GrowBiz is our blog series that focuses on businesses that can help farmers thrive. Know of one you think we should know about? Shoot an email to brooke at georgiaorganics dot org.
When we were brainstorming topics for GrowBiz, we didn’t have to look far for a great lawyer. Kyle Moore is an attorney specializing in civil litigation matters that affect growers, and he’s also married to Danielle Moore, the dynamo who manages our My Market Club. Kyle’s volunteered at farms and worked as a vendor at farmers markets, and comes from a long line of produce enthusiasts—his family sold fruits and vegetables door to door in downtown Atlanta in the 1940s and 50s. We asked him about common legal issues, and why he’s so passionate about working with farmers.
How can farmers benefit from a lawyer?
Lawyers can save farmers time and money. Running a farm is running a business, and lawyers help protect personal assets of the owners for actions taken on behalf of the business. Lawyers also know how to negotiate persuasively when conflicts arise, whether in an employment dispute or a contract issue, and can advise farmers on whether a conflict should be resolved in a court. Of course, lawyers are officers of the Courts and can act on behalf of the farm or farmer in any legal action that may go up before a judge or jury.
What liability issues should farmers know about?
Farms and farm owners can be liable for the actions of their employees in certain situations. Farms are also liable to the parties they make contracts with, and can be sued over non-payment of debts. Also, farms may be sued for civil damages related to safety violations that cause harm to consumers and perhaps other damages under State and Federal regulatory laws.
What about organic certification? How can a lawyer help there?
Paperwork. Farmers do not have the time after spending all day outside managing the day-to-day activities of the farm to sit down and sort through the byzantine rules and regulations related to certifications. Lawyers can help bridge the gap between the certifying agency and the leg work required to make compliance a reality. Further, in my practice, I will help the farmer explore what kind of certification program (Naturally Grown, USDA organic, etc.) is best for their needs, as not every farmer will benefit from gaining a certification status.
How can a lawyer help with incorporation?
A farmer or farm could set up a business on their own, but choosing the business structure that provides the most protection for the type farm, is where a lawyer can really help. There are a number of different types of organizational structures out there, that provide different protections from personal liability and have different taxation schemes. Lawyers investigate this for you, and advise you on what is best. Not to mention, the lawyer does all the paper work, so the farmer can really just concentrate of farming while knowing that their personal assets will be protected, in the event the farm becomes liable for some harm caused to someone.
How can a lawyer help with crop insurance?
Lawyers and insurance companies both work in a risk analysis environment. Crop insurance companies are realizing that there is a market for selling policies to small and medium sized non-commodity farms, because demand for local food is on the rise. Lawyers can help prepare the necessary proof a crop insurance provider needs to make a reasonable risk assessment of that particular farms crop production, and help to negotiate the best premium rates.
On a personal level, why do you want to work with farmers?
The taste of the food. I have been eating locally for the past 5 years or so now, and I can really taste the difference between food that was grown or raised responsibly, with love, and food that was not. I want more access to better food. My motivation to help farmers with their legal needs stems from my wanting to have as much access to local sustainable agriculture products as I can, everywhere I go in the State. Well-supported farmers means more access to better food.