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Agriculture and Equine

McAfee & Taft’s Agriculture and Equine Industry Group is dedicated to representing and protecting the specialized interests, rights and assets of hard-working individuals, families, public and private companies, and other organizations engaged in agriculture and livestock-based businesses. Our clients include farmers and ranchers, equine owners, property and mineral rights owners, equipment and machinery manufacturers, animal processing and feed manufacturing plants, inventors, professional associations and foundations, lenders, concentrated animal feeding operations, and agribusinesses of all sizes.

Hands-On Understanding and Insight

For the majority of our industry lawyers, understanding the realities, complexities and concerns of the agriculture and equine industries has been the result of years of hands-on experience working in the industry. Collectively, their background experiences include working on family farms and ranches, participating in FFA and 4H and rodeos, and pursuing undergraduate degrees in Ag Econ and Agricultural Business. While all are now engaged in the full-time practice of law, several maintain direct ties to the industry as landowners, consultants to family-owned operations, and owners/operators of agriculture-based businesses.

Our lawyers serve as outside general counsel to major farming and ranching operations and are actively involved in industry organizations such as the American Agriculture Law Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legal Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Sirloin Club of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Youth Expo. They are also frequent speakers at the Governor’s Conferences on Agriculture and Water Law and other ag-related seminars and conferences.

Our lawyers have also used their insight, knowledge and experience to advocate for legislative change to benefit the industry. Ag & Equine Industry Group co-chair Jeff Todd assisted Oklahoma lawmakers in drafting the Livestock Owner’s Lien Act of 2011 (SB 530), a law which protects agriculture producers by ensuring they maintain a security interest in their livestock until the proceeds from those sales clear the bank.

Comprehensive Legal and Business Services

Family Wealth Preservation, Asset Protection and Business Taxation

We understand that the preservation of hard-earned family wealth, the protection of assets, and the smooth transfer of business interests from one generation to another – or from one owner to another – are of vital concern to closely held agriculture-based businesses. McAfee & Taft’s family wealth and tax attorneys provide strategic estate, tax and business succession planning advice and utilize sophisticated techniques to achieve such goals while avoiding common probate. The firm has particular experience helping farming and ranching families preserve assets and avoid estate taxes for multiple generations, as well as protect future heirs from creditor claims by way of spendthrift provisions, through the use of dynasty trusts. Significant attention to detail is paid to the preparation of all estate plans so as to minimize the risk of future disputes among family members or with the Internal Revenue Service.

Our tax attorneys are also highly experienced in helping ag-based businesses minimize their tax liability through the proper formation of business entities, structuring tax-deferred Section 1031 like-kind exchanges of property such as farm and ranch land and oil and gas interests, planning for gains/losses, and carefully structuring business transactions and asset acquisitions.

Business Transactions and Real Estate

While the firm’s business and corporate attorneys are available to provide ongoing counsel on a variety of day-to-day and operational matters, they are most frequently called upon to handle complex business transactions involving the purchase, financing, lease and sale of businesses, real estate, livestock, and machinery and equipment.

We also assist clients with business formation, marketing and sales agreements, contracts, financing and investments, asset acquisitions and divestitures, oil and gas matters, mineral rights and royalties, mortgages and foreclosures, creditor and debtor rights, and bankruptcy and workouts.

McAfee & Taft attorneys are also experienced in negotiating wind leases with energy companies on behalf of landowners. These contracts protect the long-term interests of landowners by adequately compensating them for the alteration and use of their land, as well as any damages that might occur, and address such issues as rent and royalty payments, easements, terms for both the development and operations phases of the lease, surface damage payments, cleanup and maintenance, and renewal terms.

Water Rights

McAfee & Taft assists agriculture producers and landowners with a broad range of water allocation, acquisition, ownership, transfer and protection rights in accordance with state and federal law. Much of our practice is concentrated on ensuring landowners and lessees receive the allotment of water to which they are entitled through the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s permitting process. We routinely represent water rights applicants and permit holders in filing permits, amending permits, and defending streamwater and groundwater applications for irrigation, ranching, and other beneficial uses. See ‘Water Rights Law’

As disputes over water arise, we also represent clients in the acquisition, transfer and protection of ground, riparian and surface water rights as well as drainage issues, the manipulation of waterways, the proper determination of maximum annual yields of groundwater basins, and various permitting issues before governmental agencies and in state and federal courts. See ‘Water Rights Disputes’

Environmental

McAfee & Taft provides comprehensive counseling and assistance in all facets of environmental law to landowners, farm and ranch operators, concentrated animal feeding operations and agribusinesses. Our services include counseling clients on compliance with state and federal laws regulating solid and hazard waste, clean air, water quality, and underground storage tanks; securing groundwater and surface water use permits; developing emergency plans; and performing due diligence in conjunction with real estate transactions and corporate acquisitions.

The firm also provides valuable counseling regarding the utilization of sustainable farming practices and assists clients who wish to financially benefit from the production of renewable fuels such as corn-based ethanol.

Inventions, Trademarks and Licensing

McAfee & Taft’s intellectual property attorneys assist clients in enhancing revenue, protecting competitive positions and maximizing brand value by securing and defending their rights to valuable inventions and technology, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks, and license agreements. Our comprehensive services for the agriculture and equine industries include protecting trademarks, including state-registered cattle brands, securing patents for plant varieties and agricultural equipment and machinery, and advising clients as to how to best capitalize on their inventions, trademarks and copyrights.

Employment and Workplace Safety

McAfee & Taft represents and counsels businesses on a wide spectrum of matters involving the workplace and safety issues, including compliance with state and federal employment laws, specialized safety training regarding the handling of machinery and livestock, employment of seasonal workers, independent contractor relationships, immigration and employment verification, and the litigation of various disputes arising from the employer/employee relationship.

The firm’s labor attorneys also counsel non-unionized employers on union avoidance and organizing campaigns and represent unionized employers in collective bargaining and the defense of unfair labor practice claims and employee grievances.

Complementing the firm’s labor and employment practice is an extensive employee benefits practice which assists mid- and large-sized employers design, administer, and operate all forms of employee benefits plans, including retirement plans, health and welfare plans, wellness programs and executive compensation programs. Our employee benefits attorneys also counsel companies on benefit issues that arise in connection with mergers and acquisitions, dispositions and other business transactions.

Business Disputes and Litigation

  • Landowner Rights – The firm represents landowners in disputes over leases, real estate, condemnation, eminent domain, surface damages, annexation, landowner liability, fencing laws and replevin actions to recover personal property.
  • Environmental Disputes – The firm represents landowners, feed lots and agribusinesses in all types of environmental disputes involving Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and other regulated business activities.
  • Crop Insurance – The firm has developed a niche representing farmers in disputes over federally insured crop insurance policies through arbitration, litigation and USDA National Appeals Division administrative actions.
  • Partnership/Entity Disputes – The firm is routinely asked to assist in the resolution of disputes among agriculture businesses and is involved in disputes over syndicated ownership of valuable animals.
  • Employment Disputes – The firm’s vast array of experience and expertise in employment disputes allows is to assist our clients in the agriculture and equine industries in these matters.
  • Products Liability – The firm has one of the most active products liability defense practices in the area and has successfully represented major manufacturers of farm machinery, equipment and feed products in products liability cases.
  • Banking and Bankruptcy – The firm represents banks and individuals in financial matters and assists them with issues involving bankruptcy, debtor and creditor rights, workouts and reorganizations.
  • Intellectual Property – The firm assists our agriculture and equine industry clients in protecting and enforcing their rights in patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.
  • Administrative and Regulatory Matters – The firm has a working relationship with the agencies that regulate the agriculture and equine industries in Oklahoma, such as the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, in addition to federal administrative agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

To learn more about McAfee & Taft’s Agriculture and Equine Industry Group, please contact:

  

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