The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Mediation Program makes grants to state-designated entities that provide alternative dispute resolution through mediation to agricultural producers, their lenders and others directly affected by the actions of certain USDA agencies. In mediation, a trained, impartial mediator helps participants review and discuss their conflicts, identify options to resolve disputes and agree on solutions. Ideally, this process helps avoid expensive and time-consuming administrative appeals and/or litigation. These grants are administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Cases covered by the grants include agricultural loans, whether made by USDA or commercial lenders, and disputes involving USDA actions on farm and conservation programs, wetland determinations, rural water loan programs, grazing on national forest system lands, pesticides, rural housing and business loans, and crop insurance.
HOW MEDIATION WORKS
USDA program participants are offered the opportunity to request mediation prior to a formal administrative appeal. If this option is requested, some state programs provide assistance to prepare participants for the mediation session, which is held at a time and place convenient to all parties.Unlike a judge or arbitrator, the mediator has no decision-making authority and is present only to help participants discuss and explore their issues in a useful, non-confrontational manner. Successful mediation is based on the cooperation and involvement of all participants. Mediation can be accomplished in one meeting or may take several sessions depending on the complexity of the issues and the number of participants. If an agreement is not reached, the case is closed and all parties remain free to pursue other available administrative appeals and/or legal action.
• Mediation may resolve disputes within a participant’s financial means, providing a low-cost alternative to appeals or often expensive litigation and bankruptcy;
• The program may reduce stress caused by lengthy litigation. While it can take years for a case to filter through the courts, mediation generally takes only a few meetings to complete; and
• Mediation is confidential. Documents are not used for any other legal action against the participants.
Country Lawyer partners with Six Rivers Dispute Resolution Center which is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and receives funding from local, state, and federal organizations, as well as private donors, in order to provide low-cost conflict resolution and education services. The Oregon USDA Certified Agricultural Mediation Program (OCAMP) is the official United States Department of Agriculture certified agricultural mediation program for Oregon. OCAMP’s services are subsidized by USDA for the agricultural community to mediate on many issues. The 2018 Farm Bill increased the types of cases that can be subsidized by the state certified mediation programs.