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The Nonpartisan League
I was inspired throughout my life by the political philosophy of the Nonpartisan League of North Dakota, which flourished from 1916-1919 and 1933 in particular. By 1919, it was in 17 states and had a quarter million members. But repressive forces (and some internal fights) caused its demise as a national movement by the early 1920s.
The 1980s Farm Crisis
In my 1983 class action lawsuit, Coleman v. Block, I represented family farmers during the worst economic crisis to hit rural America since the Great Depression. During the late 1970s, farmers experienced a cost-price squeeze, meaning the income they received for their crops and livestock was less than it cost to produce those crops and raise that livestock.
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The Law of Hard Times
The Legacy of Coleman v. Block
As we enter another farm depression, we can learn from the past.
While every era is different, I believe that knowledge of the case law developed during the farm struggles of the 1930s and 1980s, and knowledge of statutory and regulatory reforms that arose from advocacy during those difficult times, will be helpful to today’s agriculture lawyers and policy makers.
Our Current Farm Crisis
Excerpt from The Farmer’s Lawyer:
The number of American farms peaked in 1935 at six million; between 1935 and 2012, we lost four million farms. The hardest-hit category of farmers has been the midsize family-owned-and-run farms.
Family Farm-Oriented Organizations to Join and Support
In the 1980s, while working on Coleman v. Block, I relied on many farmer-oriented nonprofit and membership organizations. Some of these organizations are still helping family farmers today.