Dale A. Stern

Partner / Co-Chair / Food & Ag 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 states.

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 stet products and food 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.


Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture, Dean’s Advisory Council, Chair, 2010 – 2019
  • 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 & 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
  • Serves as general counsel to statewide and national trade associations and charitable foundations representing seed companies, winegrape growers, manufacturing and technology companies, 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 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 Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) – General Counsel to nonprofit association representing regional, national, and international companies engaged in a broad spectrum of manufacturing and technology industries.

California League of Food Producers (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.

In the News

1 related items

Press Releases

7 related items

Speaking Engagements / Events

19 related items
  • October 17, 2019
    Managing Risk in the Food Delivery World: Understanding Product Recall
    Joint Presentation Hosted by Downey Brand, EPIC, and Berrian Insurance Group
  • February 6, 2019
    Pesticide Drift: Compliance, Liability, and Protection
    Co-presenter, 10th Annual Spray Safe Program
  • March 28, 2018
    Pesticide Drift: Compliance, Liability, and Protection
    Co-presenter, Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau
  • June 29, 2017
    The Local View: The Beat Goes On
    Panelist, 2nd Annual Lodi Vineyard and Wine Economics Symposium
  • May 31, 2017; June 7, 2017; June 20, 2017
    Stay Fresh with the Latest Information on Packaging Law and Design
    Co-presenter, The Produce Packaging Seminar
  • October 18-20, 2015
    Understanding the PCA’s Obligations in Order to Maintain CEQA Protections
    Presenter, California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) Annual Conference
  • January 13, 2015
    Legal Update
    Presenter, California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG)
  • December 3, 2014
    California Winegrape Leadership Forum
    Presenter, California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG)
  • October 20, 2014
    Managing PCA’s legal Exposure
    Presenter, California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) Annual Conference
  • October 8, 2014
    Lawfully Selling Shell Eggs in California Under Proposition 2 and AB1437
    Presenter, California Grocers Association (Webinar)
  • March 12, 2014
    Agriculture Purchase and Sale Agreements
    Presenter, Sacramento County Bar Association, Business Law Section
  • June 27, 2013
    Vineyard Safety and Compliance – Legal and Regulatory Update
    Presenter, American Society for Enology and Viticulture National Conference
  • April 18, 2013
    Grape Contracts
    Presenter, Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association 30th Annual Grape Day
  • February 2013
    Recent Developments in State and Federal Politics of Importance to Food Processors
    Presenter, California League of Food Processors, Legislative and Regulatory Update
  • October 23, 2012
    PCA Liability and CEQA Compliance with Written Recommendations
    Presenter, California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) Annual Conference
  • June 15, 2012
    Grape Contract Update
    Presenter, Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, Grower Smart Marketer Seminar
  • May 22, 2012
    Changes to Contracts and an Update on AB 907
    Presenter, San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association, Grower Smart Marketer Seminar
  • May 17, 2012
    Contracts, Liens and the Legal Ramifications of Selling Grapes Outside of a Contract
    Presenter, Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, Grower Smart Marketer Seminar
  • March 7, 2012
    Grape Contract Updates: Key Impacts to Your Business in 2012
    Presenter, California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) and Lodi District Grape Growers Association, Grower Smart Marketer Seminar

Legal Alerts

12 related items

Publications

6 related items

Dale strongly believes in the availability of a diverse, wholesome and well-balanced supply of food and fiber produced as near to consumers as reasonably possible.  The last several decades have seen the urbanization of California in a direction away from its agrarian roots. The resulting lack of awareness about the importance of a reliable, cost-effective food supply has contributed to an explosion of regulations that severely challenge the sustainability of the state’s farmers, ranchers, shippers, food processors, retailers and their supporting business partners.

Leveraging decades of experience in corporate and nonprofit law, Dale Stern’s practice encompasses the breadth of issues facing nonprofit associations and foundations, as well as family owned and other closely held for-profit business organizations. Dale is a trusted counselor to industry trade associations, charitable and educational foundations, cooperatives, member-owned country clubs, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and sole proprietorships throughout the state.

As outside general counsel, Dale has become intimately familiar with the business issues of many of the firm’s nonprofit clients to better serve them and help them accomplish their goals. Dale assists clients in the selection and formation of the business organization that best suits the client’s needs. He guides nonprofit organizations through the processes of incorporation, obtaining tax-exempt status, and all aspects of operations, including mergers and dissolutions. He is often called upon to offer strategic legal advice as well as to negotiate and document specific transactions including membership agreements, buy-sell agreements, lease agreements and independent contractor relationships. Dale also assists clients with legal issues they encounter regarding ongoing operational and legal compliance questions, including regulatory compliance, periodic bylaw revisions, business licensing, employment and staffing issues, and the fiduciary obligations of officers and directors of nonprofit organizations.


Experience

  • Formed and represented dozens of nonprofit corporations as outside general counsel, some continuously for over 30 years.
  • Assisted nonprofit organizations that have been inactive or were incomplete in their formation with all necessary improvements and corrections to facilitate proper operations.
  • Guided statewide nonprofit organizations through complex employment matters.
  • Formed and helped guide the operations of several for-profit subsidiaries wholly owned by nonprofit corporations.
  • Drafted hundreds of bylaw revisions or replacements, including guiding the nonprofit organization through the membership approval process and, where appropriate, approval of the amendments by the IRS.
  • Represented numerous member-owned country clubs in their corporate and transactional operations, including bylaw revisions, membership agreements, capital improvements, liability exposure analyses, and transfer of management responsibilities to third-party management firms.
  • Formed new business entities and drafted partnership and limited liability agreements for farming and food processing companies, government relations firms and a contract office management corporation.
  • Formed limited liability company to purchase and operate the largest wine industry tradeshow in California.
  • Formed and represented agricultural cooperatives covering commodities including dairy products, dates, tree-nuts, farm equipment, and agricultural chemicals.
  • On behalf of several family-owned businesses, negotiated and drafted buy-sell agreements, including noncompetition provisions.
  • Negotiated and drafted complex merger agreements for two statewide trade associations serving the grocery industry.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture, Dean’s Advisory Council, Chair, 2010 – 2019
  • 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 & 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