Posted August 31, 2022 at 08:51am by Laura Hardie
Farmers Can Now Resolve Contract and Labor Issues with Free Ag Mediation
The Vermont Agricultural Mediation Program (VTAMP) has been helping farmers resolve agricultural disputes confidentially and for free since 2007. VTAMP recently expanded the list of approved issues that qualify for free mediation, including easements, contracts, and labor issues, with support from the USDA and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
"Farmers and other agricultural businesses in these situations find themselves in disputes with landowners, employees, or other entities," VTAMP Director, Matt Strassberg said. "Both sides often try everything to fix the problem on their own but aren't able to make the progress they hoped for."
Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where an impartial person (mediator) helps parties resolve their differences and negotiate agreements.
Recent VTAMP data show success rates of over 80% when mediation is tried before resorting to arbitration, litigation, or some other dispute resolution method.
"Farming is a round-the-clock demanding job. By nature, farmers are highly resourceful and skilled at solving problems. Yet we're seeing an increase in complex disputes that leave farmers feeling stretched thin," Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said. "This service is a lifeline that helps farmers get back to doing what they love."
Ron Sweet, a Vermont dairy farmer, says VTAMP has saved him time and money.
“Running a dairy farm is no easy task, and the business side of it is filled with pitfalls that can be overwhelming. When I have contract and labor issues, I turn to the ag mediation program,” Sweet said. “They can help farmers navigate difficult dealings and business relationships that can result in a fair settlement for all parties. The mediation program has helped me resolve numerous issues that were taking up way too much of my time.”
Agricultural mediation programs like VTAMP exist in states across the U.S. and are certified and funded through grants from the USDA. The program was created to help farmers, lenders, creditors, and the USDA resolve issues informally and without the transaction costs associated with the legal system.
Sarah Isham, Director of Agricultural Lending at Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), has participated in mediations with VTAMP surrounding credit issues.
"As the cost of goods continues to rise, margins are challenging for farmers," Isham said. "VTAMP is a resource to work out installment payment plans between farmers and feed dealers, equipment dealers, and other vendors or businesses."
VTAMP offers on-site mediation sessions and teleconferencing sessions so that everyone has access to this service no matter where they live.
The complete list of agricultural issues eligible for free mediation includes contracts, credit counseling, crop insurance, debt issues, environmental compliance, easement issues, farm loans, family farm transitions, farmer-neighbor disputes, labor issues, land and equipment leases, organic certification, pesticide issues, USDA farm and conservation programs, USDA rural development loans, and wetlands determinations.
For more information or to sign up for free mediation with VTAMP, visit the VTAMP website where you can fill out an online request form. Or contact Matt Strassberg at (802) 583-1100 ext. 101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Vermont Agricultural Mediation Program:
VTAMP is a program of the Environmental Mediation Center (EMC), a non-profit organization that designs and administers environmental and agricultural dispute resolution programs. VTAMP provides free mediation services to the agricultural community in Vermont on various issues, including farm loans, credit issues, farmer/neighbor conflicts, leases, USDA conservation programs, organic certification, wetlands determinations, family farm transitions, and many more.