Agribusiness law is a term used to encompass a range of legal issues associated with commercial agricultural and farming.
There are numerous market segments and industries operating within this diverse area, from farming enterprises and primary producers, to food processing and textile manufacturers and farm machinery suppliers. The breadth of legal issues that may arise in agribusiness is equally diverse.
Determining an appropriate legal structure to support the present and long-term goals of an agribusiness is essential. An enterprise can operate 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, limitation of liability, personal asset protection, tax distribution and minimisation, stamp duty, and future tax implications.
Farm succession planning
Farm succession planning is often overlooked but essential to effectively sustain a farming enterprise so it can be passed on to future generations.
A balanced succession plan will support the viability of the farm, keep the business in the family (if desired), ensure a sustainable exit plan for retiring family members, and deliver workable arrangements for remaining or incoming members.
Succession planning involves complex financial and legal considerations and obtaining professional advice is wise to ensure a sound plan is in place to complement years of hard work and that will serve the needs of future generations.
Purchasing rural property
Whether you are purchasing rural property for the first time, or adding to your enterprise, specific enquiries need to be made, 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, or and noxious weeds and pests needs to be investigated. Your lawyer should recommend tests to ensure the land is suitable for its proposed use.
Fencing on a rural property may be non-existent or inaccurate raising uncertainty about boundaries and, potentially, access to water resources. A survey may be required to 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 should be checked thoroughly before you buy a property.
Rights of access, closed roads, easements, water entitlements and irrigation licences, must also be investigated.
Native Title issues and claims also need to be investigated and considered.
The agribusiness landscape
The Australian farming and agricultural industry operates 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 operation 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;
- Native Title issues;
- 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.