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, agricultural co-ops, equipment manufacturers and input suppliers, agricultural lenders and other ag-related businesses—in all aspects of their operations.
Our agricultural law attorneys grew up on farms or in farming communities. We are attuned to the lifestyle and rural sensibilities. We also understand that modern agriculture is large-scale, sophisticated and competitive, requiring solid legal counsel and strategies.
Gislason & Hunter supports the business of production agriculture. Our clients range from family-owned farms of modest size to major agribusiness, including Christensen Farms and other pork producers, large dairy farms and creameries, sizable soybean and beet operations, John Deere Co. and implement dealerships, ethanol and energy co-ops, grain and food cooperatives, feed and fertilizer distributors and more.
Areas of Expertise
- Ag Financing & Debt Restructuring
- Ag Litigation
- Agribusiness Formation & Transactions
- Agriculture Contracts
- Employment Matters
- Environmental Regulation
- Estate & Succession Planning
- Food Safety & Animal Rights Controversies
- Intellectual Property Rights
- Planning, Zoning & Land Use
- Purchase & Leasing
- Water Rights & Wetland Mitigation
Our accomplished attorneys bring substantial expertise to Agriculture Law & Agribusiness to deliver the very best in service and results.
- David C. Kim
- Matthew C. Berger
- Christopher E. Bowler
- Dustan J. Cross
- 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
- Mark S. Ullery
- Andrew A. Willaert, Jr.
- Dean M. Zimmerli
- Christopher J. Kamath
- Daniel J. Schwartz
- William M. Bigham
Cases & Clients
Jeff Braegelmann provides experienced representation to property owners in land and water disputes with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, United States Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Ongoing Management of Trusts
Kaitlin Pals provided legal guidance regarding ongoing management of trusts holding business and farm property
General Commercial and Agricultural Litigation
Rick Halbur has assisted in litigation involving secured and unsecured commercial and agricultural debts. Rick’s work includes representing defendants opposing the collection of alleged debts, as well as representing plaintiffs in collecting upon debts. For example, Rick has represented clients who have been sued for alleged breaches of contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to amounts in excess of $1 million. Rick also represented a client in federal court and obtained a judgment in excess of $500,000.00.
Jeff Braegelmann represents farmers and other land owners in public drainage proceedings including petitioning for improvements, repairs, outlets, abandonments and other types of drainage projects. He also represents clients who need to oppose such projects by appealing decisions of drainage authorities regarding improvements, redeterminations of benefits and other drainage matters. Jeff also prepares drainage easements and other agreements to assist landowners with their private drainage and water projects.
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.
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
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.
Farm Estate and Succession Planning
Represented major agricultural producers in farm estate and succession planning.
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.
Priority of Claims to Cattle
Successfully represented clients in a dispute over priority of claims to cattle in the South Dakota Supreme Court.
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
Commercial and Agricultural Collection Actions
Chris Bowler has assisted in the collection of secured and unsecured commercial and agricultural debts ranging in value from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. Chris’ collections experience includes pre-litigation case assessments; foreclosures by advertisement; drafting complaints and commencing lawsuits; early motions, such as replevin and foreclosure motions; discovery matters, including written discovery, depositions, and discovery motions; dispositive motions; and post-judgment collection efforts.
$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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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