The California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) is the official United States Department of Agriculture certified agricultural mediation program for California. CALAMP’s services are free to the agricultural community on many issues. Mediation is a way to resolve disputes using an impartial person to assist parties negotiate their differences. For additional background information about mediation, click here or watch the video to the right.
Haga clic aquí para ver el folleto de CALAMP en español | View the Spanish-language CALAMP brochure
The California Agricultural Mediation Program provides free mediation services to the agricultural community on many issues. Mediation is an informal and fast way to resolve problems and I encourage you to contact them if you need assistance. The program is certified by CDFA and USDA.
—Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary
USDA farm and conservation programs often have complicated requirements that can include significant penalties for non-compliance. Farm or environmental conditions can change, making it difficult to meet planned objectives. Misunderstandings can arise about initial expectations or whether expectations have been met. Mediation can facilitate communication, help parties better understand each other’s perspectives, and resolve underlying issues. Mediation helps the farmer maintain control over final decision making.
Farm loans can provide crucial funding for farm ownership and operating expenses. Loan sources can include the USDA Farm Service Agency, Farm Credit banks, private banks, or even a friend or family member. If repayments have become a problem or changes are needed to the loan’s terms, a neutral mediator can help with loan modifications and repayments. Working with a mediator may also help address possible foreclosures.
USDA Rural Development loans also offer home ownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income rural Americans. When problems arise, mediators can help parties reach agreement on loan denials, modifications, and repayment plans.
Farm-related credit and debt issues can arise with feed or equipment dealers and credit card companies. Mediation can help work out lump-sum or monthly installment payment plans or other arrangements.
Leases are important options for long term access to farmland, or for equipment use, but parties may differ in how they interpret the terms after the lease is executed. Conditions may have changed, or one side may be perceived as not living up to the bargain. Mediation can help parties negotiate the terms of new land and equipment leases and resolve conflicts with existing leases.
Decisions about the long term future of a family farm can be financially and emotionally challenging. A neutral mediator can help farm families clarify changing roles and responsibilities, agree on financial terms, and navigate difficult conversations that often are part of family farm transitions.
Disputes related to noises, odors, pesticide application or other issues can cause friction with nearby property owners. Mediation can help parties craft solutions to address concerns that arise from farming operations.
Disagreements about organic certification or de-certification can have major impacts on market access. Mediation can help organic farmers and certifying agents focus on areas of contention to develop mutually agreeable solutions.
Wetlands determinations can limit options for use of the land. If a farmer disagrees with a wetlands determination, mediation can be a useful process to bring experts into the process to ensure both sides agree on delineation of the wetland.
Pesticide use is heavily regulated and can be contentious. Mediation can help parties address issues concerning pesticide application, enforcement, drift, buffers, and other issues.
Crop damage due to pests or weather can be devastating, but crop insurance doesn’t always provide the relief expected by a farmer. Mediation can help farmers and insurance companies work out damage claims on USDA Risk Management Agency insurance policies.
When finances are tight, farmers must make critical decisions about paying back farm loans, credit card companies, and lessors, while still meeting basic living expenses. Credit counseling can help farmers get an overview of their financial situation, including cash flow requirements, and develop a plan to work with creditors in order to maintain farm operations.
CALAMP provides free mediation services to the agricultural community in California on the issues listed above. For other agricultural issues, CALAMP will provide the mediation services free of charge when other funding sources are available. In some cases, CALAMP may ask parties to pay based on a sliding scale.
Would you trust a judge who is related to one party to be fair? Of course not and hopefully the judge would recuse him or herself from hearing the case. Would you trust someone who has an obvious agen
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One reason mediation works is because the mediators take the time to prepare parties to constructively engage in mediation. In agricultural mediations, most often parties are not represented by an att
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We have created a video that includes information about mediation and a mock mediation session. To view the video visit the New Hampshire or Vermont program page.
Mediation sessions begin with a joint session with all participants present. The purpose of the joint session is to define the issues and ascertain the interests and concerns of all parties. The mediator begins by welcoming the participants, explaining how mediation works, and explaining the ground rules for the session. After introductory remarks, each participant has the opportunity to make a brief opening statement and provide their perspective on the problem.
Following the opening statements, there is generally a discussion to clarify the issues, consider the relevant information and data, and explore options. Sometimes, a joint session is followed by a private meeting between the mediator and each party. This allows each side to explain and enlarge upon their goals for the mediation in confidence. Depending on the nature of the dispute and the dynamics of the mediation session, the mediator may alternate between private and joint sessions until the parties have resolved their differences, decided to reconvene for additional sessions, or determined that further mediation is no longer constructive.
Matt is the director of the Environmental Mediation Center and the administrator of the EMC’s agricultural mediation programs. He is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of experience in environmental law and mediation. He was the founding director of Green Mountain Environmental Resolutions, a dispute resolution firm focused on developing collaborative solutions to environmental and land use disputes. He is also a senior consultant with the Consensus Building Institute. He serves on the Steering Committee of the Coalition of Agricultural Mediation Programs and is listed on the roster of the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
Mary Madison Campbell is an attorney and mediator in the high desert region of Southern California. With over a decade of experience in conflict resolution, Mary’s focus is supporting families in transition, estate planning and agricultural/environmental dispute resolution. In addition to her mediation and law practice, Mary is a teacher for University of California Extension’s Conflict Resolution Certificate Program. Mary teaches Introduction to Mediation, Facilitation and Community Engagement, and she previously taught Managing Community Conflict and a Theory-to-Practice seminar. Mary has not only mediated, but has also worked with organizations and community groups to address larger-scale issues such as addressing regional environmental impacts, climate change and commercial fishing. She has worked with five community-based mediation centers in Maryland and California, mediating everything from family disputes to criminal charges. She also spent six years working with and writing about environmental and commercial fishing issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Mary also spent a year after law school as a farmer and Buddhist monk. Mary earned her Bachelor of Arts from DePauw University and her Juris Doctor from the Martin Luther King School of Law at the University of California at Davis, where she also completed a certificate in Public Interest Law.
Jenna Muller is a mediator, lawyer, and farm owner. She completed her legal training at the University of Michigan Law School. Her legal practice focused on corporate restructuring and business disputes. Jenna received mediation training from the Yolo Conflict Resolution Center and UC Berkeley. She has a Bachelor of Arts in International Development Studies from UCLA and worked on development issues in Brazil. In 2013, she became an owner of Full Belly Farm, a 450-acre organic, mixed-fruit and vegetable operation in Northern California. As a farm owner, she regularly interacts with state and local agencies and deals with organic certification requirements, buy/sell agreements, leases, and environmental and labor issues. She is familiar with the myriad challenges and opportunities facing family farms and agricultural businesses in California. Jenna lives with her husband and three children in the Capay Valley, near Sacramento, California.
John Bailey is a California licensed attorney at Alternative Dispute Resolution, APC, based in Salinas, California. John regularly mediates agriculture-related disputes related to land use, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, commission agreements, and leaseholds. John regularly acts as an advocate for small to mid-sized farmers and ranchers, and a variety of agriculture-related businesses before local City Councils, County Boards of Supervisors, and various Administrative Agencies. John earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from George Washington University, and a Masters in Business Degree from the University of Miami. John has had extensive professional training in the art of negotiation, and mediation, including a Juris Doctor degree with an emphasis in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution from Chapman University.
Misha Bailey is a program manager, facilitator and mediator, with over 13 years in the agriculture, food systems, environmental and public service field. Misha grew up in northern California on a small family farm, and has spent years working with livestock, food crops, forestry and native plants. She is an assistant facilitator with California’s Center for Collaborative Policy, and is also the founder and director of Durable Solutions, a northern California based collaborative problem-solving firm. Misha has also mediated in Vermont courts, designed collaborative processes for public entities and nonprofits, and worked for the State of Vermont as the lead Natural Hazard Mitigation Planner. She has years of experience in public service and is well versed in federal and state programs, including the NRCS CREP program. She has a Bachelor of Science from UCBerkeley, and a Master in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, where she specialized in dispute resolution.
Lisa Ballin brings over 20 years of environmental consulting experience to her work as a mediator. She has addressed agricultural issues related to land use compatibility, farmland conservation, air quality, noise, and odors. She has also directed permitting and compliance work, including biological assessments and wetland delineations. Lisa received her mediation training at the Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement and the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. She has mediated at Ventura and Los Angeles County Superior Courts and for the Inland Valleys Justice Center, including numerous debt resolution cases. She is an assistant facilitator with the Center for Collaborative Policy and a member of the Southern California Mediation Association. Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University.
Joleen Borba has a life-long association with agriculture. She was raised on a dairy farm and currently works in the citrus business. Joleen has been a member of the California Bar since1981. Her practice focused on business law and litigation. She eventually assisted her father administering his dairy farm, attended meetings with suppliers; prepared employee handbooks and reviewed employee files; managed finances; wrote and reviewed contracts; and dealt with city, county, and state regulators. Joleen is currently a co-trustee for a company that owns commercial property, a citrus packinghouse, and several hundred acres of citrus property. She is an experienced mediator and is pursuing an LL.M. in Dispute Resolution at the Straus Institute at Pepperdine School of Law.
Donald (Don) Cripe is a retired trial lawyer; a professionally trained senior mediator with 18 years’ mediation experience; and a mediation trainer and adjunct professor of law who teaches mediation and negotiation to law students. Mr. Cripe has logged nearly 4000 mediations involving a wide variety of issues from very basic to extremely complicated. Mr. Cripe grew up in rural Indiana, lived a substantial time in his youth on a family farm, and maintains family roots in farm country. He is conversant on and sympathetic to many issues that the agriculture industry faces. Mr. Cripe has mediated and arbitrated cases involving agricultural land and other related issues.
Donald Fischer received a Master’s Degree in Conflict Studies and Peacemaking from Fresno Pacific University (FPU). He is an Advanced Practitioner Member of the Academy of Family Mediators of the Association for Conflict Resolution and has contracted with the County of Fresno Court as a research consultant and advanced mediation trainer. Donald serves on the California Bar Association, Litigation Section, ADR committee (co-chair 2012-13). Additionally, he has extensive exposure to the issues faced by the farming industry, in part through his 35+ years as a shareholder in an Exchange Water Contractor. Fresno County Farm Bureau’s FAACT program exposed Donald to issue areas specific to agriculture.
Lan Nguyen received her J.D. and Certificate in Dispute Resolution from Chapman University, School of Law in 2002. Ms. Nguyen is fluent in Vietnamese and currently provides private dispute resolution and legal services through Esquire Consulting, Inc. She is also panel mediator for the Orange County Superior Court, and Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center in Los Angeles, as well as a Sustaining Member of the Southern California Mediation Association. Ms. Nguyen currently splits her time between Southern California and the Central Coast, where she developed an interest in wine and agriculture. In 2008, Ms. Nguyen familiarized herself with the basics of wine law, including grower’s liens and negotiations of grape purchase agreements and vineyard leases, by taking a Wine Law Forum class sponsored by the State Bar of California. Ms. Nguyen provides mediation services in the Counties of Los Angeles, Orange, and Santa Barbara.
Larry Whitted is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and has 17 years of experience as a professional mediator mediating agricultural and workplace disputes throughout California and Nevada in English and Spanish. He uses a “facilitative” approach to mediation in which the participants retain all decision-making power. In addition, Larry has 36 years of experience as a licensed pest control adviser working primarily with permanent crops in California. In 2015 he also became a Certified Crop Adviser.
Briana holds a B.S. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she studied Plant Sciences, with a focus in agroecology and sustainable agriculture. She holds certificates in mediation and public engagement, and brings five years of experience developing and implementing conflict management solutions for large-scale natural resource issues as an associate for Kearns & West, a Bay Area firm. Her projects included tackling high-stakes local, state, regional and national issues in water, energy, marine resources, and land use. In addition to her formal training, Briana brings over 12 years of experience as a 7th-generation co-owner and manager of her family’s 680 acre timber and cattle farm in Virginia. Most recently, Briana can be found applying her foundation in biology and agriculture to the making of artisan cheese for Cowgirl Creamery in Marin County.
Kara Hunter is the Executive Director of the Yolo Conflict Resolution Center, a non-profit that works to help individuals and communities resolve conflicts, address interpersonal harms, and restore relationships through restorative justice, mediation and training services. Kara has nearly 20 years’ experience in non-profit administration and leadership and has overseen several leading-edge projects. She is an experienced mediator, problem-solver, and restorative justice conference facilitator. Raised on a farm in the Central Valley of California, she has first-hand experience in the thrills and threats of farming in California. Kara is proud to have learned to drive a tractor before she learned to drive a car.
Farm loan and other credit issues can make a family farm transition complicated and challenging. When the next generation takes over control of the farm, there are difficult conversations required both within the family and between the family and the lender. There are questions about cash flow, debt, workload, and fairness and equity between siblings. Conflicts can arise between parents and their children or between siblings concerning management of the farm, farm credit and other financial issues. If the conflict is not resolved early on and in a constructive manner, families and businesses can be torn apart. The agricultural mediation program has helped several families deal with these issues by working with all family members to focus on their interests and resolve financial and other management issues.
A farmer entered into a cost share arrangement with NRCS for a manure storage system. The farmer was concerned that the contractor who performed the work did not follow all the specifications in the contract and refused to pay the contractor the remaining balance. At the mediation, the farmer, NRCS, and the contractor had an opportunity to talk about exactly what was done differently and why it was done that way. Once all the parties had a greater understanding of the nature of the work performed, the mediator facilitated a discussion on possible ways to resolve the dispute. Since mediation sessions are confidential, each party could talk openly about which options could be acceptable. The parties were then able to reach an agreement that was acceptable to all parties and most importantly it provided a means for dealing with any future problems.
A farmer was seeking a loan guarantee from USDA to purchase the family farm. After months of back and forth discussions between the farmer, a commercial lender, and USDA, the loan guarantee was denied. The process stalled and the farmer did not know where to turn to next. The farmer contacted the agricultural mediation program in his state and requested mediation. At the mediation, all the parties were at the table together for the first time. Mediation enabled the parties to dispel preconceived notions about each other and address each party’s concerns. The mediator assisted the parties in generating options that addressed concerns raised by the various parties and ultimately the parties were able to work together to develop a loan package that worked for all.
A farmer owed his feed supply store a significant balance. Interest was accruing on the principal and the farmer who was struggling to make ends meet did not know how he was ever going to pay the entire debt. The feed supply store was in a tough bind. If it continued to provide feed, the farmer’s debt would likely continue to grow. If it stopped proving feed to the farmer, the farm would fail. Either way, it was not clear how the farmer could pay back the debt. The farmer contacted FSA and FSA referred the farmer to his state’s agricultural mediation program. At the mediation, it was clear that all parties had an interest in the farmer succeeding. The parties discussed several options for restructuring the loans that would enable the farmer to pay back his entire debt. Ultimately, the parties agreed to a settlement that worked for both the farmer’s and the feed supply store’s balance sheet.
A farmer disputed a determination by NRCS that a particular field was a wetland. The field was designated as a wetland on soil maps but due to past activities on the field, it was difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a new wetland determination. The farmer wanted to plant the field as soon as possible but risked a penalty and his ability to participate in USDA programs if he planted in a wetland. The parties were stuck and the farmer was concerned that the window for planting would soon pass. He requested mediation to resolve the stalemate. The mediator helped the parties make a list of possible methods to make the wetland determination and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Ultimately, the parties agreed to have their wetland experts work side by side to conduct a wetland determination on a similar adjacent field that was also designated a wetland on the soil map. Since all parties agreed to the process and conducted the test together, each party accepted the results.
The above case studies are either compilations of cases with similar facts or include changes to minor details to protect the confidentiality of the mediation process and the privacy of the parties. Photos of farms and or farmers are used for decorative purposes. These farms and farmers were not involved in the above case studies.
The dedication of Agricultural Mediation Program mediators and their ability to get all the necessary parties willing to work together constructively made it possible to reach a positive outcome in a case where it didn’t seem likely.
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.
The mediation enabled the parties to communicate their interests clearly and effectively and reach a resolution quickly that was acceptable by all parties. I felt really good about how the mediation was conducted and would use Agricultural Mediation Program’s services again.
Mediation has proven itself to be a cost effective way to deal with any disputes farmers may have with USDA. Compared to the appeals process, it also saves a huge amount of time.
I was struck by how fast it went. The mediation was set up right away and the dispute was resolved within a week. If you want to fight, hire an attorney. If you want to get something done and reach an agreement, hire a mediator.
California Agricultural Mediation Program
California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Suite 400
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please complete the form below to request mediation from the California Agricultural Mediation Program. If you would rather print the form and mail it to us; click here. Once your request has been received we will review your information and contact you.
You’ll also need to fill-out and submit the CALAMP Release Form.