California farmers can now access free mediation services for a broader range of agricultural issues including labor and contracts.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) today [September 8, 2023] announced that farmers in the state of California can now access free mediation services for a broader range of agricultural issues. Since 2015, CALAMP has helped farmers resolve disputes confidentially and for free. Now, with support from the USDA and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), CALAMP is expanding its services to include mediation for issues related to farm management, contracts, labor, farmers’ markets, and cooperatives.
“As our farming communities face unprecedented challenges, it is essential to find cost-effective, efficient solutions. With mediation, farmers and the agricultural community can explore collaborative options that consider everyone’s interests and concerns, resulting in practical and long-lasting outcomes,” CALAMP Director and Mediator Matt Strassberg said.
Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where a neutral third party (mediator) helps parties negotiate agreements. Recent CALAMP data show success rates of over 80 percent when mediation is tried before resorting to arbitration, litigation, or some other dispute resolution method.
“Mediation is an informal and fast way to resolve problems,” said Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA. “This expansion of services will help farmers save money and find solutions quickly so they can get back to playing their critical role in our food system.”
One farmer said of the process, “I tried to resolve my dispute on my own for 18 months but was shot down on every avenue I tried. Once we got into mediation, they really started to listen to me for the first time, and we were able to resolve the dispute quickly.”
Agricultural mediation programs like CALAMP exist in 43 states across the U.S. and are certified by the head of the Department of Agriculture in each state and funded by USDA grants. The program was created to help farmers, lenders, creditors, and the USDA resolve issues informally and without the transaction costs associated with the legal system.
CALAMP offers on-site mediation sessions and teleconferencing sessions so that everyone has access to this service no matter where they live. Strassberg says issues are typically resolved or improved dramatically within one to three meetings.
The complete list of agricultural issues eligible for free mediation in California now includes: contracts, cooperatives, credit counseling, crop insurance, family farm transitions, farm credit/debt issues, farm loans, farm management, farmer-neighbor disputes, farmers markets, labor, leases (land and equipment), organic certification, pesticide issues, USDA farm and conservation programs, USDA rural development loans, and wetlands determinations.
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