Mediation is not arbitration or a court of law. It is a process which focuses on developing alternatives for resolving disputes.
The mediator does not decide the issues for the parties but encourages them to reach mutually agreeable solutions.
Effectiveness Of The Mediation Program
The Nebraska Farm Mediation Program has been very effective in providing borrowers and creditors an alternative means of resolving their financial disputes without litigation or appeals. Historically, over 75 percent of those cases which go through a mediation session are able to reach some sort of agreement. Additionally, many cases were resolved through the negotiation between the parties outside of a formal mediation session. Often, having one party request mediation is enough to get the parties communicating again so they can work out their own solution to the dispute.
What Information Is Needed For Mediation?
For the mediation process to be successful, all parties must be aware of their current situation and the options available to resolve their differences. All parties should bring to the mediation whatever information they feel would be necessary to support their interests.
Who May Request Mediation?
Either farm borrowers, their creditors, producers, or the federal agency may request mediation. If you have been notified of mediation as part of an adverse decision from a federal agency, they have already agreed to participate. If the producer agrees to participate, they will be contacted to establish a time and place to conduct the mediation session.
What Happens If A Solution Is Reached?
If a solution is reached during mediation, a tentative agreement is prepared. All parties will sign the agreement and should receive a copy. No agreement becomes final until everyone has had the opportunity to have the document reviewed. The final agreement may be enforced as a legal contract between the parties.
Is There A Fee?
Each party participating in mediation will be charged $20 per hour for the time spent in the mediation session. The fee has been set to cover a portion of the cost associated with the program and is not intended to exclude anyone from the mediation process. In cases of extreme financial hardship, the fee may be waived in whole or in part.
How Long Will The Mediation Process Take?
The program has been designed for quick resolution of disputes. The initial mediation session will be conducted within 40 days of receiving a mediation request. The entire process cannot extend for more than 60 days without consent of all parties.
When Can I Request Farm Mediation?
Farm mediation can be requested anytime a producer feels a need may exist to resolve a dispute. You will be notified of your right to mediation whenever an adverse decision has been made against you by a USDA agency. It is not necessary, however, that an adverse decision be made prior to you requesting mediation. In fact, mediation may be more successful if requested earlier while more options are still available.
Why Should I Participate In Mediation?
Mediation offers several advantages over other remedies in resolving disputes. The process:
Participation in mediation does not constitute a waiver of any legal rights. If no solution is reached, the parties are free to proceed with the appeal or other legal remedies.
Mediation involves much more than just the session itself. While the overall goal of the program is to get the parties to the table to negotiate an agreement, that is just the last step to the process. Before that can happen, it is essential that all the parties are prepared for the process. The Department offers many services as part of the mediation program to insure that the parties find the mediation process successful.
Mediation clinics are held monthly in Norfolk, Beatrice, Grand Island, Ainsworth, Alliance, Lexington and North Platte. These educational meetings provide information for producers on farm finances; the laws, regulations and policies governing FSA; debt restructuring and other legal options; and how the mediation program fits into this process. The clinics are successful in providing this needed information to producers and in acquainting them with mediation. Clinic staff are available to answer any specific legal, financial, tax, or mediation question in a confidential setting. To register for a clinic, call 1-800-464-0258.
Borrowers who apply for mediation are offered an individual financial analysis of their current situation. One of our financial counselors will come to your place and help you develop, among other things, a cash flow, a balance sheet, and a five year trend to help analyze where you are, how you got there, and the options you now have available.
The Department of Agriculture has also produced a 20-minute video which explains the mediation process by going through a mock mediation. It is sent to requesting parties prior to the mediation and is helpful for those contemplating using mediation as well as those already committed, but unsure of what to expect. Getting to see the process is a lot more meaningful to them than just having an explanation.
The Department also maintains an up-to-date listing of other services that are available in Nebraska. They include the Farm Hotline, Legal Services, Food Pantries, Community Action Agencies, Farm Programs, and Mental Health Counseling. This listing is available upon request.
Who Do I Contact?
The Nebraska Farm Mediation Program is administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
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