Featured Member: Todd Janzen
Employer: Janzen Agricultural Law LLC
Education and Work Experience:
Bethel College (Kansas) 1995
Indiana University School of Law 2002
Teacher, Anderson Community Schools 1996-2000
Attorney, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP 2002-2015
Attorney, Janzen Agricultural Law LLC 2015-current
How did you get interested/involved in agriculture law?
I grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Kansas. I spent every minute of my childhood outside on the farm. When I was old enough to work, I spent time after school, on the weekends, and during summers working on the farm. We operated a custom haying business that kept me busy all summer in my high school and college years.
I was fortunate as a young attorney that my employer had a number of livestock-related cases come in the door, and no one else in the firm had any sort of farming background or strong desire to work on them. I always volunteered to work on these cases. I was in the right place at the right time, because this was an era of increasing regulatory scruitiny on livestock farms. Many farmers were realizing that attorneys could help them navigate the waters.
In 2010, I started the Janzen Ag Law Blog so that I could better connect my interest in agriculture with my legal career. I increasingly wrote about technology issues, as I found them personally interesting, and I developed a consistent group of subscribers. The ag tech authorship has led to many opportunities, including being asked to testify to Congress about ag tech issues, a highlight of my career.
What is your current role and what type of work are you doing for agriculture?
As a private practicitioner, I have three typical clients. (1) Farms: Here the primary focus is on environmental permitting, compliance, and litigation involving livestock farms. (2) Agribusiness: We represent small and medium-sized businesses that serve farms, such as seed companies or farm coopertives. (3) Ag Tech: We help a lot of companies with ag tech issues, such as technology licensing and addressing data issues. I am also the administrator for the Ag Data Transparent project, which certifies companies for compliance with ag data principles developed by the industry.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see in your job and the ag law profession?
Consolidation is the biggest challenge, because we face an ever-decreasing number of clients. This is true on the farm side and the industry side.
The big opportunities lie with the “new” farmers. I do not mean the 20-something third generation farmer who is taking over the family farm, but farmer who wants to do things differently. These farmers plant the cornfield to blueberries, or take up raising hogs even though their grandfather gave it up fifty years ago, or decide to stop selling milk and make cheese.
When did you join, why did you join the AALA and what keeps you active in the organization?
I joined AALA many years ago as a young lawyer. At the time, I was looking for a network of practitioners who were also interested in serving the agricultural industry, and AALA was the perfect fit. Other than the Indiana Farm Bureau attorneys, I did not really know anyone else in my networking circles who was focused on agriculture. It seems silly now, but I often faced skeptics who doubted that one could build ag-focused practice. Ag law, as we know it today, did not really exist fifteen years ago. Fortunately, AALA filled my networking needs and surrounded me with other attorneys making the same career choice.