Farming and debt often go hand in hand. The need for large investments in land and equipment requires most farmers to carry substantial debt. Sometimes debt load can lead to farm foreclosures, monetary penalties and major lifestyle changes. With these potential consequences, conflict and disputes are inevitable.
When agriculture producers are involved in conflict, the added stress can prevent them from effectively managing their operation, particularly if the dispute concerns a financial issue.
The USDA Certified Virginia Agricultural Mediation Program (VAMP) offers a process to assist agricultural producers and other persons directly affected by the actions of the USDA to resolve disputes, thereby reducing participants’ costs associated with administrative appeals, litigation and bankruptcy.
A voluntary, problem-solving process wherein a neutral impartial third party (the mediator) helps disputing parties come together and have an open, honest and confidential discussion about their issues.
To Request Mediation...
Mediation begins by completing a Request for Mediation form and returning it to the VAMP. Either party to a conflict may request this process. If mediation is being requested based on an adverse decision by one of the USDA programs (FSA, NRCS or Rural Housing), the request must be made within a certain time frame. If you have questions about this process, you can contact your local USDA office or the mediation program.
What Is the Role of the Mediator?
A trained mediator helps those in dispute to:
- Explore options
- Identify & clarify issues
- Record agreements
A mediator trained in problem-solving techniques assists parties in reaching a mutually agreed upon solution. The mediator has no decision making authority and does not act as a judge, deciding who is right or wrong. The parties themselves control the result of the mediation and any agreement that is developed.
There are over 14 mediators located statewide who have been certified through the Virginia Agricultural Mediation Program. Many of the mediators have backgrounds in Agriculture and Law; others have experience in Risk Management, Real Estate, Rural Housing, Multi-Party and Financial Issues. To become a certified mediator, participants attend 40 hours of training. They are re-certified every two years.
What Are the Goals of Mediation?
- Achieve open communications between the parties in order to resolve differences
- Create a non-hostile environment to discuss issues
- Define the rights and responsibilities of the debtor and creditor
- Treat all parties with dignity and respect
- Produce agreements that are acceptable to all parties involved
Where Can Mediation Be Used?
- Agricultural Loans
- Farm Debt and Credit Disputes
- Rural Housing
- Rural Business
- Crop Insurance
- Wetlands Determinations
Why It Works
- Participants create and are responsible for their own agreements.
- All information is confidential to the fullest extent of the law.
- The sessions are informal and private.
- Meditation can preserve relationships and restore communication.
- Mediation treats all parties with dignity and respect.
- Attorneys are not required, but legal advice should be obtained if necessary.
- The focus is on the future, not the past.
Who Pays for Mediation?
Currently, there is no charge for mediation services. For non-USDA cases, participants will be required to pay $125 per hour for mediation services.
How Long Does a Mediation Session Last?
It usually lasts about two hours, unless agreed upon by all parties.
What Happens if the Parties Are Unable to Reach an Agreement?
If the parties are unable to come to a final agreement, the mediator will end the session. Both parties are then free to explore their options and appeals available prior to mediation.
USDA Nondiscrimination Statement: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to: USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410 Washington, DC 20250-9410 Or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Contact Virginia Agricultural Mediation Program
Contact Virginia Agricultural Mediation Program
Wanda Johnson, Project Director
Virginia Agricultural Meditation Program, Virginia State University
P.O. Box 9081
Petersburg, VA 23806
Phone: (804) 524-5470
Toll Free: (866) 454-4548
Fax: (804) 524-5588
Statewide service provider in: