Legal Defense Fund
What is the Legal Defense Fund?
The Michigan Farm Bureau Legal Defense Fund is designed to provide the financial support in connection with legal issues of common concern to Michigan agriculture and, in particular, those issues where the court's decision will be viewed as establishing an important legal precedent for agriculture in the state. The money in the fund is generously donated by the County Farm Bureaus which Michigan Farm Bureau will match up to $20,000 per year!
What Types of Legal Issues Does the Fund Support?
- Right to Farm Act: farm vehicle access, zoning ordinance preemptions, etc.
- Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Act: adverse agency enforcement actions
- Adverse NRCS determinations regarding conservation program compliance
- Tax Disputes
- And more
How Can the Legal Defense Fund Help Me?
The Legal Defense Fund steps in to help cover the cost of legal representation for members to ensure that cost alone isn't a barrier to you defending your rights as a farmer or rancher.
Please consider a contribution from your county to the MFB Legal Defense Fund this summer.
Help your fellow farmers today to set the precedent that will impact your farm tomorrow.
How to Apply
If you are currently facing a legal dispute and would like to request a grant, you should complete an application and submit it to Michigan Farm Bureau. Michigan Farm Bureau will do a legal review and consult with the Legal Defense Fund Committee. The committee is made up of Farm Bureau regular members. The committee will make a recommendation to the Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will then deny or grant (in full or in part) the request for funding.
Aaron Phelp, Varnum Law Firm
“I was recently involved in an agricultural property tax dispute with Courtland Township. The issue was whether the taxable value on a property should be revised because it had been continually qualified agricultural property. The Michigan Farm Bureau Legal Defense Fund agreed to hire outside legal counsel to file an amicus brief with the Michigan Tax Tribunal in support of my position. The issue was particularly important to Michigan farmers who might purchase qualified agricultural property with an uncapped taxable value, and seek to have the value “re-capped.” An adverse ruling would have resulted in higher property taxes for likely hundreds, if not thousands, of Michigan farmers. Ultimately, the Tax Tribunal ruled in our favor, and ordered Courtland Township to re-cap the taxable value. No doubt, Michigan Farm Bureau’s support of my position was key to our success.”
Dan Volger, Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC
“When we found ourselves in court with a special interest group trying to shut our operation down, participation from the MFB Legal Defense Fund allowed us to defend ourselves in Administrative Law Court. Without participation from MFB, the organization that opposed our farm would have succeeded completely without the facts of the case being known. It is simply a modern reality that a small family farm cannot withstand a legal battle with a well-funded special interest group without financial assistance. We are very grateful to MFB for helping us. Even though the ultimate outcome was not what we hoped for, the settlement was far better than it would have been without help.”
Caleb Steward Chairman, Legal Defense Fund
“The Legal Defense Committee is a great part of Farm Bureau because it gives us as Farm Bureau members a chance to help our fellow farmers to help set legal precedence or to stand up for someone who may not be able to on their own. In our judicially charged society it makes me feel better knowing that Farm Bureau has the foresight to have a committee and a fund in place when the opportunity or need arises.”
Phil Korson, Cherry Marketing Institute
“We were excited to get the news that Michigan Farm Bureau is financially supporting the cherry industry with their Countervailing Duty and Dumping case against Turkey. Trade has become a huge issue for our industry as we deal with governments that subsidize their growers and processors. US Cherry Growers can compete with anyone in the world if it is fair trade. Today more than ever US Growers are facing cheap imported product that is taking advantage of the markets US Growers have built. We sincerely appreciate Michigan Farm Bureaus help to challenge this unfair competition. We have a long way to go however this $50,000 level of support will truly make a difference.“
Grants Awarded by County
Since 2011, the Legal Defense Fund provided 42 grants and contributed Amicus Briefs in support of agricultural litigation totaling nearly $419,000.