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Do you have that in Writing

In each of these cases reviewed below, having it in writing was central to the case. Sometimes a writing is good enough and some times it isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Stopping to think about whether or not a "handshake" will hold up in a dispute is worth the time and effort it takes.

Collect the data or don't collect the reward

Using grid soil sampling and yield monitoring is the industry standard for modern farming. Consider all the ways you can establish your yield. Monitors, weigh wagons, grain warehouse receipts, scale tickets. A farmer filed suit against a Cooperative for impaired crop due to lack of proper spraying. The farmer had no yield records to support his claim. This farmer apparently had no records to support his yield claim and yet demanded compensation. It is a true stretch in those cases to get anywhere. The farmer learned that the hard way. The lesson is to invest in your operation and ensure you have accurate data, especially if you think you are going to have a loss based on some one else's misconduct.

Sometimes, a handshake agreement just leads to being slapped. An older farmer agreed to help a young farmer with access to land and equipment. The older farmer allowed the young farmer to trade the older equipment off on newer equipment. Nothing was documented or written down. The relationship went south and the young farmer left with all of the shiny new equipment. The older farmer sued for theft of the equipment. The court found that ownership wasn't clearly proven and the young farmer retained ownership of the equipment. 
 

According to the US National Intelligence Office, by 2030 (that’s not that far away) the world is projected to be urban, dangerous, and not dominated by American interests.  United States, European, and Japanese global incomes (currently at 56% of the world's income) will fall to less than ½ while China, India, Russia and Brazil will grab increased income opportunities.  Where income is generated is where the power is generated as well.

Further, the report goes on to indicate that of the projected 8.3 billion people, sixty percent will live in urban areas.  By comparison, in 1950, only 30% of the world lived in urban areas. Urban areas, especially those bounded by geographical restraints like water and international boundaries, have entrenched criminal networks, insider power struggles, and sanitation and health issues. Who wants to live there? Instead the areas away from the urban areas will grow, as cheaper housing and land will bring residents and manufacturing. This will put further pressure on the areas that are still available to grow crops to produce.  In addition, all those folks are going to consume water.  Demand is expected to increase by 40%.

Ag is highly dependent upon access to water and fertilizer, which is an energy intensive resource.  How does the American Ag sector ensure access to energy to create fertilizer and not limit access to water by diverting water for urban use or regulating ourselves out of access to the water?

California Proposition 2 enacted Jan 1 abolishes confinement crates for veal and hogs and laying cages for hens.  Their compatriots on the left coast in Washington and Oregon (along with Michigan and Ohio) are considering similar laws. New Jersey’s governor vetoed a similar law in November. This impacts Iowa, just not California. Iowa is the number one producer of eggs, selling about 40 million eggs per day out of state.  Iowa brought a law suit against California asserting that the  California laws violate the federal constitution by favoring instate producers who have to meet the requirement over out of state producers who do not. Iowa lost at the trial court level but has filed an appeal. Starbucks, Burger King and Whole Foods have pledged to not buy eggs from caged laying hens. Combined, the response from the industry is telling. Egg producers have to put fewer hens per cage or reconfigure existing house. Projections are that egg prices will rise 10%-40% as result of this and avian flu issues in Canadian and Mexican flocks.  The hog industry will have similar long term impacts, with several producer groups already moving away from gestation crates.

The implication is clear, social legation and not science based legislation is gaining a foothold in the statehouses of the Union. The hallowed reverence for the farmer is fading, as less than 2% of the population is connected directly to an active Ag operation. The stereotypes of bib overalls,   hand milking cows and putting along on a narrow front tractor with a six foot disk are fading. The question is what is the new stereotype of the farmer? When urban dwellers think of farmers they will either see technology using stewards of animal and natural resources who are vested in their product or they will see miles of confinement pig barns, piles of manure and endless rows of grain crops with no human connection.  When one of these bills come up, who with the legislator think about when casting the vote?  Some commentators believe the only reason New Jersey vetoed the legislation is because of the governors concern of his own presidential run, which of course, runs through Iowa.

Being a better boss primarily requires us to communicate with our employees effectively. Recognizing that the leader and the led are only two portions of the puzzle, the message and the goal must also be considered when developing an effective communication relationship with employees. If you don't communicate the goal, the led will substitute their own goal and when the goals don't match, conflict results.

For example, during the spring, just prior to planting, your employee reports to work a 6 AM as normal, expecting to be gone by 2 PM, as per normal arrangement. The employee tells her husband to plan her to be home to prepare their own equipment for spring planting. However, you have decided to move equipment to your equipment to the field in hopes of calibrating all the electronics so that you can start when the crop insurance planting window opens up. Your goal is to make sure that on the first available day you are running hard, and you view this prep day as critical to get it all done, regardless of time spent. As mid afternoon approaches, two very different sets of expectations are brewing, which could have been avoided by cluing the employee in at the start of the day or beginning of the week on the things you, the employer, wanted accomplished.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
  • Patrick B. Dillon
  • Jill Dillon
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Patrick B. Dillon enjoys finding solutions to legal issues and catching problems for clients. Pat practices in the Sumner office regularly represents clients in district, associate district and magistrate courts for agricultural, real estate, criminal and collection issues. He drafts wills and trusts, creates estate plans and helps clients through the probate process.
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Jill Dillon focuses on family law, estate planning and IRS matters. Jill is a University of Northern Iowa undergraduate (Political Science Cum Laude) and a Drake University Law School graduate. Jill spent extensive time advocating for low income tax payers in front of the IRS and the State of Iowa Department of Revenue while at Drake.

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