The USDA Agricultural Mediation Program makes grants to state-designated entities that provide alternative dispute resolution (ADR) 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.
Successful mediation benefits participants in the following ways:
- 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.
- Mediation is confidential. Documents are not used for any other legal action against the participants.
Cost to Participants
Some state programs charge mediation participants a nominal fee for mediation services. This varies from state to state, and anyone considering mediation should inquire about fees when discussing the possibility of exercising this option.
State Mediation Program Contacts
The following states have state-certified mediation programs that have been designated by the Governor or Designee. When mediation with FSA is needed in a state without a certified program, a reputable mediator from the private sector can provide those services, and FSA will pay half of the cost. If your state is not listed here, ask your local FSA office for assistance in locating a mutually acceptable mediator.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all of its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, genetic information, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.