Dale A. Stern

Dale A. Stern

Partner / Co-Chair, Food & Agriculture Group

Dale A. Stern

Partner / Co-Chair, Food & Agriculture Group

With over 30 years of experience focused on the agricultural industry, Dale Stern is a trusted business and legal advisor to major agricultural producers, processors and retailers throughout the state.

He assists clients with understanding the increasingly burdensome regulatory environment in which food companies must operate in California.  Dale skillfully guides clients through the process of obtaining permits and licenses required to engage in the production, processing, marketing and retail sales of agricultural products in California.

Dale also provides counsel to his clients on all aspects of their business operations – formation of business entities and non-profit organizations, day-to-day operations including the drafting of agreements for the sale and purchase of agricultural commodities, and interactions with governmental entities.

Food and agricultural producers and processors also rely on Dale to represent and protect their interests in legislative and regulatory settings, and in supporting or opposing ballot initiatives in California.  He drafts legislation and regulations and regularly appears on behalf of clients before the California Departments of Food and Agriculture, Pesticide Regulation, Toxic Substances and various other state and federal agencies, during rulemaking, disciplinary, mediation, arbitration and legislative proceedings.   Dale is known for his ability to work with all three branches of government to provide cost effective solutions on behalf of clients.


  • Serves as general counsel to statewide and national trade associations and charitable foundations representing seed companies, winegrape growers, grain and feed companies, egg farmers, pest control advisers and operators, food processors and retail grocers, having worked with many for more than 25 years.  He also represents many of the families and companies of all sizes who are members of these associations in their business activities, transactions and government relations.
  • Regularly advises client associations on the development of policy positions in response to pending laws and regulations and challenging government actions that are adverse to clients’ interests. He also provides corporate, antitrust, employment, tax exempt and insurance coverage counsel to these associations and foundations.  Dale assists the members of trade association clients with obtaining and preserving licenses and permits when agencies seek to deny or revoke any of the various business licenses required to engage in the production, processing, marketing and retail sales of agricultural products in California.
  • Drafts legislation and regulations favorable to clients’ interests, prepares and presents testimony in support and opposition to proposed rules, and advises clients on strategies for complying with, and lawfully avoiding burdensome regulatory provisions. By working with all three branches of government, he seeks to find cost effective solutions on behalf of clients.
  • Works closely with litigators in the Food & Agriculture Practice to challenge unfavorable laws and regulations and to defend food industry stakeholders against aggressive attacks on their business practices, marketing efforts and food products.
  • A published writer, Dale has served as an expert witness and regularly presents seminars on a variety of topics, including fiduciary duties of directors and officers of nonprofit organizations, and negotiating and drafting sales agreements for California agricultural commodities.

General Counsel

California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) - General Counsel since 1989 to nonprofit trade association representing grape growers and wineries
  • Represented CAWG and Family Winemakers of California as an Intervenor in support of California Department of Food & Agriculture in Californians Against Toxic Substances et al. v. CDFA regarding statewide program to counter the devastating impacts of Glassy Winged Sharpshooter and Pierce’s Disease on the state’s multi-billion dollar wine industry.
  • Negotiated and drafted agreements, including the formation of a Limited Liability Company, for the purchase and operation of the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, the largest grape and wine trade show in the country
  • Drafted and advocated for the passage of new legislation that provides additional assurances that California grape growers will be paid by the wineries that purchase their crop.
  • Represents dozens of CAWG’s members, including some of the largest grape farming operations in the State in the negotiation and drafting of seasonal and long term contracts for the sale of wine grapes and wine.
  • Represents many of the same grape growers in recovering payments from wineries, including enforcing Producers' Liens and working with the CDFA Market Enforcement Branch to enforce state laws.
California Grain and Feed Association (CGFA) - General Counsel to nonprofit trade association representing grain and feed mills and warehouses
  • Represented CGFA in the sale of its subsidiary association management business.
Association of California Egg Farmers (ACEF) - General Counsel to nonprofit trade association representing California egg farmers
  • Represented ACEF in political and legal challenges to vague and overly burdensome initiative, statutes and regulations affecting member’s farming practices.
  • Negotiated and assisted in drafting legislation and regulations to improve animal welfare and food safety.
California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) - General Counsel to nonprofit trade association representing licensed agricultural pest control advisers and operators
  • Represents member companies and individuals in pesticide registration and PCA/PCO licensing matters.
  • Drafts agreements for services to protect member companies.
Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC) - General Counsel to nonprofit trade association representing structural pest control companies
  • Represented PCOC in wrongful termination and member grievance litigations.
  • Negotiated and drafted legislative and regulatory amendments improving licensing terms and conditions for industry members.
  • Represent numerous member companies and their qualifying managers in licensing actions before the Structural Pest Control Board, California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
California League of Food Processors (CLFP) - General Counsel to nonprofit trade association representing canners, dryers and processors of agricultural products
  • Represent CLFP in legislative and regulatory matters, including food safety, labeling and Prop 65.
  • Represent tomato, fruit and nut processing companies, including Fortune 500 companies, in transactions for the purchase of raw agricultural products and the sale of finished food products.
California Grocers Association (CGA) - General Counsel since 1990 to nonprofit trade association representing closely held and publicly traded retail grocery companies, wholesalers and suppliers
  • Drafted and negotiated dozens of legislative bills and regulations relating to all aspects of the warehousing, transportation and retail sales of grocery products in California.
  • Working with litigation team, challenged many statewide and local laws and ordinances that adversely impacted CGA members.
  • Conceived, incorporated and represent related California Grocers Association Educational Foundation, and three for-profit subsidiaries of CGA.
  • Represent numerous member retailers and suppliers in wide variety of regulatory matters, including weights and measures, hazardous material handling, employee retention ordinances, Prop 65, food safety and labeling, ABC licensing, and emergency preparedness matters.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture, Dean’s Advisory Council, Chair, 2010 - present
  • American Agricultural Law Association
  • American Society of Association Executives
  • California Association of Pest Control Advisors
  • Western Growers Association 
  • Provides frequent seminars on the fiduciary duties of volunteer directors of nonprofit corporations. 
  • Dale has been a frequent lecturer/speaker for the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) since 1996.  Many district grower associations (e.g. Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Suisun Valley, Livermore Valley, Paso Robles, San Joaquin, Amador, El Dorado, San Joaquin, and Temecula) will partner with CAWG to conduct a “Smart Marketer” seminar for growers and wineries in their area. Topics are usually negotiating and drafting winegrape purchase and sale agreements, enforcing the California Producers’ Lien law, collecting from wineries that pay slowly or not at all, and complying with the California Department of Food & Agriculture’s Processor Law.
  • Dale has also spoken and served on panels covering the same topics for the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium educational sessions during the annual industry trade show in January of each year in Sacramento.

Honors And Rankings

  • AV Preeminent® Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Sacramento Business Journal, Best of the Bar, 2015, 2017
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Legislative & Government Affairs, Nonprofit Organizations, Food & Agriculture Law, 2015-2019
  • Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture, 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner

The Downey Brand Story

With deep experience in our clients' industries, Downey Brand provides the vision and coverage you need.

Advancing your interests