The Farmers’ Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight for Family Farmers

Sarah Vogel. Bloomsbury, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-1-63557-526-2
A lawyer recalls her battle to prevent the Reagan administration from running indebted farmers off their land in this feisty debut. Vogel, a former North Dakota agriculture commissioner, was lead counsel in Coleman v. Block, an early 1980s class-action lawsuit against the Farmers Home Administration, a federal agency that made loans to farmers. Prodded by the Reagan administration’s ideological opposition to handouts to farmers, the agency cracked down on borrowers who fell behind on loan payments, and pressured them to sell their farms to repay loans (and foreclosed if they refused); cut off credit for basics like livestock feed; seized farmers’ income and froze their bank accounts; and violated laws in denying loan-payment deferrals. Vogel sets this appalling story of a politicized bureaucracy run amok against a rich portrait of North Dakota farm life and its political tradition of rural solidarity. (She encountered a darker side of that when right-wing militias fomented violence against foreclosures.) Her travails as a single mom, falling hopelessly behind on her own bills, add a vivid subplot. The result is an engrossing legal saga and a rousing tribute to prairie populism. Agent: Mackenzie Brady Watson, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 06/22/2021
Release date: 10/19/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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