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agricultural security interests

A “security agreement” is defined by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as “an agreement that creates or provides for a security interest.” 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(74). A security agreement is “effective according to its terms between the parties, against purchasers of the collateral, and against creditors.” 810 ILCS 5/9-201(a). Or, put simply, a security agreement gives a creditor some form of legal right over the property of a creditor. To have an enforceable security agreement, creditors need to meet a series of strict requirements.

Problem Ag Loan

How Do You Perfect A Security Interest in Agriculture?

A “security agreement” is defined by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as “an agreement that creates or provides for a security interest.” 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(74). A security agreement is “effective according to its terms between the parties, against purchasers of the collateral, and against creditors.” 810 ILCS 5/9-201(a). Or, put simply, a security agreement gives a creditor some form of legal right over the property of a creditor. To have an enforceable security agreement, creditors need to meet a series of strict requirements.

The Basics

For a security interest against collateral to be enforceable against the debtor and third parties, 810 ILCS 5/9-203(b) requires that the following three conditions be met:

1. Value has been given.

2. The debtor has rights in the collateral or the power to transfer rights in the collateral to the secured party.

3. One of the following conditions has been met:

a. The debtor has authenticated (signed or otherwise executed) a security agreement that provides a description of the collateral and, if the security interest covers timber to be cut, a description of the land concerned.

b. The collateral is not a certificated security and is in the possession of the secured party under 810 ILCS 5/9-313 pursuant to the debtor’s security agreement.

c. The collateral is a certificated security in registered form, and the security’s certificate has been delivered to the secured party under 810 ILCS 5/8-301 pursuant to the debtor’s security agreement.

d. The collateral is deposit accounts, electronic chattel paper, investment paper, or letter-of-credit rights, and the secured party has control pursuant to the debtor’s security agreement.

These are the minimum requirements that must be satisfied to enforce a security interest. In re Duckworth, 776 F.3d 453, 462 (7th Cir. 2014).

Common Pitfalls: Mistaken Identification

Lenders must properly identify the debt to be secured, because §9-203 does not provide a mechanism for rescuing a lender from mistakenly identifying the debt to be secured. In Duckworth, the court held that the mistaken identification of the debt cannot be corrected against the bankruptcy trustee by using parol evidence to show the intent of the parties to the original loan. Id.

In Duckworth, the bank brought an action against the bankruptcy trustee and others asking the court to determine that the bank had a first priority security interest in proceeds from the sale of certain farm products, equipment, and crop insurance. After the farmer filed a Chapter 7 petition, the trustee was holding $22,284.27 in post-petition sales of farm equipment and $586,740.38 in crop proceeds.

The debtor obtained a loan from the bank by a promissory note dated December 15, 2008, in the amount of $1.1 million. On page 2 of the 2008 note, in a paragraph labeled “collateral,” it stated that the borrower acknowledged that the note was secured by a security agreement dated December 13, 2008. The debtor did sign an agriculture security agreement dated December 13, 2008, that described the collateral as all inventory, farm products, farm equipment, and crop insurance, among other property. However, in the definition of “note,” the principal amount was left blank and the note was referenced as being dated December 13, 2008; there was no cross-collateralization clause.

The trustee and another creditor argued that the security interest was invalid because the security agreement provided that its security debt was evidenced by a note dated December 13, 2008, even though that note did not exist. The bank provided the declaration of the loan officer who prepared the loan documents and personally closed the loan. The loan officer explained that the discrepancy was a “clerical error.” The bank further maintained that the error was correctible by means of parol evidence, because Illinois adheres to the principle that documents executed as part of a single transaction are interpreted as one contractual agreement. The bankruptcy court agreed. So did the district court on appeal. However, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, declaring that bankruptcy trustees “are entitled to treat an unambiguously security agreement as meaning what it says, even if the original parties have made a mistake in expressing their intentions.” 776 F.3d at 463.

The lesson from Duckworth is that special care must be taken to ensure that the security agreement contain a provision for securing future debts. Future advances or dragnet clauses are expressly permitted by the UCC. 810 ILCS 5/9-204(c). A future advances clause must be set forth in writing as part of the security agreement for the security interest to cover debts not expressly identified therein.

See the sample form of an agricultural security agreement in §7.20 below. In the sample form of security agreement, the term “obligations” broadly encompasses all debts existing at the time of execution of the agreement and arising thereafter.

Defining the Collateral

Most security agreements define the “collateral,” but a mistake in the definition can be costly.  Creditors should always use language covering after-acquired property for collateral. There is no protection for creditors who mistakenly assume some kind of “common sense” inclusion applying to things like inventory.

It is important to understand the meaning of terms defined in the Uniform Commercial Code. Some secured lenders define “accounts,” “inventory,” etc. The UCC defines many of these terms, so there isn’t necessarily a need to define them separately in the security agreement. However, it’s important to keep up-to-date on the UUC definitions. For example, some UCC terms changed dramatically when Article 9 was amended in 2001.  Therefore, a provision that incorporates UCC terms can affect the entire agreement.

810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(34) defines “farm products” to mean “goods, other than standing timber, with respect to which the debtor is engaged in a farming operation” and that are

(A) crops grown, growing, or to be grown, including:

(i) crops produced on trees, vines, and bushes; and

(ii) aquatic goods produced in aquacultural operations;

(B) livestock, born or unborn, including aquatic goods produced in aquacultural operations;

(C) supplies used or produced in a farming operation; or

(D) products of crops or livestock in their unmanufactured states.

“Farming operation” is defined to mean “raising, cultivating, propagating, fattening, grazing, or any other farming, livestock, or aquacultural operation.” 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(35).

The term “proceeds” is broadly defined to include whatever property or goods are received upon the sale, exchange, collection, or disposition of the collateral. 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(64). A security interest attaches to any identifiable proceeds of collateral. 810 ILCS 5/9-315(a)(2). Determining readily identifiable cash proceeds is a difficult endeavor. See C.O. Funk & Sons, Inc. v. Sullivan Equipment, Inc., 89 Ill.2d 27, 431 N.E.2d 370, 59 Ill.Dec. 85 (1982). The secured party has the burden of identifying its proceeds. Assumptions and speculation are insufficient to meet this burden. See Van Diest Supply Co. v. Shelby County State Bank, 425 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2005).

The Grant

According to Article 9 of the UCC, the grant must describe the property and what it secures. 810 ILCS 5/9-203(b)(3). This is a mandatory requirement; the failure to have a document explicitly granting a security interest is fatal. Covey v. Morton Community Bank (In re Sabol), 337 B.R. 195 (Bankr. C.D.Ill. 2006). There are no specific “magic words” required to be included in the security agreement to create a security interest, however no security interest will be recognized without a description of the collateral in a signed or authenticated document or in a separate document incorporated by reference into a signed or authenticated document. 377 B.R. at 202.

Due Diligence and Proper Searches

Before making a loan, a lender must make the following searches to determine whether it has priority:

1. the debtor’s form of organization;

2. the debtor’s principal place of business;

3. the debtor’s predecessors;

4. all names utilized by the debtor; and

5. all locations used for goods.

After the lender relies representations regarding these issues, it still must perform its own due diligence to verify the representations. This includes reviewing an entity’s articles of incorporation, articles of organization, or other organizational agreement and any other reports available to the lender to verify the locations of the collateral.

The lender can confirm whether the borrower is a corporation or a limited liability company and in good standing at the website of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Department of Business Services at www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/business_services.

The lender also must conduct a UCC lien search using the precise name of the entity or person. Failure to use the correct name can be fatal. See, e.g., Corona Fruits & Veggies, Inc. v. Frozsun Foods, Inc., 143 Cal.App.4th 319, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 868, 870 (2006) (financing statement that listed debtor’s name as “Armando Munoz” instead of his correct name of “Armando Munoz Juarez” was seriously misleading and thus invalid). For perfection by filing a financial statement for an individual, the use of a name on a driver’s license and social security card is sufficient. In re Miller, No. 12-CV-02052, 2012 WL 3589426 (C.D.Ill. Aug. 17, 2012); see also 810 ILCS 5/9-503(a)(4).

 

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