Agribusiness law encompasses a range of legal issues affecting commercial agriculture.
Commercial agriculture – includes numerous industries, from farming enterprises, to food processing and textile manufacturers and farm machinery suppliers. The breadth of legal issues that may arise in agribusiness is diverse.
Determining an appropriate legal structure to support the present and long-term goals of an agribusiness is essential. An enterprise may be set up as a sole trader, partnership, company, trust or cooperative.
There is no one-fit solution however a business structure should consider the personal circumstances of the business operators and degree of control required, limitation of liability, personal asset protection, tax distribution and minimisation, stamp duty, and future capital gains tax implications.
Farm succession planning
Farm succession planning is often overlooked but essential to effectively sustain the family farming enterprise so it can be passed on to future generations. The focus is on the profitability and longevity of the farm, in consideration of the needs of family members.
A balanced succession plan will support the viability of the farm, keep the business in the family (if desired), ensure a sustainable retirement plan with financial security for retiring family members, and deliver workable arrangements for remaining or incoming members.
Succession planning involves complex financial and legal considerations and retaining professional advice is wise to ensure a sound plan is in place to complement years of hard work and endure future generations.
Purchasing rural property
Whether you are purchasing rural property for the first time, or adding to your enterprise, specific investigations should be considered, in addition to the usual searches that would be conducted for a residential or commercial property.
If you intend to grow crops or raise livestock, the presence of chemical residue in the soil can destroy your business plans. Some crops are affected by pests such as fruit fly and nematodes and noxious weeds can also be a problem on rural land. Your lawyer should recommend a series of investigations and soil tests to ensure the land is suitable for its proposed use.
Fencing on a rural property may be non-existent or inaccurate raising uncertainty with respect to boundaries and, potentially, access to water resources. Obtaining a survey will show the dimensions and clarify any uncertainties.
Rural land use including development, agricultural use, irrigation and clearing are governed by local council and state government agencies. There are rules on what you can and cannot do on the land and these rules should be checked thoroughly before you buy a property.
Rights of access, enclosed roads, easements and water resources and entitlements and irrigation licences, must also be investigated.
The agribusiness landscape
The Australian farming and agricultural industry operate in a heavily regulated environment with a number of statutory bodies governing various sectors.
Primary producers face significant penalties for non-compliance with the laws relevant to their industry. Understanding these laws and knowing when to seek advice from a professional is integral to the successful operations of your agribusiness.
Professional advisors should not only have knowledge across a range of legal areas, but an understanding of the environment and climate unique to agribusiness operations.
Our agribusiness team has strong connections within the rural community and understands many of the challenges and issues common to the industry. We can assist with:
- rural land acquisitions and sales
- leases, subleases and agistment arrangements
- share farming arrangements
- compulsory acquisitions of land
- water licences and allocations
- environmental protection matters
- estate and farm succession planning
- business structures, employment and workplace health and safety matters
- trade marks, intellectual property, plant breeders’ rights
- business taxes and duties
- financing and equipment leases.