Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) is a nonprofit law center dedicated to providing legal services and support to family farmers and their communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land.
FLAG was born as a response to the farm credit crisis of the 1980s after tens of thousands of families lost their farms due to low commodity prices and overwhelming debt. Attorneys Jim Massey, Lynn Hayes, Sarah Vogel and the late Dale Reesman joined forces in representing 230,000 farmers nationwide in Coleman v. Lyng, which raised successful challenges to illegal procedures that the Farmers Home Administration used to freeze farmers’ income and force them off their land. The federal judge in the case issued an injunction stopping the foreclosures of 80,000 farms.
In the summer of 1985, Jim Massey received a phone call from Willie Nelson inviting him to attend the first Farm Aid concert. By the next spring, the first funding check from Farm Aid arrived in Jim’s office, signed by Willie Nelson himself, to start a nonprofit law firm with a single mission: Help family farmers stay on their land. It was an investment that helped create Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc.—FLAG.
Because of the expertise FLAG has gained through its nationwide work with family farmers, Congress continues to ask for our testimony on federal issues affecting family farmers, particularly those relating to agricultural credit and civil rights. In doing so, FLAG attorneys have had the courage to literally “speak truth to power.”
The challenges facing family farmers today are complex but just as urgent as they were in the 1980s. And today, just as then, everyone involved in food and commodity production—federal agencies, bankers, processors, and marketers – has their army of lawyers. And family farmers still have FLAG.