Spotlight on Pro Bono: Illinois Agricultural Mediation Program—Pro Bono Opportunities
By Missy Greathouse
Illinois Agricultural Mediation Program—Background and Funding
The Illinois Agricultural Mediation Program (IAMP) is a state-certified mediation program offering mediation and other services to Illinois farmers. IAMP is one of 41 agricultural mediation programs throughout the country serving as a Certified State Agricultural Mediation Program governed by 7 C.F.R., Part 785, under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 301, 7 U.S.C. 1989 and 7 U.S.C. 5101-5104. This federal program arose out of the 1980s farm crisis and was authorized by the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987.
In 1997, Southern Illinois University School of Law founded IAMP and became the first state-certified administrator under the federal regulations. The law school administered the Program until 2009, when it was transitioned to the Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc. (DRI). The Program receives funding via the USDA-FSA DC Office, through an authorization in the Farm Bill. The USDA-FSA grant will fund up to 70 percent of IAMP’s annual budget and the other 30 percent must be provided by DRI. Even with this federal funding, IAMP is not a federal program. It is a state and federal partnership, which gives complete autonomy to IAMP as intended by Congress, to address the state specific needs, priorities, and expectations.
USDA Agency Mediations
Since its formation, IAMP has served as an alternative option to the formal appeal process for several USDA agencies. These agencies include the Farm Services Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Rural Development (RD). When a farmer receives an adverse determination letter from one of these agencies, mediation is listed as one of the available appeal rights. This opportunity to mediate does not cancel the farmer’s right to a formal appeal to the National Appeals Division, the highest appeal right provided in adverse determinations. The issues subject to mediation under the USDA regulations include the following: agricultural loans, wetland determinations, pesticides, crop insurance, rural water loans, grazing on National Forest System lands, rural housing loans, rural business loans, and compliance with farm programs (including conservation programs). Additionally, IAMP has provided mediation services to farmers with other agricultural credit issues not arising from an agency adverse determination, such as a loan from a local bank. At a minimum, the credit issue must be related to an agricultural use to qualify.
2018 Farm Bill—New Opportunities for Mediation
IAMP has begun to expand our services with new guidance from the 2018 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill added new issues-certified mediation programs that can offer farmers assistance with farmer/neighbor conflicts, organic certification issues, lease issues, credit counseling, and family farm transition planning. IAMP will have the opportunity to help many more Illinois farmers through this new guidance, but will need to expand our pool of pro bono mediators and attorneys.
Pro Bono Opportunities
IAMP is expanding its services and has pro bono opportunities available to mediators and attorneys across Illinois. Specifically, we are hoping to increase our pro bono mediator list and connect with attorneys who assist with farm transition planning.
Pro Bono Mediators (all issues outside of farm transition planning)
IAMP Mediations take place by phone, in-person, and/or via Zoom, depending on the case and the parties. If you are interested in becoming a pro bono mediator for IAMP, you must meet the following qualifications:
- Mediator has completed a minimum of 32 hours of mediation training.
- Complete an application packet.
- Complete 20 hours of advanced mediation training every two years. As funding allows, DRI provides this training as a 10-hour training each year. The 20 hours continued education is required by the federal regulations.
- Please note: To provide mediation in USDA agency cases, you must observe and/or co-mediate with a current IAMP mediator prior to your first solo case.
Pro Bono Farm Transition Planning
If you are interested in assisting a farm in farm-transition planning, please submit a resume and a cover letter explaining your interest. If you are a certified farm succession coordinator, please include a copy of your certification.
Contact Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc.
The Illinois Agricultural Mediation Program is one of several mediation programs administered by the Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc. (DRI). DRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to help people in conflict find common ground, resolve disputes, and reach agreement.
Please contact me if you would like to talk more about this opportunity or about other pro bono mediation opportunities.