedings based upon labeling, marketing and marketing regulations. We also advise clients on compliance with sweepstakes and promotions regulations.

Labor and Employment:

We assist clients with developing and negotiating union and non-union employment contracts, and non-disclosure, non-solicitation and non-compete agreements. We also represent clients with respect to federal migrant worker protection laws, immigration laws, OSHA rules and wage and hour requirements. We also assist clients in securing resources to help identify, hire and train new and incumbent employees.


We represent clients in contract disputes, class action, personal injury claims and other litigation matters.

Real Estate:

We represent clients in purchasing and leasing real and personal property, resolving zoning and land use issues (including Right to Farm Act and Land Division Act matters), negotiating easements, and securing land exchanges. We assist clients in appealing property taxes, securing special tax designations (such as qualified agricultural property tax exemptions and industrial facilities tax abatements) and negotiating payments-in-lieu of taxes.

Supply Chain Management:

We assist clients with domestic and international supply chain issues, including drafting, negotiating and, when necessary, litigating all manner of supply agreements, including licenses, guarantees and warranties. Taxation: We assist clients at all levels of federal, state and local taxation, including income and property taxation.

Representative Experience

This is a sampling of our representative experience. Businesses and individuals throughout the agribusiness and food industry chose Warner Norcross & Judd to provide trusted legal counsel because of our expertise and accomplishments for clients throughout the industry. For additional examples, contact us.
  • Assisted a food co-packer in obtaining more than $4 million in property tax abatements, MEGA MBT Job Creation tax credits and CDBG funds for the construction of a new plant and associated wastewater facilities in West Michigan
  • Counseled agribusiness entities, including large scale dairy farms, on immigration and associated foreign ownership issues
  • Represented farming interests in litigation claims involving crop losses, real estate acquisition and labor, including compliance with the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act
  • Represented Michigan farmers in breach-of-warranty claims and defenses
  • Handled intellectual property matters for agricultural processing and labeling company and fruit tree breeding company
  • Represented agricultural chemical supplier in federal court case against former employees
  • Represented farming operation in federal criminal and civil investigation concerning farm subsidy payments
  • Prepared and negotiated leases for upwards of 300 wireless (cell) towers for wireless communication providers in the Midwest region
  • Represented farming operation in OSHA investigation after worker fatality
  • Represented fruit processor in MDEQ enforcement action seeking penalties for water discharges and residuals management issues
  • Represented farming operation in warranty and construction claims concerning defective refrigeration equipment
  • Assisted with protection of rights to property ownership, recovering amounts owed in bankruptcy and other collection proceedings