Family Farm-Oriented Organizations to Join and Support
National Farmers Union
A great starting point is the National Farmers Union, and its state affiliates. For almost 100 years, the national and state Farmers Unions have been grassroots activists for economic prosperity and social justice for farm families and their communities. The National Farmers Union has a wonderful newsletter and website and scads of information on new developments and progress toward the NFU’s long-standing goals. Its website (nfu.org) has a membership map so you can join a state organization, or join NFU directly. By paying annual dues (even if you aren’t a farmer), you will be able to help give a voice to family farmers at the national, state and local levels.
One feature I always check out on the NFU website is a chart on the Farmer’s Share of the food dollar spent by American consumers. A typical loaf of bread costs a US consumer $3.99 but the farmer gets only $0.14! A typical box of cereal costs $4.99, but the farmer only gets $0.07! Overall, farmers get only 14.8% of the food dollar of the American consumer. Something is very wrong in the marketplace for farmers to receive so little. The system is rigged, and NFU is working at the national level to un-rig that system.
As a lawyer practicing farm law, I’ve grown to rely on the Farmers Legal Action Group, or FLAG. It is located in Minnesota, but has a national reach. Farm law is complex, difficult, detailed and ever-changing. Having FLAG as a resource over the years made a huge difference for me. FLAG is a unique law firm, not only because it focuses exclusively on legal issues and services for family farmers and family farmer-based advocacy organizations, but because it is a nonprofit law firm (imagine that!).
Since 1986, FLAG lawyers have been legal warriors and guides for countless farmers and farm organizations. They have provided essential support for small town lawyers—like me—who represented farmers. Now, with the current farm crisis and aftershocks of the pandemic, FLAG’s services and support are needed more than ever.
One of their special skills is their ability to take almost indecipherable laws and regulations and translate them into plain language. FLAG lawyers have prepared guides on topics such as estate planning, food safety, alternative energy, civil rights, credit, appeals, marketing, tax and many others that have been used by many thousands of farmers. FLAG’s organizational commitment to racial justice has been unwavering and they played key roles in discrimination lawsuits against USDA for Black, Native American, women and Hispanic farmers.
Recently, FLAG rode to the rescue of farmers who faced ruin because of the Covid-19 Pandemic and wrote plain language guides for farmers on how to navigate the Covid-19 Pandemic and how to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Plan, and other Covid relief. As they say on their website, corporate agriculture may have their armies of lawyers; but family farmers have FLAG!