fbpx Agribusiness & Food Service Area | Hall Booth Smith

Agribusiness & Food

HBS offers a team of attorneys with first-hand experience on farms, agribusinesses, and other food growing and producing companies ranging from small family-owned farms to large-scale industrial operations.



The attorneys of HBS’ Agribusiness & Food Service Area have first-hand experience and deep understanding of the food and agricultural industry that can only be developed from years on the farm and representing agribusiness and food clients. We leverage our specialized knowledge of the law, the economics of agriculture, and the people who work in this industry to develop timely, comprehensive, and efficient plans to achieve the unique objective of each client.

Our team has represented individual farmers and large institutional agricultural investors, as well as clients of many different sizes and scales in between. Our attorneys have litigated, negotiated, and consummated significant business transactions and provided critical regulatory compliance counsel across many different aspects of the agribusiness and food sector.


The attorneys at HBS assist farmers and agribusinesses as they navigate USDA’s alphabet soup of program. We counsel fruit and vegetable producers, suppliers, and buyers about their rights and obligations under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and help them understand USDA’s informal dispute resolution program under PACA. Our attorneys assist clients with the filing or defending of formal PACA complaints pending before USDA or the local federal district court.

We also aid clients with appeals of Farm Service Agency (FSA) Payment determinations and issues arising out of the Packers and Stockyards Act and the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act. Our agricultural attorneys assist qualifying entities submit competitive grant applications to USDA through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), a federal program meant to improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.

Business Transactions

Working with our Business Transactions team, the attorneys of HBS’s Agribusiness & Food Service Area have significant experience in assisting family-owned and investor-backed entities in the buying and selling of farmland, agribusinesses, and food companies. Our attorneys negotiated equity and asset purchase and sale agreements and managed deals involving a variety of food and agribusiness assets.

Our team has extensive experience handling the specialized issues involved in agricultural transactions and related due diligence and integrations, including:

  • Agricultural overtime exemptions and other agricultural labor laws (e.g., H-2A)
  • Farm Labor Contractor Agreements
  • Conservation Use Assessment Property Tax Covenants
  • Water Withdrawal Permitting
  • Food and Other Regulatory Licensures and Certifications
  • Agricultural exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
  • Regulatory compliance (i.e., Packers and Stockyards Act, Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, state agricultural bond acts, food labeling, food processing)
  • Federal Farm Programs
  • Federal Crop Insurance
  • Farmland and Hunting Leases
  • Solar Leases
  • Supplier Agreements
Conservation Use

Our attorneys have helped guide numerous clients through determining whether their land qualifies under Georgia’s Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA). Our holistic approach includes developing strategies to minimize breach penalties should they occur and — when necessary — negotiate with and challenge local taxing authorities regarding decisions under CUVA. Our team provides similar services for clients seeking to take advantage of the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA).


The HBS Agribusiness & Food team works closely with the Business Litigation team to prosecute and defend claims on behalf of small, family-owned farms and agribusinesses as well as large companies and their insurers involving a variety of disputes, including:

  • Statutory Trust and Fair Practice Claims under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) and Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA)
  • Federal Crop Insurance Arbitration
  • Pesticide Drift and Contamination Claims
  • Food Adulteration Claims
  • Farm Partitions
  • Seed Warranty Claims
  • Poultry and Livestock Grower Contract Disputes
  • Loan and Collateral Agreement Disputes
  • Mineral Quiet Title Actions
  • Payment and Breach of Contract Disputes
  • Wrongful Farmland Foreclosure
  • Timber Conversion Claims
  • Agricultural Nuisance

In 1930, Congress enacted the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, 7 U.S.C. § 499e (also known as “PACA”) to promote fair trading practices in the produce industry.

Our attorneys are experienced in defending and prosecuting statutory Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, 7 U.S.C. § 499e (PACA) trust claims and working with the USDA through the administrative PACA process. Additionally, our team has provided extensive guidance to produce sellers regarding credit terms and credit evaluation processes that assist in the PACA collections process.

Regulatory Compliance

Our Agribusiness & Food Service Area provides regulatory and legal guidance and opinions on a wide variety of agricultural related topics, including:

  • Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA)
  • Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA)
  • Food Licensing and Certification
  • Food Labeling
  • Water Withdrawal Permitting
  • Federal Crop Insurance
  • Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA)
  • Georgia Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA)
  • Federal Farm Programs
  • Dealer in Agricultural Products Licenses
  • Georgia Agritourism, Hunting, and Recreation Property laws
Urban Agriculture

Our attorneys frequently advise clients who are endeavoring to deliver locally grown or organically grown food in urban areas, which involves unique and often complex challenges. We provide guidance to clients on the full spectrum of laws that may impact such businesses, including PACA, state and federal food safety law, product labeling laws, and transportation laws.

We have also provided counsel on custom farming agreements, buy/sale agreements, logistics arrangements, and end-user agreements. Our attorneys also assist these urban agricultural interests in establishing a variety of corporate entities that will best suit the needs and business objectives of our clients.


Litigation & Dispute Resolution

Our lawyers have years of civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) experience. This experience, while valuable at the negotiation table, is even more critical when our farm and agribusiness clients find themselves in a courtroom or formal dispute proceedings.

As an example, when any seed purchaser alleges to have been damaged by the failure any agricultural, flower, tree, shrub, or vegetable seed (with limited exclusions) to conform to or perform as represented by a label or by warranty, as a prerequisite to the purchaser’s right to maintain a legal action against the seller, the purchaser must submit a complaint to the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture against the seed seller alleging the damages sustained. Once the Commissioner refers the complaint to the Georgia’s statutorily-created Seed Arbitration Council, HBS attorneys bring the ability to aid farmers or the sellers of the seed in navigating through the Council’s procedural rules.

HBS litigation attorneys are experienced in the litigation of crop insurance claims and casualty claims related to the loss of tractors and farm equipment. Additionally, partnering with out Intellectual Property practice group, our agriculture practice group can assist farmers or seed producers in defending or prosecuting patent infringement and breach of licensing agreement cases related to re-use of advanced seed technology.

Property Rights

Farmers, forest owners, and agribusinesses are inherently tied to the land. Attorneys are often needed when the rights associated with property ownership are implicated by nuisance claims, eminent domain, zoning and comprehensive planning, and environmental regulations. As an example of our expertise in such areas of the law, HBS attorneys recently won a client a defense verdict where a nuisance claim was made arising out of the operation of poultry houses near a new subdivision. HBS attorneys are well-versed on Georgia’s “Right to Farm” law, the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the federal Clean Water Act, and the federal Clean Air Act.

People often own property together either by choice or as a result of an inheritance or gift. When several people own property as tenants in common or as joint tenants, unique issues regarding property rights arise. Specifically, our firm is experienced in handling partition actions and claims involving an accounting between co-tenants.

In 2008, hunting leases and agritourism accounted for $138 million in farm gate value in Georgia. Increasingly, landowners who lease their property for such recreational use must be concerned with how to limit their liability when people use their property. HBS attorneys will negotiate appropriate leases and ensure compliance with the warning requirements of Georgia’s agri-tourism immunity statute. Our agricultural attorneys defend landowner interests in cases of an invitee’s or licensees’ personal injury during agri-tourism, hunting, and fishing activities.

The Agriculture & Food Service Grup also helps large land owners create conservation easements to gain select tax benefits and assist taxpayers in defense of Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) and Georgia Forest Land Protection of Act (FLPA) disputes with local tax assessors.

Agricultural Water Withdrawal Permits & Water Law

Increasingly, water is a scarce resource in the Southeastern United States. Already, areas of Georgia have experienced moratoriums on new water withdrawal permits, and residential uses have been limited during period of droughts. Attorneys at HBS work with farmers and agribusinesses to determine if water withdrawal permits are needed and then, if needed, coordinate with the Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to expedite the issuance of ground and surface water withdrawal permits for agricultural uses.

Our attorneys have been involved in the development and applications by EPD of all major water legislation passed since 2000 and have drafted regulations for the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Our agricultural attorneys have also represented the Flint River Water Policy Center and Flint River Water Council, Inc.

Government & Regulatory Affairs

Partnering with our Government Affairs practice group, HBS’s agricultural lawyers are available to track legislation and offer draft amendments and substitutes to bills pending before the Georgia General Assembly. On cases involving nuanced areas of the law, HBS attorneys are able to provide expert testimony before legislative committees on behalf of individual farmers, agribusinesses, or trade associations. We also work with individuals and trade associations to ensure compliance with state and federal ethics laws.

HBS agricultural attorneys also defend users of certain pesticides who are accused of violating Georgia’s Pesticide Use and Application Act of 1976. Partnering with our Energy, Regulatory, and Utilities group, we have represented agricultural trade associations on matters such as the negotiation of propane supply contracts and agricultural electric rate matters. We also represent clients before the Georgia Public Service Commission who are accused of violating the Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act (GUFPA), which requires excavators using mechanized equipment, which often includes farmer, to call for a utility facility locate prior to excavating or blasting.

International Trade

Working with our International Trade group, HBS attorneys are able to help our agricultural clients export commodities throughout the world. Our team is knowledgeable about the United States Department of Agriculture unique export and import requirements and financing opportunities available for the exporting of agricultural commodities.


Full Team

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