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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Ross Pifer, director of the Center for Agricultural and Shale Law at Penn State Law in University Park, has announced that the center has taken on the responsibility of administering the Pennsylvania Agricultural Mediation Program, providing another avenue by which it can serve and assist the state’s farmers and producers.
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Mediation Program is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. The program provides mediation services to Pennsylvania agricultural producers, creditors of producers, and/or persons involved in agricultural loans based on USDA rulings. When dissatisfied with a ruling, a producer has the option of seeking mediation rather than filing an appeal with the USDA National Appeals Division.
The state Department of Agriculture had administered the program for the past decade.
“The transition made sense to both parties, so the Ag Law Center applied and received program certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “We’re pleased they have taken on this role. It is natural extension of the services they are already providing to our agricultural community.”
“We are very appreciative of the work that the Department of Agriculture has done in establishing and operating the Pennsylvania Agricultural Mediation Program, and we look forward to having the Center for Agricultural and Shale Law continue the development of this important program,” said Pifer. “This program will provide another opportunity for the center to serve Pennsylvania’s agricultural community consistent with Penn State’s land-grant mission.”
A variety of scenarios could lead to a mediation request, including disagreements over wetland determinations; compliance with farm programs, including conservation programs; agricultural loans where the loans were made or guaranteed by USDA; rural water loan programs; or pesticides.
As the program administrator, the center coordinates all aspects of the mediation session and provides a qualified mediator to work with both parties to negotiate an acceptable outcome. Lara Fowler, senior lecturer at Penn State Law and a practicing mediator, notes that mediation can allow all parties a way to seek an amicable solution with assistance from the mediator serving as a neutral third party. At the end of the mediation, the mediator documents the outcome to the National Appeals Division for recordkeeping. With the ongoing financial support provided through the USDA grant, there is no charge for eligible producers to participate in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Mediation Program.
The USDA grant requires annual recertification of the entity administering this program. USDA certified the Penn State Law’s Ag Law Center to administer the program beginning with the 2018 fiscal year.
For more information on the Pennsylvania Agricultural Mediation Program, contact Gaby Gilbeau, mediation program coordinator, at (814) 863-6441 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also online at pennstatelaw.psu.edu/pennsylvania-agricultural-mediation-program. To learn more about the Penn State Center for Agricultural and Shale Law, visit pennstatelaw.psu.edu/casl.
For those interested in becoming a mediator for this program, there will be a workshop conducted as part of the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators Annual Meeting on April 14 in Harrisburg; see www.pamediation.org/2018Conf/2018PCMConferenceBrochure.pdf for additional information. Additional training programs will be offered in the future.