Bills v. Cactus Family Farms, LLC

Citation470 F.Supp.3d 948
Decision Date06 July 2020
Docket NumberNo. 19-CV-3021-CJW,19-CV-3021-CJW
Parties David BILLS, Plaintiff, v. CACTUS FAMILY FARMS, LLC ; CRE Holdings, LLLP ; SMG Management LLC; Cactus Operating, LLC., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa

Lori Ann Bullock, Thomas James Bullock, Newkirk Zwagerman PLC, Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiff.

Danielle D. Smid, Brown Winick Graves Gross Baskerville Schoenebaum, Des Moines, IA, Elizabeth A. Chermel, Pro Hac Vice, Mullin Hoard Brown, LLP, Dallas, TX, Shawn David Twing, Pro Hac Vice, Mullin Hoard & Brown, Amarillo, TX, for Defendants.


C.J. Williams, United States District Judge


A. Parties...––––
B. Pork Production Process...––––
C. Plaintiff's Employment with Cactus Family Farms...––––
D. Claims and Procedural Posture...––––
A. Summary Judgment Standard...––––
B. Unresisted Dismissals...––––
C. Parties’ Arguments...––––
D. FLSA...––––
1. Statutory Framework...––––
2. Interpretation and Application of the Statute...––––
3. Applicability of the Exemption Here...––––
a. Primary Agriculture...––––
b. Secondary Agriculture...––––
i. By a Farmer...––––
ii. On a Farm...––––
E. Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act...––––

This matter is before the Court on defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 22), plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 24), and defendants' Motion for Leave to Amend Answer to Add Affirmative Defense ("Motion to Add Affirmative Defense") (Doc. 29). Plaintiff timely resisted defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37) and defendants filed a timely reply (Doc. 40). Defendants timely resisted plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 39) and plaintiff filed a timely reply (Doc. 42). Plaintiff also timely resisted defendants' Motion to Add Affirmative Defenses (Doc. 34) and defendants filed a timely reply (Doc. 41). Defendants requested an oral argument on their Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 22). On June 2, 2020, the Court heard oral arguments on all pending motions. (Doc. 45). The Court considers this matter fully submitted.

For the following reasons the Court finds that, as a matter of law, plaintiff was engaged in primary and secondary agriculture and thus, falls within the agricultural employee exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act's ("FLSA") overtime pay requirement. Thus, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted (Doc. 22) and plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is denied (Doc. 24). The Court also denies defendants' Motion to Add Affirmative Defense (Doc. 29).


This case involves the FLSA's agricultural exemption to the overtime pay requirement and this matter is primarily before the Court on a motion for summary judgment. The parties agree that there are not significant factual disputes and instead assert this matter raises a question of statutory interpretation. Thus, the following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. The Court will consider additional facts as they become relevant to the Court's discussion.

A. Parties

This matter involves several defendants (collectively "defendants") that are all subsidiaries of Cactus Pork Group, LLC ("Cactus Pork Group"). First, Cactus Family Farms, LLC ("Cactus Family Farms" or "Cactus") is a pork production company that is headquartered in Amarillo, Texas with its pork operations based in Osceola, Iowa. (Doc. 37-1, at 5). Next, CRE Holdings, LLLP ("CRE") is a real estate holding company that owns real estate in Iowa. (Id. , at 6). CRE has two limited partners, which are wholly owned subsidiaries of Cactus Pork Group, and one general partner. (Id. ). SMG Management, LLC ("SMG") is CRE's general partner. (Id. ). Cactus Operating, LLC ("Cactus Operating") is a common paymaster for Cactus Pork Group subsidiaries. (Id. ). Cactus Operating provides Cactus Family Farms with payroll, benefits, accounting, and human resource support. (Id. ).

Plaintiff is an individual who was employed by Cactus Family Farms as an Animal Care Auditor from February 13, 2017, through the end of May 2018. (Id. , at 7).

B. Pork Production Process

Cactus Family Farms is a pork production company. (Doc. 36, at 1). Its business consists of several areas related to pork production and its properties include breeding facilities, nursery facilities, and finishing facilities. (Id. ).

All the pigs Cactus Family Farms owns are born on one of its sow farms. (Id. , at 12-13). Each piglet remains on a sow farm for approximately three weeks. (Id. ). When the piglets are three weeks old they are loaded onto a truck and transported to either a nursery or to a wean-to-finish farm. (Id. ). Piglets that are sent to nursery farms are transported from the nursery farm to a finishing farm when the piglet is between six to eight weeks old. (Id. ). Piglets that are sent to wean-to-finish farms do not need to be transported again until they are ready for slaughter and processing. (Id. , at 13). When the pigs reach their target market weight they are loaded onto a truck and transported to a meat packing facility for processing. (Id. ). In other words, the pigs are loaded onto a truck and transported to different farms and then to the processing facility at least two times throughout their lives. Moving the pigs to different barns reduces the risk of the pigs becoming sick and spreading disease and addresses biosecurity concerns.

Cactus Family Farms owns the pigs from the pigs' births until they are delivered to the processing plant. (Doc. 37-1, at 2). As discussed above, Cactus Family Farms breeds the pigs at its own sow farms and then delivers the pigs to another farm. (Doc. 36, at 13). The farms are owned by either Cactus Family Farms or by independent contractors. (Id. ). If the pigs are delivered to an independent contractor, the contractor then feeds, waters, cares for, and otherwise raises the pigs until the pigs are ready for processing. (Id. , at 12). In exchange, Cactus Family Farms pays the contract growers for their barn space and services, but it retains title to the pigs throughout the entirety of the pigs' lives. (Id. ).

C. Plaintiff's Employment with Cactus Family Farms

Plaintiff started working for Cactus Family Farms in May 2015, when Cactus Family Farms purchased plaintiff's former employer, Swine Graphics Enterprises ("Swine Graphics"). (Doc. 36, at 1). At first, plaintiff's duties were similar to the duties he performed as Resource Manager for Swine Graphics. (Id. ). In February 2017, Cactus moved plaintiff into a new position with Cactus Family Farms. (Id. , at 2). The new position was called Auditor of Site Compliance. (Id. , at 2). The job title was later changed to Animal Care Auditor, but the job responsibilities remained the same. (Id. ).

As an Animal Care Auditor plaintiff performed vaccination

assessments, transportation and biosecurity audits, power washing assessments, and load assessments. (Id. , at 10-16). Plaintiff estimates that he spent approximately 80 percent of his time conducting load assessments and spent the remaining 20 percent of his time performing power-washing assessments, vaccination assessments, and biosecurity truck swabbing. (Id. , at 10). Plaintiff conducted most of the load assessments at finishing farms owned by Cactus Family Farms or contract growers. (Id. , at 19). As a load assessor plaintiff assessed the truckers, trucks, and load crews that were used to transport pigs to make sure the crews were following proper biosecurity and safety protocols. (Id. ). For example, plaintiff made sure loading chutes were in place, there was adequate lighting in the barns, and that conditions were otherwise proper for loading pigs onto transport trucks. (Id. ). Plaintiff also observed how load crews moved the animals, sorted the animals, and handled the pigs. (Id. ). The remainder of his time with load assessments was spent observing the truck driver to make sure the driver did not abuse the animals. (Id. ).

D. Claims and Procedural Posture

On February 07, 2019, plaintiff filed his complaint in the Iowa District Court for Hamilton County. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff brought claims for violations of the FLSA (Count One) and the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act ("IWPCA" or "IWPCL"). (Id. , at 3-4). According to plaintiff, he "regularly worked for Defendant in excess of forty hours per week," but "was not compensated for the hours he worked each week in excess of forty at a rate at least one and one-half times the regular rate at which Plaintiff was employed." (Id. , at 4-5). On May 9, 2019, defendants removed the case from the Iowa District Court to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. (Doc. 1). On April 17, 2020, defendants moved for summary judgment. (Doc. 22). On April 17, 2020, plaintiff also moved for partial summary judgment. (Doc. 24). Both parties request the Court find in their favor on the question of whether plaintiff is exempt from the FLSA overtime requirement under the agricultural exemption. Defendants also allege plaintiff's IWPCA claim is dependent on his FLSA claim and they move for summary judgment on plaintiff's IWPCL claim as well. (Doc. 22-1, at 24). Thus, even though the motions appear as cross summary judgment motions, they only require the Court to consider a single issue.

On April 24, 2020, defendants moved for leave to amend their answer to assert an additional affirmative defense. (Doc. 29, at 2). Plaintiff resisted the motion (Doc. 34) and defendants filed a reply (Doc. 41).

The Court will first consider defendants' motion to amend before turning to the cross motions for summary judgment.


Defendants move for leave to amend their answer to add an affirmative defense. (Doc. 29, at 1). Specifically, defendants seek to amend their original answer to add an affirmative defense classifying plaintiff as exempt from the FLSA overtime requirement as an administrative employee. (Id. ).


To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT