Free Financial Assistance from the CA Agricultural Mediation Program

Farmers and ranchers are independent and resilient, and their relationships with creditors are often long-term and critical for the future of their businesses. When markets, weather, or other conditions create farm losses, the resulting financial challenges can be difficult to untangle. If you face challenges repaying farm bills and debt, the California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) can help. CALAMP works with farmers to develop a feasible plan to move forward. A short illustrated video shows the ag credit mediation process in action.
 
What Can CALMAP Help With?
The United States Farm Bill funds CALAMP to provide free mediation for farm credit issues, farm loans, federal farm and conservation programs, wetlands determinations, grazing permits on national forest system lands, and rural housing loans. CALAMP hopes to expand its free mediation to include other topics such as organic certification, farm transition, and farm lease agreements. For any issues beyond these topics, CALAMP can work with you at a reasonable rate.
 
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process where an impartial person, called a mediator, brings parties together to resolve a challenge or conflict and identify a path forward. Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and the outcome remains fully in the parties’ hands. While the mediator can help parties identify options, the mediator does not tell the participants what to do or issue a “ruling.” The final decision always belongs to the participants. Approximately 75 percent of mediations end in a mutually agreed-upon settlement; for those that do not, participants may leave with a better understanding of the issues and information, which will reduce other costs going forward.
 
Examples of Past Cases
  • A dairy operation owed a feed dealer $40,000 principal and $10,000 interest. Although relations had generally been friendly, recent exchanges became heated. Through mediation, the producer agreed to a payment plan on the principal and the feed dealer agreed to compromise on the interest if the producer paid him back in full and on time. 
  • A farmer’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grant was terminated when the District Conservationist felt she was not in compliance. Through mediation, the farmer was able to provide additional evidence and satisfy the Conservationist’s concerns, allowing her payment to go through. 
  • An alfalfa grower was turned down for a Farm Services Agency (FSA) loan due to debts with other creditors. The producer questioned some of the debts on the credit report. The loan officer suggested using mediation to resolve any outstanding balances with the creditors. Through mediation, the farmer was able to resolve the debts with the creditors and was able to show the FSA loan officer letters from the creditors showing either zero balances or installment payment plans. The FSA loan officer was able to approve the loan.
 
Where can I get more information?
Requesting mediation is easy. In California, visit www.calamp.org and click on “request mediation” or call (916) 330-4500, ext. 101 for Matt Strassberg, ext.103 for the Southern California Program Coordinator Mary Madison Campbell, or ext. 104 for the Northern California Program Coordinator Julia Rose Golomb. You can also email CALAMP staff at matts@emcenter.org; maryc@emcenter.org; and juliag@emcenter.org.
 
These programs are here to help, and there is no cost to the parties so long as the dispute is related to an agricultural loan, credit issue, or a USDA decision. If you are unsure whether your situation fits into one of these categories, just call!
 
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This article was submitted by Julia Rose Golomb, CALAMP program coordinator and mediator.
 
Julia Rose Golomb is a mediator and facilitator based in Oakland, with expertise in water, agriculture, and food systems. Golomb’s mediation practice focuses on environmental planning, resource management, and environmental justice. She co-coordinates the CA Agricultural Mediation program, is an associate with the Consensus Building Institute, and holds a Master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Golomb served as a Teaching fellow for a range of Yale graduate and undergraduate courses related to food, agriculture, and conflict resolution. Golomb got her start mediating in the Boston court system, and has farmed in Boston, Greece, and South India.
 

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