Maryland Agricultural Conflict Resolution Service

New Examples of Mediation Cases are below. Scroll down to see!

What is ACRS?

​Maryland Agricultural Conflict Resolution Service is the official US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified agricultural mediation program for Maryland, offering confidential assistance to help resolve agriculture related issues in a productive environment.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary, no-cost to low-cost, non-adversarial process through which a neutral third party is introduced into discussion and negotiations between conflicting parties. Mediation provides a confidential setting that encourages individuals to take responsibility for solving their own problems. Mediation identifies and seeks agreement on the facts, agreement on the problem(s) to be solved and the creation of options to solve the problems. A successful mediation is almost always based on the voluntary cooperation and participation of all the parties.

What Is A Mediator?

A mediator has been trained to work with individuals and organizations in identifying mutually acceptable solutions to shared problems. The mediator is not a judge, but is there to direct the mediation process and stimulate communication between the involved parties. Through the process, there is no finding of right or wrong and the mediator has no power to impose a solution. The mediator will work with the parties to develop mutually acceptable and feasible options.

An agricultural mediator has additional training related to the kinds of problems related to agricultural production. The process is based on fairness, integrity and the mediator's skill in helping agricultural producers, agencies, companies and Maryland citizens to arrive at their own solutions to their problems.

Why Mediate?

Mediation is an alternative process to taking a particular conflict to court and incurring burdensome legal expenses. Participants in the mediation process create their own solution. The mediator does not arbitrate the settlement. Flexibility in considering a full range of realistic options is encouraged in the solution process. The fact that disputing parties are meeting together in the same room for the purpose of working out a solution to the particular problem(s) enables everyone to deal openly and knowledgeably with the full array of issues. All steps are taken to ensure confidentiality.

Steps in Agricultural Mediation

  1. An agricultural producer or an organization or individual with a dispute concerning agricultural production may request mediation by contacting the Maryland Agricultural Conflict Resolution Service (Maryland ACReS) and completing the form entitled "Request for Voluntary Mediation."
  2. Maryland ACReS staff will confirm that the other party (or parties) is willing to participate in mediation. A brief description of the situation is gathered by the Mediation Coordinator to prepare a briefing report for the mediator.
  3. A mediator is assigned by the Mediation Coordinator.
  4. All the parties are notified as to the date, time and neutral location of the mediation session.
  5. Most mediation sessions will be concluded in two to three hours unless everyone agrees that more time is needed.

What Happens In A Mediation Session?

  1. The mediator is in charge of the session and arranges the room and participant seating to promote effective communication.
  2. The mediator welcomes all parties and introductions take place.
  3. The mediator establishes ground rules for the conduct of the session.
  4. Each participant is given the opportunity to make a brief opening statement concerning the problem or his/her involvement in the particular relationship.
  5. Following this, time is allowed for each participant to briefly express his/her feelings associated with the conflict.
  6. Next, the issues are clarified, relevant data is considered, and desirable actions begin to be examined.
  7. An exploration of the options and the consequences leads toward problem solving.
  8. The mediator records agreements reached based on input from the parties.

What Happens If An Agreement Is Not Reached?

If a final agreement cannot be reached, the outcome will simply be an "as was" situation before mediation began with one difference... everyone involved will have a better understanding of their own and others' perspectives, will have explored several options and have a fuller grasp of the situation and why a solution was not achievable. All parties will retain their full set of options to seek a solution through legal or other means. At no time should the mediation process be considered a delaying tactic.

What Does Mediation Cost?

Mediation is a no-cost to low-cost means of resolving disputes, especially when compared with traditional legal processes. Maryland ACReS is administered by the MDA in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture. Consultation with Maryland ACReS staff and the initial mediation session is at no charge. If additional mediation sessions are needed, costs are shared by the parties. Full or partial waivers of fees may be available based on income. Any additional legal, financial or technical advisors, if needed, are paid by the participants.

What Are Some Examples of Mediation Cases?

Example One - Multiple Siblings Inherit A Farm: 

A Maryland farmer had a family farm that has been in the family for generations. Out of his 11 children only two stayed and worked on the farm. When the farmer died and the will was read, the children discovered that he had left each of them equal ownership of the farm. Some of the siblings wanted ownership of the farm and others did not. Some wanted the farm to stay in the family and others did not care. The siblings argued for months, until one of them called ACReS for assistance. ACReS assigned two mediators, who contacted all 11 siblings and got their agreement to be part of a mediation session, which was proposed to take place the day of a family wedding. The three-hour mediation session took place in the church basement of the wedding venue. By the end of the session, they were able to come up with several options that satisfied everyone. And they go on to thoroughly enjoy the wedding celebration! 

Example Two - Farmers Lease Terminated with Due Notice:  

A landowner had leased several acres of land to a couple who are farmers. The lease agreement was a handshake deal. This arrangement went well for several years, until the irrigation system went down. The landowner told the farmers that he would repair it, but the repair did not happen. As a result, the farmers did not have the harvest they were expecting and were late on their rent. The landowner then served them with written notice that he was not renewing their lease. The farmers contacted ACReS because they felt it was unfair, given the inoperable irrigation system, that they be held to the lease terms. In addition, they believed that they should have been given at least 6 months' notice of the landowner's intent to cancel the lease, rather than 3 months. They wanted to negotiate an extension to the full 6 months to have the opportunity to get the crops they currently had in the ground harvested. The mediation session was quite heated, but the farmers were able to demonstrate that Maryland law required 6 months' notice of intent to cancel an agricultural lease. To avoid having to go to court, the landowner agreed to the lease extension, in writing, and agreed to have the irrigation system repaired by a specific date. 

Example Three -  Farmers Access to Fields Blocked:

Homeowners contacted ACReS to ask for mediation with the owners of the farm next door. The land that the homeowners purchased 6 months before had been a working farm. After moving in, the homeowners had installed a gate across the roadway that led up to their house. The gate could be controlled by remote control. They were now involved in a contentious dispute with their farming neighbors, who claimed that the gate was blocking access to some of their fields. They said that they had shared the driveway with the former owners for years. The homeowners countered that the roadway is on their property, and they have the right to do with it as they please. ACReS provided mediation. The participants were able to communicate in this process and the homeowners agreed to give the farmers a remote-control device of his own to  access his fields.

Example Four- Farmers Facing Forclosure:

An USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan officer referred a case to ACReS involving a large overdue farm loan. The loan had been accelerated to foreclosure, and the owners – two brothers - requested mediation as the first step in the appeals process. 

The mediation was an opportunity for the brothers to come to an agreement on what needed to be done to bring the loan current and avoid the foreclosure. The mediator helped the brothers communicate better, which then enabled them to work as a team with the FSA office. 

In addition, because the countdown to foreclosure was halted while the mediation was being arranged and conducted, the brothers were able to use the additional time to raise the money needed to make the required payment by the deadline.


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