The Center for Mediation is the provider for Rhode Island’s Agricultural Mediation Program (RIAMP) This is the official USDA-certified program for our state. This program offers confidential assistance to help resolve agricultural-related issues in a productive environment. For more than a decade, RIAMP has provided essential mediation services for agricultural loans, farm program compliance, and other agriculture-related issues to farmers and growers throughout Rhode Island. These services are provided confidentially, in accordance with state law (RI Statute, § 9-19-44).
When can mediation be requested?
For USDA matters, when an agency issues an “adverse determination” it often offers the option of mediation, and USDA entities must participate in mediation where requested. Borrowers or their creditors may also request mediation for agricultural credit issues where a borrower is delinquent or at risk of becoming so. Mediation may also be requested where the issue affects agriculture in the state of Rhode Island. In addition, with the passage of the 2019 Farm Bill, RIAMP is now able to mediate issues related to:
- Land lease
- Equipment lease
- Family farm transition
- Farmer-neighbor disputes
What does it cost?
There is no charge for RIAMP mediations.
Any additional legal, financial, or technical advisors – if needed – are paid by the requesting party.
For more information, you can contact us directly.
What to expect
Mediation is an alternative process to trying to resolve a conflict in court and incurring burdensome legal expenses or appealing directly to the USDA. Participants in the mediation process create their own solutions. The mediator does not arbitrate the settlement. Flexibility in considering a full range of realistic options is encouraged in the solution process. The fact that disputing parties are meeting together in the same room for the purpose of working out a solution to the particular matter(s) enables everyone to deal openly and knowledgeably with the full array of issues. All steps are taken to ensure confidentiality. Our staff will be happy to walk you through the process.
- An organization or individual with a dispute concerning agricultural production may request mediation by contacting the Center by calling our office at (401) 273-9999 or visiting the Contact Us page.
- Our staff will confirm that the other party is willing to participate in mediation. A brief description of the situation is gathered by the Mediation Coordinator to prepare a briefing report for the mediator.
- Mediators are assigned by the Mediation Coordinator.
- All involved parties are notified as to the date, time, and neutral location of the mediation session.
- Most mediation sessions will be concluded within two hours unless everyone agrees that more time is needed to resolve the disputed issues.
Who is covered?
Producers and their creditors and those directly affected by actions of the USDA.
What is covered?
Conflicts among the above mentioned involve at least one of the following issues:
• Wetlands determinations
• Compliance with farm programs, including conservation programs
• Agricultural loans, either guaranteed by the USDA or a third party (such as lines of credit as suppliers)
• Rural Water loan programs, rural housing loans, rural housing business loans
• Grazing on national forest system lands
• USDA crop insurance programs
• Other issues considered appropriate by the Secretary
What is not covered?
Any case type not listed above. However, the Center for Mediation can provide services for non-covered cases, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.
When does a mediation request become a case?
A case needs two conflicting parties, voluntarily seeking facilitative mediation to solve a dispute. Mediators assist disputing parties in reaching mutually agreeable settlements of issues within the laws, regulations, and the agency’s generally applicable program policies and procedures.
What happens if an agreement is not reached?
If a final agreement cannot be reached the parties will not be worse off than if they had not tried mediation. Everyone involved will have a better understanding of the various perspectives, will have explored several options, and have a fuller grasp of the situation. All parties will retain their full set of options to seek a solution through legal or other means. At no time should the mediation process be considered a delaying tactic.
A farmer was buying his feed supplies from a store that offers lines of credit and ended up owing a couple of hundred dollars. Over time, interest was accruing on the principal and the farmer who was fairly getting by, was at a loss with paying the debt. The feed supply store was facing a dilemma: Either it continued to provide feed likely to result in an increase of the farmer’s debt; or it stopped providing feed to the farmer, but then the farm would be likely to fail. Either way, it was not clear how the farmer could pay back the debt.
The farmer was seeking help at FSA, where he was referred to CMCRI and requested Agricultural Mediation. During the mediation, there was no doubt that all parties had an interest in the farmer’s future success. Both parties discussed several options for restructuring the loans that would enable the farmer to pay back his entire debt, while still successfully managing his farm. Ultimately, the parties came to an agreement that worked for both the farmer’s and the feed supply store’s balance sheets.
Neighbors were concerned that their water supply may become contaminated, because a farmer was using pesticides close to the spring. The neighbors had spread their concerns in the neighborhood, so that the farmer was concerned about losing customers for his farm products. In the beginning, both parties intended to preserve good relations with each other, but the conflict escalated more and more, so that informal communications between the parties failed to result in an agreement on how to proceed.
Ultimately, the neighbors contacted CMCRI for help. The co-mediators worked with the parties to develop a settlement that solved the concerns of both parties.
When a family farm transition is planned, a variety of conflicts can occur, for example related to credit issues or the future farm management. Those disputes can be very challenging, and mediators can help solve the conflict in a less stressful way. Mediators can aid with bringing all stakeholders (all involved family members and the lender) back on the same page and work through all those issues that matter to them (e.g. questions about possession, debt, equity and fairness between the family members).
It is beneficial for all parties to solve the conflict constructively early on to avoid the failure of the whole business. The agricultural mediation program has helped many families nationwide deal with these conflicts by guiding all mediation participants to focus on their interests and needs to finally resolve the matter in the best way possible for everyone.