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Agriculture and estates in South West

Burges Salmon LLP

Burges Salmon LLP is a regional leader in the agricultural and landed estates sector, drawing significant instructions from high-profile clients. Particularly notable are its sizeable team and wide range of specialisms. Team head Tom Hewitt specialises in succession and wealth planning for landed estates clients, while Sian Edmunds is an authority on regulatory issues relating to the food supply chain. Emma Folkes comes highly recommended in rural property matters, especially agricultural tenancies. An associate with a notable practice is Ross Simpson, a rural property specialist with experience in complex strategic land work.

Practice head(s):

Tom Hewitt

Testimonials

Simply the best there is when it comes to agricultural work: many clients would not dream of going elsewhere.

Sian Edmunds is unflappable and never loses sight of the big picture. Maddie Dunn is cool, calm, collected, even when faced with complex issues and hard-fought disputes.

The team has a high level of agricultural experience and also specialist teams which are able to feed into projects when needed. A good example of this is the tax team, who have provided useful advice in relation to SDLT and VAT for a number of complicated transactions.’

Excellence in all rural matters, with a depth of specialisms to cover all potential legal requirements.

A specialist team who can handle complex transactions nationally. The availability of tax advice and a specialist litigation team all under one roof provides clients with the comfort that transactional and non-transactional advice is always looked at in the round.

Emma Folkes is the go-to person in dealing with complex estate sales and provides sound, practical advice on all agricultural matters.

Young, vibrant, proactive, personable and engaging – quick to respond and they know their stuff inside out. Well-resourced team (in terms of both manpower and communication). Meetings were slick, regular, productive and accountable. In-depth and up-to-date knowledge of the law. Advice was faultless and resulted in complete confidence in our legal team and subsequently the wider team acting on the transaction, creating a great ethos and ultimately a fantastic result for the client. Ross Simpson was outstanding and I would have absolutely no hesitation using his services again or recommending him to others. He is helpfully dual-qualified in Scotland and  England and Wales.

Jim Aveline is an excellent lead partner able to give sage, measured advice. Kevin Kennedy is an excellent litigation partner, who perhaps unusually is as keen as his clients to explore alternatives to court where appropriate.

Key clients

Wellcome Trust

The Crown Estate

National Trust

John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose

HSBC

Environment Agency

Defence Infrastructure Organisation

South Yorkshire Pensions Authority

The Woodland Trust

Yeo Valley

Work highlights

  • Advising the trustees of a landed estate on a £200m development site, including obtaining vacant possession of a key part of the development jigsaw.
  • Accelerating the plans of a landowning peer to gift a part of the ancestral estate to his son.
  • Defending a high-profile robotic milker manufacturer against various claims, including that the robot milkers were defective.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP has an excellent reputation for advising landed estates. In this space, it provides multiple generations of families with specialist advice in areas including tax and estate planning, land sales and transfers, and agricultural law. The team is led by highly experienced senior partner Christopher Page. Tristram van Lawick, who was promoted to partner in May 2019, has expertise in estate management issues, including farming tenancies and partnerships.

Practice head(s):

Christopher Page

Other key lawyers:

Tristram van Lawick

Michelmores LLP

The agriculture team at Michelmores LLP stands out for its expertise in contentious matters, and frequently handles complex disputes, including landlord and tenant, partnership, estoppel and professional negligence cases. Ben Sharples, who is highly experienced in dispute resolution, and Vivienne Williams, whose areas of specialism include succession disputes, jointly head up the team. The firm’s non-contentious offering is led by Tom Hyde, who is also qualified as a chartered surveyor. Notable junior lawyers are sustainable agriculture specialist Rachel O’Connor and litigator Charlotte Razay, while barrister Adam Corbin was made up to partner in May 2019.

Testimonials

Michelmores are absolutely first rate and at the very top of their game. They are true leaders in the field in this area. There is an excellent spread of real expertise, at every level of seniority – from the author of the leading textbook, down to extremely hardworking and brilliantly capable junior lawyers. The teams work very well together and are united by their absolute commitment to their clients.’

Ben Sharples is one of the best agricultural property litigation solicitors in the country.

A very strong presence and huge range of experience in property litigation, particularly in the South West.

They are the most knowledgeable team on agricultural landlord and tenant and disputes issues in this region and probably in the UK. They author the leading text book on the Law of Agricultural Holdings.

Ben Sharples has a unique technical skill set. Not only is he an incredibly effective lawyer but also a fellow of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers. This breadth and diversity of knowledge gives confidence in knowing that Ben will view instructions presented to him from many angles, which is appreciated.

Tom Hyde’s unique combination of qualifications (solicitor and rural chartered surveyor) gives him an excellent technical and practical knowledge which is highly useful in complex transactions requiring close multi-disciplinary collaboration with other firms providing professional advisory services. His expertise in multiple fields (landed estates, rural property, agriculture and private wealth) allows him to provide advice within the wider context of his clients’ needs. His personal skills are nothing short of excellent – he reads clients’ explicit and implicit needs, inspires confidence, has gravitas, and is very personable. He is very thorough in his work, and has excellent judgement. A very safe pair of hands.

Vivienne Williams is a very experienced and knowledgeable property litigator. She has seen it all, and consequently is very calm, intelligent and sensible, even with the trickiest and most difficult cases. Charlotte Razay is an experienced and knowledgeable property litigator, intelligent and sensible, with huge enthusiasm and dedication to her clients.

Peter Williams is a true leader in the field – extremely knowledgeable, strategic and devoted to his clients. Vivienne Williams is exceptionally experienced and is able to take tough decisions in the interests in her clients. Rachel O’Connor and Charlotte Razay are both real stars in the making: they are both very bright, extremely diligent and hardworking, and great team players.

Christian Massey is an expert in the country house, farm and estate market. He is proactive, responsive and thorough. Importantly, he is personable with clients and provides measured advice

Christian Massey is a commercial deal rainmaker

Key clients

Hazlewoods LLP

Oxbury Plc

Commonwork Organic Farms Limited

The British Association of Shooting & Conservation

Clinton Devon Estates

West Sussex County Council

Dorset County Council

Multibox Limited

The Trustees of the Savile Trust 1965

Powys County Council

Work highlights

  • Acting for William Carr in defeating an application by the Stonor Estate seeking consent to the operation of a notice to quit in accordance with section 44 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.
  • Representing Jenkin and Philip Rees in the successful defence of an injunction sought by a landlord seeking access to the holding for pre-development site surveys.
  • Advising the British Association of Shooting and Conservation on the renewal of consents for wildfowling on a site of special scientific interest.

Thrings LLP

Thrings LLP's agriculture and food department excels in its advice to national farming associations and well-known landed estates, and has a broad and highly regarded contentious offering. Practice head Duncan Sigournay specialises in agricultural property matters, with a particular focus on agricultural tenancies. Russell Reeves leads the firm's agricultural litigation team, and is regularly involved in high-profile cases that reach the High Court. Robert James, who was made up to partner in May 2019, has a strong track record in trusts and partnership disputes.

Practice head(s):

Duncan Sigournay

Testimonials

Thrings’ agricultural practice act very much as a team, and even though they are a large practice they act like a small practice giving a personal touch. They have an excellent team spirit which shines throughout. It is this excellent atmosphere and dynamic which draws you to wanting to work with them.

A very strong rural team which has a high profile among landowners and farmers – every aspect is fully covered and in depth. They have knowledge and experience, and interact well amongst themselves to deliver high-quality results.

Russell Reeves is a pleasure to work with – a calm and authoritative team leader.

Thrings has for many years featured as a leading agriculture and estates practitioner. The agriculture team is led by Russell Reeves, an experienced and technically expert agricultural lawyer. He has over recent years been involved in leading cases such as Moore v Moore on proprietary estoppel and partnership disputes. He is adept at handling clients and maintaining excellent communications with his client and the team. He is a skilled negotiator which is of great value in mediations. The firm has a first-class client base derived in part from its role as solicitors to the National Farmers Union.

A strong and broad team ensuring a good service offering where there is always someone available. All solicitors at all levels are approachable and knowledgeable in their particular fields.

Neil Barbour is quite exceptional – he always seems to have time and is calm under pressure. He stands out among his peers because of his diligence and attention to detail; he is a good friend to all who work with him and someone you want on your side to cut through difficult situations. He’s uncompromising on sloppiness! Robert James is a rising star and has an excellent manner about him: no stone is left unturned in his quest for the answers. He is quiet, thorough and knows just what questions to ask.

Robert James has a  dynamic, positive and can-do attitude backed up with exceptional communication skills and a very high degree of professionalism. His wisdom and commerciality go beyond his years; put simply, you want him on your side of the table.

Very good firm for agricultural litigation.

Key clients

National Farmers Union (NFU)

Country Land and Business Association (CLA)

The Badminton Estate

Denhay Farms Ltd

Roger Moore

EU Plants Ltd

Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust

DJ Houghton Catching Services Ltd

Koppert

Work highlights

  • Successfully acted for Roger and Pamela Moore in a £10m proprietary estoppel appeal in the Court of Appeal before three Lord Justices.
  • Representing John-Michael Gee in a £9m proprietary estoppel claim in the High Court.
  • Acting for DJ Houghton Catching Services, as the defendant, in the first-ever High Court claim against a British company in relation to modern slavery.

Clarke Willmott LLP

Clarke Willmott LLP acts for regional and national clients, including farming associations, institutional landowners, agribusinesses and landed estates. Its broad offering includes dispute resolution (especially proprietary estoppel claims), private wealth, rural property, and planning and regulatory law. The experienced Tim Hayden heads up the agriculture department from the Taunton office, and is widely recognised for his expertise in regulatory work. Among other key names, David Maddock is a specialist in tax planning and succession; Rod Lloyd-Jones has expertise in agricultural property transactions; and associate Polly Ridgway specialises in agribusiness disputes and property litigation.

Practice head(s):

Tim Hayden

Testimonials

Clarke Willmott’s agriculture and estates team is extremely knowledgeable and has vast experience when it comes to all manner of agricultural work. Their team is always contactable and on-hand to pass on their wisdom. Their conveyancing team go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that deadlines are met and transactions to continue to progress.

An exceptional agricultural team which has considerable in-depth knowledge of all matters relating to the farms, estates and rural property sector.

Mark Buckerfield is a diligent professional who is practical, approachable and gets the job done.

Mark Buckerfield is approachable and explains matters in plain English, having an exceptional eye for detail which is reassuring both for fellow professionals and clients alike. He would be a ‘go to’ solicitor in terms of agricultural work. If a problem arises or a complicated scenario needs unravelling, Mark’s name is at the top of the list.

Polly Ridgway makes herself available whenever required and offers excellent, but always considered, advice.’

Key clients

The National Farmers’ Union

The Masters of Foxhounds Association

Lloyds Banking Group (including AMC)

HSBC Bank plc

The Countryside Alliance

Andrew Guest

Work highlights

  • Acting for a client in a proprietary estoppel claim brought against his parents for an equitable interest in the family farm and the farming business carried on there.
  • Representing members of the National Farmers’ Union in an action for the mis-selling of agri-finance products, including misrepresentation and breaches of consumer credit legislation.
  • Acting for KS Coles in a high-value dispute with a national supermarket relating to misrepresentation and breaches of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.

Stephens Scown LLP

While it has a strong client base across Devon and Cornwall, Stephens Scown LLP is also instructed by clients further afield for agricultural matters, especially in agribusiness. Among the team's niche specialisms are equestrian matters, sporting rights and land partnerships. The department is headed up by Susie Murray in Exeter, an expert in land-based matters, and Phil Reed in Truro, who specialises in wealth protection. Senior associate Ian Thomas specialises in property litigation, especially landlord and tenant disputes. Property litigation specialist Richard Bagwell joined from Foot Anstey in February 2019.

Practice head(s):

Susie Murray; Phil Reed

Testimonials

Outstanding agricultural expertise, well regarded locally and very involved in the farming community. Several points of contact with a broad range of services offered within each office.

Susie Murray has helped several of my clients over the years and I only receive compliments about the quality of her work.

Key clients

Jeff Berryman

Edward Martyn

Stillman’s (Somerset) Limited

Richard Haddock

Graham Bowsher (GB Farms Ltd)

Kivells Limited

Work highlights

  • Assisting Jeff Berryman with an application for succession to an Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 tenancy.
  • Acting for Kivells in a substantial claim in the High Court against Torridge District Council relating to the design and build of a waste-water treatment system at Holsworthy AgriBusiness Centre.
  • Acting for Richard Haddock in a High Court case relating to whether a covenant is a fencing agreement.

Trethowans LLP

Trethowans LLP is experienced in handling property transactions involving farms and estates, and regularly advises banks on securing lending for agricultural properties. The team also has expertise in tax planning, equine litigation and the partitioning of farms and estates. Marcus Thorpe leads the team from Salisbury, with support in private wealth matters from Chris Pemberton, who arrived from Porter Dodson LLP in March 2019. In addition, Emma Earp joined the Bournemouth office from Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP in January 2019, bringing banking expertise to bear on agricultural matters.

Practice head(s):

Marcus Thorpe

Testimonials

Marcus Thorpe leads the team and has instilled an ethos of client care and efficiency. Marcus completed a transaction with 24 hours to spare on what was already a very tight timescale. First class.

Marcus Thorpe is one of the very few land and estate lawyers who actually visits the property and gets their boots dirty. I am convinced that this is one of the major contributory factors to his team’s efficiency. In addition it is perfectly normal to receive a telephone call from Marcus at 6:30 am or 9.30 pm, such is his dedication to exceeding expectations. This professionalism coupled with superb client bedside manner and an ability to cut through minutiae and provide pragmatic advice is what makes Marcus Thorpe a cut above the rest.

Key clients

Cornish Mutual

Agricultural Mortgage Corporation

Lloyds Bank

Rowanmoor Pension Trustees Limited

James Hay Pension Trustees Limited

Belport Investments Limited

Work highlights

  • Assisting Cornish Mutual with a case arising from an accident which took place at a farm.
  • Advising the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation on amendments to security documentation during the mortgage term.
  • Advising Lloyds Bank on two new facilities for a new borrowing company.

Wilsons

Wilsons demonstrates strong skills in advising farmers and landowners on a broad range of rural-related areas of law, including property, private wealth and dispute resolution. The agriculture and estates group is jointly headed by specialists focusing on particular areas: Alison Bailey heads up the landowner development and planning team, Jonathan Stephens leads the offering in partnerships and farming structures, and Peter Bourke is the primary contact for farms and estates disputes. Robert Swift lends expertise as a consultant in the sale and purchase of farms. All named partners are Salisbury-based.

Other key lawyers:

Torsten White; Tim Clayden

Testimonials

Wilsons has a very well-deserved reputation for expertise in advising on agriculture and estates, in particular in farming partnership disputes and questions concerning agricultural tenancies. The firm acts for many of the leading landowners and farmers throughout southern England and beyond. It offers an impressive one-stop advisory service covering partnership matters, agricultural tenancies and the litigation, mediation and arbitration issues arising therefrom, taxation, trusts, probate and succession.

Peter Bourke is the leading agricultural lawyer at Wilsons and offers sound, practical advice aimed at securing a doable and workable solution to the more intractable disputes in this area. He is a skilled negotiator at mediation.

Peter Bourke is a fantastically skilled litigator – one of the best in the field. His attention to detail is second to none.

Ashfords LLP

Ashfords LLP advises private clients and businesses in the agriculture sector across the South West. Among areas of recent growth are the department's contentious trusts and probate offering, as well as agricultural property and succession planning. Darren Blackburn heads up the practice from Exeter; he specialises in the sale, purchase and letting of farms, land and rural properties.

Practice head(s):

Darren Blackburn

Other key lawyers:

Tom Biddick

Testimonials

Always highly professional in all their dealings. They provide an excellent service to their farming clients in all areas. They are efficient, respond quickly and get on with dealing with instructions without any delays.

Darren Blackburn is seen as a well-established and efficient solicitor who has an excellent reputation with his clients.’

Ashfords provides a strong multi-disciplinary approach to the agricultural sector with a variety of specialists underpinned by a local presence and approachable practitioners.

Tom Biddick is strong all-rounder who has a real understanding of agriculture and what his clients need. Darren Blackburn is the standout performer in agricultural property with a can-do attitude and a real warmth in his approach to people and problems.

Strong industry knowledge in relation to the agriculture sector. Technical excellence in a wide range of specialist areas.

Tom Biddick has excellent technical and industry knowledge, coupled with great client service.’

Work highlights

  • Advising two private clients on a complex farming estate worth approximately £4m.
  • Assisting a UK clearing bank with securing borrowing of £7.5m over land and property being purchased by a farming partnership.
  • Advising a private client on a deed of variation, complex will, lifetime gifts and succession planning advice for an estate worth approximately £3.2m.

Blanchards Bailey LLP

Rural Dorset-based Blanchards Bailey LLP has a strong local client base of farming families, rural landowners and businesses. The range of work done by the department extends from land development and renewable energy matters to partnerships and commercial contracts. Practice head Paul Dunlop has expertise in land, boundary and partnership disputes.

Practice head(s):

Paul Dunlop

Other key lawyers:

Jerome Dodge

Key clients

Farwell Property Investments Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising a farming-family client on a £400,000 saving of inheritance tax on £14m overage payments.
  • Advising farming clients on the negligence of previous solicitors, the capital gains tax consequences of rectifying the error and appropriate trust-based remedies to achieve client’s estate-planning goals.
  • Providing advice relating to a bridging loan over a farm in relation to which the lender recently obtained possession (following the default of loan).

Coodes Solicitors

Coodes Solicitors primarily acts for clients in Cornwall and West Devon, including local high-net-worth landowning families and smaller family farms. The core of the team's work involves the sale and purchase of farms, but other strengths include handling boundary disputes, contentious probate work, animal welfare and pollution matters. Practice head Pam Johns, who is based in Holsworthy, is an expert in agricultural property work.

Practice head(s):

Pam Johns

Other key lawyers:

Lisa Robinson

Testimonials

A good “traditional” service which is always highly professional in all its dealings with clients. They provide an excellent service to their farming clients in all areas. They are efficient, respond quickly and get on with dealing with instructions without any delays.’

Pam Johns is extremely well known in her area and is seen as a safe pair of hands. She deals with work in an efficient and timely manner and is highly regarded by the farming industry in Devon and Cornwall.

Work highlights

  • Advising a client on the acquisition of a farm for £1.7m.
  • Advising a client on the acquisition of farmland at a price of £600,000.
  • Advising a client on the sale of farmland to a tenant at the price of £226,500.

Foot Anstey

Foot Anstey's farms, estates and rural land team advises clients across the South West on a wide range of matters, including the sale and purchase of property, succession and - an area of recent growth - work related to the Electronic Communications Code. Legal director Edward Venmore heads up the team from Exeter.

Practice head(s):

Edward Venmore

Other key lawyers:

Danielle Spalding; Kate Lucas

Testimonials

Always highly professional in all their dealings. They provide an excellent service to their farming clients in all areas. They are efficient, respond quickly and get on with dealing with instructions without any delays.

Kate Lucas works extremely well with all clients and has a detailed knowledge of the farming industry. She is able to work to extremely tight time scales on behalf of demanding clients with a calm, unpressured attitude.

A good knowledge of agricultural law, the ability to stick with the case and good at keeping us informed.

Edward Venmore and Danielle Spalding are very knowledgeable, and always available on the telephone, providing good ideas and able to find good solutions to problems.

It’s normally very efficient and they always have a member elsewhere in the firm who can assist if required.

Edward Venmore is one of the most intelligent solicitors I have worked with. He is invariably calm, always thinks in depth about the issues confronting us and has never been outsmarted in the – now – quite long period he has worked on my issue. I have not once had cause to think that we have missed a trick in the conduct of my issue. In consequence, I would instruct him again without hesitation on any issues of this type and recommend him unreservedly to anyone wanting advice in this field.

Key clients

Sowden

Bolitho Estate

Mr R Keast

Lloyds Bank

NFU

St Aubyn Estate

Newnham Estate

Work highlights

  • Advising a client on a high-profile Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 dispute.
  • Advising a landowner with a telecoms mast on his land.
  • Defending a farming family in a case which tested a number of technical legal arguments in relation to the service of notices under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.

Mogers Drewett LLP

Mogers Drewett LLP focuses its agriculture offering on family-owned businesses, developers and farmers, not only from Somerset and Dorset, but from around the South of England. Many are drawn by the specialist knowledge of Jonathan Cheal, who is an authority on public rights of way and access to land. The similarly experienced Frank Collins leads the team from Wells.

Practice head(s):

Frank Collins

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Cheal

Testimonials

A first-class understanding and appreciation of my situation. A realistic approach to the outcome and fees.

Jonathan Cheal is incredibly knowledgable and has huge expertise in his field. This of course gives his clients the comfort that they have the very best on their side.

Jonathan Cheal is an outstanding solicitor and is remarkably brilliant at public rights of way matters.

Trowers & Hamlins LLP

Trowers & Hamlins LLP undertakes a wide range of work related to agriculture and rural estates, including the sale and purchase of farms and negotiation of rights of way, as well as advising on estate planning and sporting rights. Senior associate Nicola Janus-Harris heads up the team from Exeter, lending wide experience in agricultural property matters.

Practice head(s):

Nicola Janus-Harris

Testimonials

The team at Trowers Hamlins starts when you come through to the reception area. Staff treat you in such a friendly and professional manner. In all our visits this never altered.’

Rebecca and Amy were the team in charge of both the farm land sale and a house sale and purchase. Both were in consultation and always available for an update.’

Amy Collins is an excellent communicator, we always felt she was on top of everything. She dealt with our sales and purchase in a professional but friendly way, explaining the process clearly and promptly when required.’

 

Key clients

Dartmoor Preservation Association

Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadets Association

Vision Nine Entertainment Group

Work highlights

  • Advising Wessex Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association on all property aspects of the estate management of both its freehold and leasehold property portfolios (1,800 properties including nine farms).
  • Assisting the Dartmoor Preservation Association with the transfer of moorland of historical and environmental importance into the newly created charitable incorporated organisation.
  • Advising Vision Nine Entertainment Group on its planning application for the Boardmasters surf and music festival for the period from 2020 to 2024.

Willans LLP

Willans LLP specialises in providing advice on non-contentious agricultural matters to landowners and farming families around Cheltenham and in the surrounding counties. It is known for its expertise in the sale and purchase of land, farms and whole estates. Practice head Robin Beckley is also highly experienced in handling development land disposals by option, conditional contract and promotion agreements.

Practice head(s):

Robin Beckley

Other key lawyers:

Adam Hale

Testimonials

Their rural team appears cohesive and efficient and able to pass work between themselves to ensure the right person does the right job.

I have dealt with Robin Beckley and Adam Hale over a complex matter over the last 12 months or so which has been most satisfactory. They have replied in a timely manner and provided good, solid advice in an understandable way.

The team is obviously very experienced and knowledgeable.

Robin Beckley is very experienced, direct and to the point. He takes a pragmatic approach to cases and ensures deals progress at a satisfactory pace.

Great local knowledge.

Robin Beckley is a go-to lawyer for farming clients.

Work highlights

  • Settling a long-running dispute for a client by dividing a landed estate between family members.
  • Advising a client on the sale of a large area of farmland with farm buildings with entitlements to basic farm payment.
  • Assisting a client with the grant of an option to a national house builder over a 110-acre area for a potential term of 20 years.

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP acts for farmers and landowners, as well as trusts and lending institutions. Major sources of work for the firm's agriculture, farms and estates team include the sale and purchase of property and the development of land. Practice head Robert Drewett is based in the firm's Bristol office.

Practice head(s):

Robert Drewett

Other key lawyers:

Laura Brodie

Testimonials

‘Incisive advice and prompt, effective action from partners supported by knowledgeable teams of lawyers.’

‘Robert Drewett is highly professional with a depth of legal knowledge tempered by a sound, practical approach. Christopher Kerr-Smiley provides excellent legal advice delivered to tight time scales where required.’

‘The team are extremely knowledgeable and responsive.’

‘They respond quickly and efficiently. Where further information is required it is found.’

Key clients

National Trust

Grainger PLC

Church Commissioners

English Heritage

The Society of Merchant Venturers

St Monica Trust

National Farmers Union

Agricultural Mortgage Corporation

RwE