Featured Member: Michael Fielding


Current employer:

Husch Blackwell LLP, Kansas City, MO.


Education and work experience:

B.A. Degree Economics; University Honors with Thesis; Minor in Spanish; Brigham Young University, 1998

J.D. Degree, cum laude, Brigham Young University, 2001

Husch Blackwell LLP, Kansas City, MO (2001 to present).  Licensed in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Utah and numerous federal courts.


AALA leadership roles:

None so far.


How did you get interested/involved in agricultural law?

My grandparents were potato farmers, my Dad was a banker in rural Eastern Utah, and now I represent lenders dealing with distressed agricultural loans.  My grandpa must be turning over in his grave!  While I admittedly did not grow up on a farm (and please don’t hold that against me), farming is a deep part of my heritage.  In representing lenders in the Midwest it is inevitable that you will encounter distressed ag loans.  I have really enjoyed the work because it provides an opportunity to deal with an area of law that I love and help reach successful resolutions that can be win-wins for all parties involved.


What is your current role and what type of work are you doing?

I’m an insolvency partner in the Food & Agribusiness Unit of Husch Blackwell in Kansas City.  I help lenders solve really tough problems involving distressed agricultural and commercial loans both in and out of bankruptcy.  Typically the borrower is behind on their payments and ignoring the bank while the collateral is dissipating.  Clients turn to me because they know I’m incredibly responsive and take a no nonsense, cut to the heart-of-the-matter approach to try and quickly and efficiently get a meaningful resolution.


What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see in your job and the ag law profession?

After being battered by the Trump/China trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic, producers were blessed by a surprising uptick in grain prices that was badly needed.  But I believe this will only be a short-term sugar high.  There is incredibly fierce, global competition.  The thin-margin nature of the work means there is little room for error.  This economic pressure mandates that both lenders and producers “up their game” in how they deal with ag lending issues.  Producers need to manage their operations with the sophistication that a multi-million dollar business should be run.  Lenders need to proactively monitor loan performance and take more moderate, protective steps when signs of trouble appear rather than waiting until the situation has spiraled into a financial crisis.  Stated differently, when a small leak in the “boat” is detected both the lender and the producer should not ignore the problem but should proactively work together to fix it rather than waiting until there is a full-blown hole which threatens to sink the whole ship.  Ag professionals are uniquely situated to proactively work with their opposing counterpart to facilitate a win-win resolution in these situations.  Let’s “up our game” as well and be meaningful problem solvers!


How does AALA help or provide benefit to your profession or current role?

AALA members have a real collegial, “let me help you” mindset.  AALA provides a singularly unique opportunity to network with legal professionals who truly know ag law, are helpful and are just downright really good, “salt-of-the-earth” people.  It’s a great combination.  AALA has proven to be a great treasure trove of ag related educational materials.  I particularly find helpful the ability to access materials from past annual conferences that is relevant to my practice.


What is one of your favorite AALA memories or experiences?

Collaborating with Stefan Knudsen and Richard Beheler on our presentation for the 2020 Annual Convention in Kansas City and then writing our follow-up article on for the Spring 2021 edition of the Agricultural Law Update was a great experience.  Working with other smart professionals who are deep in this field helps sharpen my skills and makes me a better attorney for the clients I serve.