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Published March 29, 2011, 09:28 AM

FLAG a big farm resource

BISMARCK, N.D. — This week’s column is about a terrific legal resource for farmers and ranchers, which I recommend to Agweek’s readers: Farmers’ Legal Action Group, also known as FLAG.

By: Derrick Braaten, Special to Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — This week’s column is about a terrific legal resource for farmers and ranchers, which I recommend to Agweek’s readers: Farmers’ Legal Action Group, also known as FLAG.

I’ve known of and worked with FLAG for virtually all of its 25-year history and was on its board for 11 years. FLAG is unique: It is a nonprofit, public interest law firm dedicated to representing the interests of family farmers and ranchers.

Through the years, FLAG has kept to its mission with unswerving commitment. When it began — during the farm crisis of the 1980s — it focused almost exclusively on credit issues, but, as the years progressed, it expanded its focus to the many other topics faced by farmers and ranchers.

The best way to introduce yourself to FLAG is to go to its excellent and useful website: www.flaginc.org.

The website has a place where you can sign up for an e-mailed FLAG newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on news regarding cases, laws, regulations and similar developments.

You also can order — almost always for free — copies of many publications. We all have struggled with trying to understand complex federal rules and regulations regarding farm programs. This area is one where FLAG shines. FLAG is nationally recognized for its lawyers’ ability to take complex laws and regulations and put them into easily understood language that can be used either by farmers and ranchers or to efficiently bring lawyers up to speed. A good example of such a publication is FLAG’s Farmers’ Guide to Disaster Assistance.

Currently in its sixth edition (June 2008), it can be downloaded for free, together with chapter by chapter updates for developments after June 2008. As the snow rapidly is melting and farmers look forward to a wet spring, you may find this publication invaluable. The guide describes a range of disaster assistance programs that might be available for farm and homestead losses, covering issues such as program eligibility, farmers’ obligations, appeal rights, housing assistance and disaster unemployment, federal crop insurance, NAP, the Emergency Conservation Program, disaster assistance programs for livestock producers, FSA emergency loans, the Disaster Set-Aside program for existing FSA loans; Small Business Administration Disaster Loans (including both home and business loans) and bankruptcy and federal income tax issues as they relate to losses caused by natural disaster.

FLAG has many other publications that may be pertinent to your particular operation, including guides on wind power, GMOs, farmers markets, state lending laws, and issues affecting dairy farmers and organic farmers.

FLAG’s website also is invaluable because it has links to many other resources for farmers and ranchers. You and your counsel can save hours of research by checking in at the FLAG website first. There are hundreds of easy links from which you can conduct your research quickly and efficiently. For example, Agweek is linked to the FLAG website, as are the state departments of agriculture in every state and many key federal websites of interest to farmers and ranchers.

FLAG lawyers also provide education to farmers, ranchers and farm groups. Since FLAG opened its doors in 1986, FLAG has conducted more than 635 training events in 41 states, attended by more than 32,200 farmers, lawyers and farm advocates. And it has assisted farm groups in providing comments to federal and state agencies regarding technical legal issues. A recent example is comments on the GIPSA proposed rules that have been much in the news lately.

FLAG is celebrating its 25th year. I hope it continues its fine work on behalf of farmers and ranchers and their counsel.

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