“Agricultural Resilience, the Many Roles of Lawyers” – Chapter by John D. Wiener and Gretchen F. Sassenrath – excerpted from The Community Resilience Handbook, American Bar Association, 2020

Click here to view “Agricultural Resilience, the Many Roles of Lawyers” – Chapter by John D. Wiener and Gretchen F. Sassenrath – excerpted from The Community Resilience Handbook, American Bar Association, 2020, as a PDF.


This chapter outlines a wide variety of ways in which improved legal support can help with changes in U.S. agricultural organization of production and environmental management can move agriculture significantly closer to sustainability and to economic and family resilience.  The essential changes relate to soil health and water quality improvement and to changing from competition to collaboration.  For example, crop rotation is very widely recognized as desirable, but so far it has been almost entirely promoted and practiced within farms – but it should be used across groups of farms.  Irrigation ditches in the West are natural groups, but elsewhere, there are shared drainage facilities and other spatial groupings.  Conditions are quite relevant, such shared water sources and downstream conditions.  Rotations of the very expensive implements particular to particular crops can bring smaller farms the economies of scale that industrial farming enjoys, for the long-term benefit of the farmers as well as those subjected to their externalities.  In many years of the authors’ experiences, developing collaboration has often been noted to be difficult, but less difficult than losing the farm.  This chapter uses the “Three S” framework of farmers’ goals:  survival, stewardship and succession.