Tuesday, March 22, 2011

About this website

The following article appeared in the Indiana Agri-News on April 21, 2011.

Indiana attorney keeps agricultural law blog

INDIANAPOLIS — Todd Janzen, an Indianapolis agricultural attorney, is the author of [Janzen Ag Law], an Indiana agricultural law blog for producers and organizations.

He began the project this year as a way to both inform and entertain the ag community on important issues. Already, the blog is chock-full of useful data and commentary, ranging from the challenges facing Dutch dairy farmers to an agricultural nuisance case, in which he played an important representative hand.

“I found that in my spare time, as part of some of the cases I handled, I have to be up on agricultural issues going on across the country,” Janzen explained. “I thought, ‘Why not put that information out there in the World Wide Web in a way that farmers and livestock producers can access?’”

“They can visit the blog if they’re worried about a certain issue or if they want to see what a local Indiana lawyer says,” he added.

Janzen grew up on a farm in Newton, Kan., where his family raised beef cattle, hogs, wheat, sorghum, alfalfa and other hay crops, including the natural prairie hays abundant in the Sunflower State.

He attended Bethel College in Kansas, working on the farm each summer he grew up and also throughout college, he said.
“Our farm ran a custom hay cutting and baling business, so I worked for a number of farmers,” Janzen said. “I married my wife, Sarah, who is from Indianapolis, and ended up going to law school at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis.”

When Janzen began working for Plews Shadley Racher and Braun LLP in Indy straight out of law school in 2002, he handled a steady stream of cases related to regulatory problems that livestock producers faced in dealing with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

His background in farming led him to volunteer to work on those cases.

“I really liked working with the farmers and helping them with their legal issues,” Janzen said.

“One of the things that surprised me the most here in Indiana was the misunderstanding of agriculture by state officials, particularly at IDEM,” the lawyer said. “In the early days of the confined feeding operations program, the farm inspections were done by the same people who inspected landfills. There’s quite a big difference between a hog farm and a landfill.”

“I think that IDEM has done a lot to help educate its inspectors on agriculture, but there is still a learning curve there,” he added.

He said the level of regulation in agriculture is more drastic today than when he was growing up on a farm.

“Fortunately, I’m well equipped to deal with these issues since I am an attorney,” he said.

Janzen is the sole agricultural lawyer at his firm. He served as the chair of the Agricultural Law Section of the Indiana State Bar Association, which he and several other attorneys created in 2004.

He also worked on Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman’s Agriculture Regulatory Structure Task Force, where he met many other agricultural industry leaders.

The highlight of his legal career has been the Lindsey v. DeGroot Dairy case addressed by the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2009. In the suit, neighbors of a dairy farm challenged the Indiana Right to Farm Act, complaining of nuisance resulting from unpleasant smells, noise and flies on their property.

“The case resulted in a really significant extension of the Indiana Right to Farm Act, which protects farmers from nuisance suits,” he said.

[The Janzen Ag Law Blog] has evolved from his work in agriculture, and it’s written in a general way to welcome visitors new and old.

Janzen said he has found there is no substitute for farmers being able to talk about particular legal issues with their attorney.

“Every situation is actually unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all legal solution,” he acknowledged.

The lawyer said he tries to add a new story to his blog each week and hopes to expand his reach to a new audience.

“It’s quite fun to watch people visit the blog — every time I post a news story, I see dozens of hits almost immediately,” he laughed. “It grows every single day, and that’s what’s so neat to see. I don’t know what the top is, but I hope to find it.”

As far-reaching as legal gossip can be, Janzen abstains from posting specific information about a case or any attorney-client privileged information.

His blog is independent of any people or organizations he represents, though he represents livestock producers, farmers and other agribusinesses at his firm and serves as the general counsel for the Indiana Professional Dairy Producers, a trade organization that serves the needs of Hoosier dairy farmers.

Author:  Katie Nickas, Indiana Agri-News, April 21, 2011.

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