Farmers desire swift resolution of trade disputes
Farmers desire swift resolution of trade disputes
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Farmers in Michigan are to benefit from a free mediation service programme that is aimed at enhancing the resolution of disputes relating to the farming business.

Michigan Agricultural Mediation Programme (MCMA) has been awarded to the Michigan Community Mediation Association by the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to a news release from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), farmers’ disputes covered by this grant can range from contract issues, estate and probate complications, adverse determinations by the USDA, bankruptcy, to any other conflict farmers may face concerning their farms.

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“Our association is honored to have been awarded this grant to provide a vital alternative to resolving disputes for our farmers,” Gabriella Reihanian Havlicek, Executive Director of MCMA, said in the release. “We will be working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, industry stakeholders, and local leaders to ensure every farmer knows this program is available to them for free to resolve their conflicts.”

MCMA is an advocacy, not-for-profit association for the 17 Community Dispute Resolution Programme mediation centres across the state of Michigan that are partially funded by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office (SCAO). MCMA’s mission is to help advocate for the 17 CDRPs and educate Michigan residents on the importance of mediation and restorative practices.

“Michigan’s farmers work to feed our communities and families 365 days a year, and mediation provides an avenue for them to be an integral part of the conflict resolution process. MDARD is proud to support MCMA,” Gary McDowell, MDARD director, is also quoted as saying in the release. “I encourage farmers to look into mediation as a viable option for resolving conflict.”

Mediation is a confidential process where disputing parties will discuss their issues with a neutral third party, the mediator, who will help them come to a resolution.

“Farmers already have heavy issues to navigate on a daily basis,” Kelly Turner, CEO of Potato Growers of Michigan, said in the release. “Whether it’s a supply chain shortage, finding workers, or navigating continually changing weather conditions. What they don’t need is to have extra legal issues hanging over their head for years to come. Now they can contact MCMA and request a free mediation to resolve any dispute they may be facing.”

The 17 CDRP mediation centres are local nonprofit organizations that offer mediation and restorative practice services. Their volunteer mediators are trained in the use of the facilitative model. This will ensure that all participants’ voices are heard and that the disputing parties are the ones making the agreement. Not the mediators.

CDRP mediators are required to complete 40 hours of SCAO-approved general civil training or 48 hours of SCAO-approved domestic training, practical experience supervised by seasoned mediators, and continuing education. To mediate agricultural cases the mediators will also be required to participate in 20 additional hours of advanced training every two years.

“Our mediators are highly skilled and trained on how to best serve their community members facing conflict in a respectful, professional manner,” Shannon Taylor, executive director of Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress Conflict Resolution Program and MCMA’s training committee chairwoman, said in the release. “I am certain they will bring this same level of expertise to the Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program and to our farmers.”