Gislason & Hunter is recognized within Minnesota and throughout the Midwest for our knowledge and experience in the agricultural industry. Our lawyers represent local, regional and national agribusiness clients—grain farmers and livestock producers, packers and processing plants, grain and food cooperatives, ethanol and energy cooperatives, equipment manufacturers and input suppliers, feed and fertilizer distributors, agricultural lenders and other ag-related businesses—in all aspects of their operations.
Our accomplished attorneys bring substantial expertise to the Agriculture & Agribusiness industry to deliver the very best in service and results.
- David C. Kim
- Matthew C. Berger
- Christopher E. Bowler
- Michael S. Dove
- Cory A. Genelin
- Reed H. Glawe
- Rick J. Halbur
- Brittany R. King-Asamoa
- Jennifer G. Lurken
- Kaitlin M. Pals
- Noel L. Phifer
- David W. Sturges
- Andrew M. Tatge
- Mark S. Ullery
- Andrew A. Willaert, Jr.
- Dean M. Zimmerli
- Christopher J. Kamath
- Jennifer A. Gish
- Daniel J. Schwartz
- William Bigham
Cases & Clients
CRP Contract Termination Appeal
After a local FSA office terminated a client’s CRP contracts and the FSA demanded tens of thousands of dollars of refunds in payments, Dean Zimmerli represented his client in an appeal to the National Appeals Division of the United States Department of Agriculture. At the Appeals Division, Dean presented evidence showing that the FSA wrongfully terminated the contract and acted arbitrary in demanding refunds far beyond the money actually received by his client. The Appeals Division agreed, reversed the termination and demand for refunds, and even awarded Dean’s client a significant amount of the attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the appeal.
Farm Divorce and Farm Family Law Practice
Andrew Tatge’s experience representing clients in farm divorces is too extensive to list. In addition to teaching other attorneys throughout the country how to handle farm divorces, Andrew’s family law practice is significantly devoted to representing clients whose assets include farms, farm property, and other agricultural businesses ranging in value from a few hundred thousand dollars to over one hundred million dollars. Andrew has represented grain farmers, livestock producers, and owners of other agriculture-related entities (or their spouses) in arriving at a fair and equitable division of marital property, as well as drafting antenuptial agreements to avoid the potential for disputes later in the marriage. Many of his farm divorce cases have involved significant nonmarital tracing claims, spousal maintenance claims, and complex tax or other issues. When appropriate, Andrew has devised and utilized unique and novel ways to keep farm operations intact post-divorce so that both parties can move on with life and the farm can be handed down to the next generation. Andrew has also successfully represented numerous clients in child custody, parenting time and child support disputes involving farms and farm families.
In 2017 Cory Genelin concluded multiyear litigation on behalf of a farm lender over a $3.125M agricultural loan assigned from another bank. The debtors defaulted and then denied any liability to the lender. (One of the debtors even denied the lender existed!) Prior to litigation, the debtors had liquidated collateral, and mingled assets with another operation. A farm visit to inspect collateral turned violent and law enforcement was called.
The debtors alleged the entire panoply of spurious counterclaims including FDCPA violations, Minnesota Farm Lender Act violations, fraud and theft.
After discovery, depositions and motion practice Cory got the debtors to reverse course, admit liability, and give up on their counter claims. They executed a confession of judgement and eventually paid off the debt in full including interest, penalties, and attorney fees.
See Sherburne County File No. 71-CV-16-1448
Products Liability Case
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently ruled on a products liability case that R. Stephen Tillitt has been defending for several years. Steve’s client manufactured and sold a machine that compresses materials to extract fluids. While the purchaser was using it in its hog feed operation to extract expired dairy products from containers, an untrained employee climbed into a portion of the machine ignoring a warning and without following the lockout/tagout procedure. Another employee activated the machine, crushing the man’s legs, resulting in a double amputation. The trial court granted summary judgment to Steve’s client on three separate grounds, and a three judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed in 2016. The Minnesota Supreme Court accepted review of the case and reversed the lower courts on the issue of foreseeability in July 2017. The matter is now being considered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on remand of the remaining two issues. The Supreme Court’s decision in Montemayor v. Sebright Products, Inc., d/b/a Bright Technologies, 898 N.W.2d 623 (Minn. 2017); 2016 WL 1175089 (Minn. Ct. App. March 28, 2016), has been covered by the media and will be the subject of two seminars in the future.
Brittany King-Asamoa has valued experience performing workplace investigations regarding reports of discrimination, sexual harassment, and general non-compliance with employment laws. She takes great pride in performing these investigations with an eye toward counseling employers and management about compliance issues, as well assisting employers in identifying problem areas and solutions.
Ongoing Management of Trusts
Kaitlin Pals provided legal guidance regarding ongoing management of trusts holding business and farm property
Appealing Awards of Unemployment Compensation
Brittany King-Asamoa has successfully represented numerous employers in evidentiary hearings challenging eligibility determinations for unemployment compensation.
Employment Policies, Agreements and Employee Handbooks
Experienced and passionate about assisting employers and their human resources professionals craft employment policies designed to comply with the law as well as practically address and minimize workplace issues. Brittany King-Asamoa also has experience drafting agreements that best fit the needs of employers including, but not limited to, non-competes, independent contractor, non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements and assignments of intellectual property rights.
In 2016 Cory Genelin defended a building permit for a hog confinement facility on behalf of a local producer. The township issuing the permit had made some procedural mistakes and issued insufficient findings. A neighboring property owner hired an attorney who specializes in fighting feedlot permits. The neighbor argued that an abandoned house was a residence in violation of the setback requirements. After litigation and three motions an improved permit was issued and the facility was built.
See Freeborn County File No. 24-CV-15-849
Successful Defense Jury Verdict
Dustan Cross obtained a successful defense jury verdict on behalf of a swine integrator following a two-week trial alleging nuisance, negligence, and trespass.
Presents on Employment Law Developments
Brittany King-Asamoa routinely monitors employment law developments and trends to keep employers apprised of compliance issues. She frequently presents and writes articles about employment law matters including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, #MeToo, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and other laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Labor.
Environmental and Permitting Litigation
Dean Zimmerli has been involved in several appeals to the Minnesota Court of Appeals concerning agricultural producers and environmental law and permitting issues. For example, Dean researched complex areas of water regulation under the Federal Clean Water Act and assisted in briefing questions about the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s ability to regulate farming and irrigation practices as part of a stream improvement project. Dean Zimmerli has also defended a new swine facility that was approved by the County board but opposed by a vocal minority of nearby landowners in a case before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Dean has assisted farmers in responding to administrative orders from the DNR and other governmental entities.
Farm Estate and Succession Planning
Represented major agricultural producers in farm estate and succession planning.
Rhett Schwichtenberg has successfully settled a large probate estate involving a family farm and navigated a contentious sibling and third-party dispute to obtain a strong settlement for clients.
Succession Planning for Family Farms
Worked with farm families throughout southern Minnesota in planning for the future transfer of the family farm from generation to generation. Special planning was needed to ensure that older generations can continue to earn a livelihood and be financially supported while transitioning ownership of the farm, and to provide for non-farming children as well as the children who wish to continue to the family business.
Performs Audits for Exempt and Non-Exempt Employment Status Identification
Proper identification of an employee’s entitlement to overtime pay or exemption from overtime laws is vital for employers. The ramifications for erroneously identifying an employee as exempt from overtime can be disastrous. Brittany King-Asamoa has performed position audits for multiple companies to assist employers with finding the proper identification of individuals exempt from overtime pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act.
Packers & Stockyards Act Work
Chris Bowler has performed extensive research and other work related to the Packers and Stockyards Act—a federal antitrust statute directed at the livestock industry. Chris’ experience with the Packers and Stockyards Act includes advising clients as to potential risks under the Act and co-authoring a law review article was published in the Mitchell Hamline Law Review. Read Article
Priority of Claims to Cattle
Successfully represented clients in a dispute over priority of claims to cattle in the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Corporate and Personal Succession Planning
Kaitlin Pals advised business and farm owners on all aspects of corporate and personal succession planning, including Minnesota’s recent Qualified Farm Property and Small Business estate tax elections.
New Drainage Project
Represented a group of farmers in their efforts to establish a new drainage project. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the farmers and upheld the drainage authority’s decision to establish the project.
Employment Administrative Proceedings
Brittany King-Asamoa is experienced with the administrative proceedings involving an employment charge filed with the EEOC and Minnesota Department of Human Rights. She has assisted in the defending against charges and represented employers in EEOC conciliation proceedings, as well as respond to requests for information during EEOC investigations.
Agricultural Trust Litigation
In 2016 Cory Genelin defended the administration of two farm trusts valued at $5.2M. This followed previous litigation in 2014. In that litigation, Mr. Genelin had the court appoint a new trustee favorable to his client, the lifetime beneficiary of the trusts. After two years of favorable administration, a death beneficiary of the trust (who was also one of the trustees who lost power in the 2014 litigation) brought suit to remove the trustee and undo over $320,000 in payments to Mr. Genelin's client. After full litigation, the court upheld the actions of the new trustee including the payments to Mr. Genelin's client.
See Nobles County File #No. 53-CV-14-223
$13.5 Million Hog Facility Acquisition
In late 2018 and early 2019, Chris Bowler guided an agricultural producer through a transaction in which it acquired four hog facilities. The project involved attention to multiple unique aspects of the transaction, including real estate issues and interests, inventory and equipment purchases and related operational agreements.
Hemp and Marijuana Law
Rhett Schwichtenberg is Gislason & Hunter’s cannabis expert. Rhett is active in the hemp and overarching cannabis industry. He followed federal legislation leading up to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing industrial hemp and continues to track legislation impacting the industry. Rhett is passionate about advising growers, processors, cannabis-related businesses, and financial institutions. His ag background and experience with the agribusiness lifecycle enable him to assist cannabis-related businesses from the initial planning phase and formation to succession. Rhett has advised multiple banking and lending institutions on navigating the current regulatory landscape. Rhett pairs his business and legal acumen with first-hand experience, farming 143 acres of hemp with his father on their family’s century farm. These skills have made Rhett a serious practitioner in the hemp and marijuana industry. Rhett is a member of the Minnesota Hemp Association.