Dear Member of Congress:
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) supports state mediation programs as a positive alternative to dispute resolution with USDA. NASDA supports and encourages federal and state funding of these programs and urges that funding must be timely and reliable.
NASDA represents the Commissioners, Secretaries, and Directors of the state departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories. State departments of agriculture are responsible for a wide range of programs including food safety, conservation, environmental protection, water quality, and administer state mediation programs in a number of states.
Agricultural mediation programs are a confidential, accessible resource for producers who need dispute resolution. USDA was authorized to assist state mediation programs in 1987 and since then, these programs have continued to expand. In recent years, funding has not been transferred from OMB to USDA until the end of the calendar year and USDA been unable to issue grants until the middle of the second quarter of the fiscal year. As a result, many programs are forced to take out loans or reduce staff or services. With the challenging economic outlook for farmers and ranchers, mediation programs must be maintained as mechanisms for resolving conflicts, including: compliance with USDA farm programs; rural water loan programs; wetlands determinations; grazing on National Forest System lands; pesticide issues; and such other issues as the Secretary of Agriculture considers appropriate.
In addition to reliable funding, NASDA supports the expansion of state mediation programs. NASDA urges the Secretary to authorize all agricultural disputes approved by individual state mediation programs as eligible under the USDA grant program. The authorizing statute contains a clause authorizing the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to add other appropriate issues covered by the program. We support authorizing the designated head of each participating state’s department of agriculture to add issues for that state.
Mediation programs are a crucial tool that helps farmers and ranchers who face a multitude of risks each year as they work to bring their products to market. Consistent, reliable financial security policies like state mediation programs are necessary for producers who need to tools to navigate financial pressures and changing economic times.
Director, Public Policy