My View From The Country

Hey, Kids, Want To Work In Ag? Go To Law School

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A lawyer specializing in dealing with proprietary information and/or technology issues in agriculture will have plenty of work in the years ahead.

I’ve known very few ranchers or horse trainers who dropped out of the business unless forced to do so by death or economics. They were involved in the business because they loved it; still, they would invariably try to talk a young person out of following in their footsteps. I guess it’s because those who love ranching realize it’s a hard life, and not everyone is cut out for its rigors and stress.

Make no mistake about it: production agriculture is a mature industry. It’s capital-intensive, structurally guaranteed to be relatively low margin over time, and a demanding and high-risk endeavor. What’s more, the current economics dictate that it’s a pursuit that will be dominated in the future by those who have the good fortune to inherit the legacy of the land, or who have substantial capital with which to enter the business.

No, agriculture isn’t a great field for young entrepreneurs. But, at the same time, the opportunities to support those who are in production agriculture seem to be growing exponentially.

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I have at least one kid who is contemplating law as a career, though I’m one of those who believe the world probably has more than enough lawyers. What I think we really need are more folks in production agriculture, but if you live close to an urban area or operate on public lands, you better have a lawyer on retainer. If you live in the West, where water is more valuable than oil, you know the value of having a good water lawyer. Yes, the business and profit prospects for agricultural lawyers certainly seem bright.

We used to live in a world where information and technology were out in the open, and everyone had access to them. Today, we have entered into the age of proprietary information and technology. A recent lawsuit between a private entity (Verified Beef and Leachman Cattle Co.) and a breed association (the American Simmental Association - ASA) is a prime example. Anyone involved in a cattle breed association, or genetics in general, is watching this case intently. If the private enterprise prevails, the system as we know it will fundamentally change, but the ramifications will reach well beyond the seedstock industry.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on May 9, 2014

Troy you reflect my view. The hardest thing to find is a lawyer who understands Ag. Ranching next to a million people (Tucson) I've experienced a weak defense because of my lawyer's lack of knowledge about what I do. I would also add Biologist to the list.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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