Agricultural Law & Rural Practice | Solo Small Firm & General Practice Section

This blog discusses topics of relevance to attorneys with clients who work in the agricultural industry, and to attorneys who practice in rural areas. Published by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Solo Small Firm & General Practice Section, monthly articles are typically written by section members.  This section’s central purpose is to enhance the quality of practice for the solo and small-firm lawyer, as well as the lawyer who has interests beyond the bounds of a single professional practice area. The section sponsors CLE seminars, provides resources on its webpage, produces CLE seminars, hosts a conference each fall, and publishes a newsletter.​​​

Members of the State Bar of Wisconsin may join the section by visiting (login required).

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Your farm client has sold apples to a wholesaler operating as an LLC and has not been paid. Now the LLC has closed, and the owner of the LLC has filed bankruptcy. What can you do to get your farmer paid? Wisconsin has far fewer farms now than it did 40 years ago, but we are still an agricultural state. It therefore makes sense for lawyers, particularly those in rural Wisconsin, to have some understanding of the Perishable Agricultural
Continue Reading Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust Claims

For many of us in Wisconsin, summer and fall is full of travel, recreation, and family time. That means more Wisconsinites are on the road traveling to cabins and lakes, or out hitting the trails on ATVS.

Unfortunately, family vacations also can be a dangerous when it comes to the roads, lakes, and trails. According to the American Automobile Association, summer is the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers.

On top of that, the amount
Continue Reading Keeping Your Family Safe on the Road Also Means Being Insured Against the Underinsured

A Wisconsin ski resort received a mixed decision from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in
Schabelski v. Nova Casualty Company.1 The decision provides some important lessons regarding releases in Wisconsin, and again shows how challenging it can be to convince a Wisconsin court to dismiss a personal injury claim entirely based on a waiver agreement. Background: Experienced Skier Agrees to a Waiver, Falls from Chairlift Kathleen Schabelski went to a small, Wisconsin ski area (Sunburst Ski Resort), and
Continue Reading Appeals Court Decision Teaches Lessons on Waiver Agreements

It is summer and vacation time, and many people will be heading to rural Wisconsin lakes and rivers. With over 600,000 registered vessels in Wisconsin, and more than 300,000 nonresident boats, we can expect a number of injuries and even deaths. We average about 20 fatalities from boating accidents each year.

Injuries and deaths lead to lawsuits, and lawsuits often lead to bankruptcy.

Injured parties facing a bankruptcy filing by a tortfeasor explore their options to avoid having the
Continue Reading Avoid Bankruptcy: Be Safe on the Lake this Summer

​The Lawyering Skills Course at the University of Wisconsin Law School is a unique opportunity for students to learn how to practice law in the “real world.” Students learn legal skills from practicing lawyers from all over Wisconsin through simulation.

Each spring semester, 2L and 3L students are exposed to nine substantive areas of legal practice. This all-inclusive course is taught by practitioners and reveals the day-to-day work of practicing lawyers.
About the Course
The course has been an
Continue Reading UW’s Lawyering Skills Program Helps Students Learn ‘Real-World’ Skills

A bankruptcy filing is intended to give debtors a financial “fresh start.” However, debtors’ financial futures are only as good as what they can make of it. Fortunately, former bankruptcy debtors have many steps, options, and resources to make the most of their fresh start, and continue the road to financial independence.

Here are a few:
First: Get Serious About Personal Finances
The most important first step for debtors emerging from bankruptcy is to get serious about their personal
Continue Reading Lawyers: Advice to Help Your Bankruptcy Clients Take a ‘Fresh Start’

Fed up with the way state government works? ​Convinced that the Wisconsin Constitution insufficiently protects certain individual liberties? Convinced you’re the guy or gal destined to lead a movement to amend our Constitution, but unsure of the process? If so you’re in luck. Here’s a brief “how-to guide” to amending the Wisconsin Constitution.HistoryThe Wisconsin Constitution was debated and drafted in a constitutional convention that ran from December 1847 to February 1848, and the product of that convention was
Continue Reading Amending the Wisconsin Constitution: A Brief How-to Guide

As we head into winter, many people across the state will throw on their snowmobiling gear and hop on the approximately 25,000 miles of snowmobile trails we have in Wisconsin.

Snowmobiling is incredibly popular in the dairy state. There are more than 200,000 registered snowmobiles in Wisconsin,1 and we are home to the World Championship Snowmobile Derby (in Eagle River) and the International Snowmobile Racing Hall of Fame (in St. Germain).2
25,000 Miles of Trails, Most on
Continue Reading Protecting Private Landowners: Recreational Immunity in Wisconsin

Once upon a time (did I really start an article that way?) pumpkin farms were few and far between. The farmers usually just placed a few rows of pumpkins of increasing size near the farm’s driveway, modestly priced their product, and sold the pumpkins for cash only.

The farms certainly weren’t the commercial extravaganzas they are today, with everything from pumpkins and caramel apples, to food markets that include fanciful soaps and pick-your-own floral bouquets. Add a petting zoo
Continue Reading A Corn Maze of Insurance: Agritourism, Immunity, and Liability

Farm bankruptcies are down according to an excellent article appearing in Market Intel. Farm Bureau Senior Economist Veronica Nigh analyzes Chapter 12 filings around the country and points out that such filings for the year ending June 30, 2021, are the lowest since 2015.

While that would normally be considered good news, we believe it is somewhat misleading.

In fact, we believe farm bankruptcies are not down at all. Instead, we conclude that more farmers are filing under
Continue Reading Are Farm Bankruptcies Down in 2021?

Bias is not limited to major issues such as race and gender. Bias is present in many other areas, such as our educational background, where we live, and how we dress.Did you attend U.W., Marquette, or an out-of-state law school? We are judged on where we practice. Are you based in a rural county or an urban one? We are evaluated on our very own appearance. Do you have a thin and wispy or large and burly build? Are
Continue Reading Anti-bias Training: Critical for All Lawyers

This article was originally published on the Melnick & Melnick law blog and is used here with the author’s permission.

I love a good rom-com. And You’ve Got Mail is one of the best, for sure in my top 10. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, virtual romance (over email and a dial-up modem), and in New York City – need I say more?

But there is more. Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) owns a small business, a charming children’s bookstore
Continue Reading Small Business Lessons: You’ve Got Mail

Currently, Wisconsin law provides stiff (some might even say draconian) penalties for the possession, sale or use of cannabis for either recreational or medicinal purposes.

For example, if a Wisconsin farmer grows 201 cannabis plants on a small plot of land or if the farmer were to possess a small “bail” of cannabis weighing just over 22 pounds with a plan to sell it to friends or cancer patients, current Wisconsin law provides that he or she could be
Continue Reading Proposed Cannabis Legislation: What's in it for Rural Wisconsin?

The Biden administration has rolled out its proposed changes to the tax code, which departs significantly from the tax policies enacted during the Trump administration.

Famers and small-business owners should be aware of the proposed changes, because the proposal has the potential to translate into higher annual taxes.

Importantly, before any proposed tax plan can become law, it must obviously be passed by Congress. The new tax proposals, if passed into law, will affect how attorneys and tax professionals
Continue Reading Considerations for Farm Clients on the Ever-changing Tax Code

Leasing farmland is a common practice that can be a profitable venture for nonoperating rural land owners. In 2014, a total of 4,670,320 acres of agricultural land in Wisconsin was rented out, with landlords received rents totaling $579,953,000.1

However, these agricultural leases can cause issues when the landowner’s circumstances change – for example, when they wish to the sell their property or lease to a different tenant. In these cases, it is often necessary or desirable to terminate
Continue Reading Plan Ahead or Pay the Costs: Terminating an Agricultural Tenancy

Earlier this year, I attended an annual conference on bankruptcy, debtor, and creditors’ rights issues – as I have annually for 15 years.

A featured speaker at the conference was Jeff Ditzenberger, a farmer who makes it his mission to assist individuals with their mental health issues. Ditzenberger is founder of the Talking, Understanding, Growing, Supporting (T.U.G.S.) program for mental health.

During his presentation, Ditzenberger talked about the growing need for mental health care – not only for farmers, but
Continue Reading Lending a Helping Hand to Wisconsin’s Farming Community