The Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program (HIAMP) is the official United States Department of Agriculture certified agricultural mediation program for Hawaii. HIAMP provides free mediation services to the agricultural community to help resolve disputes before they end up in court. For background information about mediation; click here.

The Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program provides producers, lenders, and others in the agricultural community in Hawaii free mediation services on a variety of agricultural disputes. Mediation is a non-confrontational way to resolve disputes that often saves parties time and money. Should you be involved in an agricultural dispute, please contact the program to see if they can help you resolve the issue. —Scott Enright, Chairperson, Board of Agriculture, State of Hawaii
People have different visions, and a disagreement can disrupt the flow of an operation. The mediation process led by HIAMP brought grounded clarity resulting in an invaluable sense of peace, and ability to return our focus to the enjoyment of providing food for our island community.
-Napela Payne Barthel

What Kind of Agricultural Issues Can Be Mediated for Free?

USDA Farm and Conservation Programs

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

Farm loans can provide crucial funding for farm ownership and operating expenses. Loan sources can include the USDA Farm Service Agency, HDOA’s Loan Division, 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

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 Credit/Debt Issues

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 (Land and Equipment)

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.

Family Farm Transitions

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.

Farmer-Neighbor Disputes

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.

Organic Certification

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

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 Issues

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 Insurance

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.

Credit Counseling

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.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

HIAMP provides free mediation services to the agricultural community in Hawaii on the issues listed above. For other agricultural issues, HIAMP will provide the mediation services free of charge when other funding sources are available. In some cases, HIAMP may ask parties to pay based on a sliding scale.

Steps To Request Mediation Through HIAMP

  1. Fill out the Request for Mediation form below.
  2. HIAMP staff will confirm that the other party (or parties) is willing to participate in the mediation.
  3. HIAMP staff will conduct brief confidential interviews to learn background information about the dispute.
  4. HIAMP will assign a mediator from the Agricultural Mediation Roster or HIAMP staff based on subject matter expertise, geography, and availability.
  5. The mediator will contact the parties to arrange a date, time and location for the mediation session.

What Is Mediation?

  • An informal process where parties meet with a neutral person who helps them in the negotiation of their differences.
  • It is a voluntary and confidential alternative to traditional legal and regulatory processes.
  • The mediator does not determine who is legally right or wrong nor will the mediator tell either party what to do.
  • Mediation leaves the decision-making power totally and strictly with the parties.

Who Are The Mediators And What Do They Do?

Mediators on our roster are all highly trained and well regarded professionals in the dispute resolution field. Our mediators have specialized experience and training in the agricultural fields. Mediators work with all parties to:

  • Eliminate communication obstacles
  • Facilitate a calm and rational discussion
  • Identify and clarify the issues
  • Explore options
  • Record agreements

Advantages Of Mediation

Mediation works because the process:

  • Is informal and impartial
  • Encourages open discussion
  • Helps the parties create their own solutions
  • Restores communication between disputing parties
  • Preserves and enhances important business relationships
  • May save all parties time and money as compared to litigation
  • Has fewer implementation issues since the parties agree to all terms

What Is A Mediation Session Like?

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.

How Can Parties Make The Most Of A Mediation Session?

  • Gather and organize the documents and paperwork
  • Create a written time line with the events to be discussed
  • If important information is missing, tell the mediator and see if they can help locate the necessary information
  • Make copies of important documents and label the paperwork prior to the mediation so that its easier to use it during the mediation.
  • Flag any documents that you do not want the other parties to see so that the mediator knows to keep the document confidential.
  • Remember your point of view may be different from the other parties
  • Be prepared to listen to what they have to say as well.
  • It is common in mediation to come up with more creative, open and collaborative ways to resolve the problem than can be found in other forums such as in a courtroom or before a hearing officer.
  • Keep an open mind about what might work to fix the problem.
  • Try to encourage more ideas by not immediately saying “no” to a proposal.
  • During the mediation, if you need time to think about about an issue, or would like to speak to an adviser whose opinion you value, you can do so.
  • Think of the mediation session as a conversation between you and the other parties with the mediator there to ensure that the conversation is productive and that each of you has the opportunity to speak, reflect and work together to come up with joint solutions.

Matt Strassberg, Director

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.

Penniman for HIAMP photo
Teya Penniman, Program Coordinator and Mediator

Teya is the HIAMP Program Coordinator. She is a mediator, facilitator, arbitrator, and attorney, with an interest in the intersection of agriculture and conservation. She worked with agricultural commodity boards in Oregon as an assistant attorney general and has collaborated with local and statewide agricultural groups during her time working on invasive species issues in Hawaii. She also writes and reports on local, regional, and international issues related to biodiversity, agriculture, and culture.

Stephen G. Bess, Mediator

Steve is HIAMP’s mediator for the Big Island. His mediation experience spans 18 years and currently serves as a Director and Mediator for the West Hawaii Mediation Center. Steve’s agricultural experience includes working with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, USDA and NRCS. Steve is a trustee of a working cattle ranch.  He received his professional mediator training at Harvard University and ombudsman training from the International Association of Ombudsman. His expertise includes the mediation of foreclosure disputes and serving as Commissioner for land sale foreclosures, Third Circuit Court.  Steve is experienced in matters relating to land use (agriculture and urban), water, eminent domain and public policy.  He has served as Hawaii County’s Corporation Counsel and is currently engaged in the private practice of law.

Betsy Strance
Elizabeth A. (“Betsy) Strance, Mediator

Judge Elizabeth A. Strance (retired), of Strance Law & Mediation, LLLC, in Kamuela, concentrates on civil litigation, alternative dispute resolution, general business, commercial, and real estate law. Ms. Strance served as a per diem judge in the District and Family Courts and as a circuit court judge, where she presided over civil cases in areas involving construction litigation, boundary and title disputes, lease rent renegotiation, foreclosures, mechanics’ liens, medical practice, personal injury, real estate contract claims, and probate/trust litigation. Before her 15 years on the bench, she was a partner in private practice, concentrating on general civil litigation, business and real estate matters. She has also operated a small coffee farm. Ms. Strance obtained her undergraduate degree from Willamette University and her Juris Doctor from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College. She is a Board member of the West Hawaii Mediation Center.

Peter Adler, Government Liaison and Special Projects Coordinator and Mediator

Peter S. Adler, Ph.D. is the Government Liaison and Special Projects Coordinator of the Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program. Formerly he was President of The Keystone Center, which applies consensus-building and scientific information to energy, environmental, and health related policy problems. Peter’s specialty is multi-party negotiation and problem solving. He has worked extensively on water management, resource planning, agricultural issues, land planning issues, and marine and coastal affairs. Prior to Keystone, Peter held executive positions with the Hawaii Justice Foundation, the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Center for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and the Neighborhood Justice Center. He has served as President of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution. Peter has written extensively in the field of mediation and conflict resolution. He is the author of Eye of the Storm Leadership (2008); co-author of Managing Scientific & Technical Information in Environmental Cases (1999); Building Trust: 20 Things You Can Do to Help Environmental Stakeholder Groups Talk More Effectively About Science, Culture, Professional Knowledge, and Community Wisdom (National Policy Consensus Center, 2002); the author of Beyond Paradise and Oxtail Soup (Ox Bow Press, 1993 and 2000) and numerous other articles and monographs.

Norman Piianaia, Mediator

Retired Sea Captain; MEd Counseling & Guidance Psych; ’60’s macnut farmer; West Hawaii Mediation Center – mediator; Na Kalai Waa (Hawaiian voyaging canoe Board).

“No fight, no blame” so “Make hay while the sun shines” –
attributable to Lao Tsu and John Heywood’s A dialogue continuing the number in effect of all the Proverbs in the English tongue, 1546.

Request Mediation Form

Case Studies

Farm Loans Complicate Family Farm Transition

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.

NRCS Cost Share Dispute

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.

Farm Loan Denial

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.

Restructuring Farm Loan To Feed Supply Store

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.

Wetland Determination

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.


USDA Employee

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.

Commercial Lender

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.

USDA Employee

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.

Matt Strassberg

Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
1428 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 447-1790 ext 101
(800) 511-2213 (toll free)


Teya Penniman

Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
1428 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 447-1790 ext 108
(800) 511-2213 (toll free)

Request For Mediation Form (click to expand)

Please complete the form below to request mediation from the Hawaii 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 HIAMP Rease Form.

HIAMP Request Mediation Form

HIAMP Request Mediation Form


Briefly describe the dispute

List people, and/or USDA agency you are requesting mediation with

List additional participants in the mediation