Sacramento, California - Farmers and ranchers are a self-reliant group. They can tune and service tractor engines, repair irrigation systems, and find a way to fix all kinds of broken farm equipment. But there are other kinds of problems they face where they can use some outside assistance – issues with loans, creditors, and USDA agencies. The California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) is a new service that provides free mediation to the agricultural community in California on a variety of issues.
Mediation is a way to resolve all kinds of problems by utilizing a neutral person to keep the dialogue constructive, overcome challenges in communication, help the parties develop options, evaluate those options, and reach an agreement. Unlike arbitration or the court system, mediation is voluntary. The mediator doesn’t make an order or impose a solution on the parties. If you don’t like any of the options discussed at mediation, you can simply walk away and be in the same situation as you were prior to the mediation.
CALAMP is certified by CDFA and the USDA as the official agricultural mediation program for California. The most common issues where CALAMP can help involve adverse decision letters or other compliance issues with USDA agencies such as NRCS, farm loans regardless whether the lender is FSA, a Farm Credit System bank, or a private lender, and credit issues.
CALAMP’s director Matt Strassberg anticipates that in particular they will be able to help many small and medium sized farms with credit issues. According to Matt Strassberg, “farms that are behind on accounts are often charged interest and after awhile that interest really adds up. CALAMP can help the parties reach an installment payment plan that is affordable and acceptable to the creditor. Even though the creditors often make some compromises, they are usually willing to enter into settlement agreements because they know they will be paid.”