Agricultural Mediation Program Case Studies and Types of Cases Handled
Case Summary 1 – Home Foreclosure Avoided In Mediation
Dispute: Case involving a property owner and non-payment of a USDA Rural Development Loan
Revelation: It was revealed only during mediation that the property owner had recently lost their job; they were awaiting unemployment/other public assistance. The property owner had applied for a moratorium with the USDA – Rural Development, but the application was turned down.
Resolution: When all the circumstances were revealed, the property owner agreed to provide copies of their applications for assistance as the USDA representative facilitated redetermination. While awaiting that redetermination, the property owner was awarded benefits and was enabled to resume loan payments.
Case Summary 2 – Mediation Solves Wetland Dispute & Establishes Trust in Agency
Dispute: Case involving a producer receiving an adverse determination letter regarding a Preliminary Wetland Compliance Determination
Revelation: It was discovered that the determination affected land was previously in production but, because of changing conditions, the land was then determined to be a wetland.
Resolution: An agreement was reached that the producer would work with the local district conservationist to create a non-agriculture plan that would bring the farm into compliance. The producer reflected after mediation that there was a general lack of trust beforehand; working with the Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program (MAMP) allowed both parties to communicate openly and overcome roadblocks in moving forward.
Case Summary 3 – Farmer Demonstrates Good Faith Through Mediation
Dispute: Case involving a producer assessed liquidation damages related to the termination of a Conservation Reserve Program contract
Revelation: The USDA representative heard that erroneous filing information and timelines were provided to the producer by a local representative. The USDA representative reviewed the actual timeline of events to then determine that the producer was acting in good faith.
Resolution: An agreement was reached that an agency representative would go before the county committee in support of the producer. The representative would also recommend to the state office that the county committee’s recommendation be approved outright.
Case Summary 4 – Mediation Keeps Family Owned Orchard in Business
Dispute: An orchard fell on hard times. The family member who ran it became disabled and his family did not assist. Poor growing conditions led to the brink of ruin. Family relationships deteriorated.
Revelation: The grower’s request for loan assistance from the USDA was denied for lack of ability to repay and negative cash flow. The grower requested mediation.
Resolution: The grower would apply a crop disaster payment to operating costs and pursue assistance in business planning. A referral to a family mediator led to the resolution of family differences and an equitable division of orchard responsibilities.
Case 5 – Phone Mediation Helps Homeowner & Mom Stay in House
Dispute: A homeowner, who lived and cared for her elder mother, lost her job after an injury. They got behind on the mortgage payments.
Revelation: Mediation revealed that the homeowner herself was disabled. This allowed for refinancing the mortgage at a lower monthly payment.
Resolution: During the telephone mediation, the homeowner and the USDA negotiated an acceptable repayment plan. The homeowner went from fear and frustration at the outset of mediation to genuine relief and gratitude at the conclusion. She exclaimed “If I could reach through this phone and hug you, I would!”
Mediation is available when issues arise involving:
- Agricultural loans
- Agricultural credit
- Wetland determinations
- Compliance with farm programs, including conservation programs
- Crop insurance
- Rural development loans
- Organic certification
- Family farm transitions
- Farmer-neighbor disputes
- Other agriculture-related topics deemed appropriate by USDA or the state department of agriculture