MDA Launches Mediation Program


Producers throughout Montana have a new tool in the belt when it comes to conflict resolution. The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) has launched its Agricultural Mediation Program and is currently seeking cases for mediation.

Issues covered under the program include grazing permit disputes, ag credit issues, neighbor/neighbor conflicts, ag family estate plan disputes, easement/access issues, ag business disputes, water disputes and a host of other issues. Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), if the mediation involves USDA, there is no charge; if USDA is not a party in the mediation, the cost is $100 per hour per party.

“While many farm and ranch issues are very complex, mediation can be a great tool to help folks gain consensus and arrive at a resolution,” said Ben Thomas, MDA Director. “Our goal here is to get to the handshake. It may not always be the best option for everyone or every situation, but it’s often more productive and usually less expensive than litigation.”

So how does the process work? To request mediation, go to the MDA mediation website ( and fill out the Request for Mediation Form. When the request is received, MDA will contact all parties involved, any party can accept or reject the request for mediation. Once the parties agree to mediation, MDA will assign a mediator, all parties will be notified and a date, time and place will be set for the mediation to take place.

Some mediations may only take a couple of hours, but others may take several days; MDA advises the parties to block out the whole day for the mediation. Mediations are voluntary and either party may end the mediation at any time without reaching agreement. Once the parties have reached an agreement, the mediator will draw up the agreement and have both parties sign. At the end of each mediation, each party will be invoiced with payment expected at the end of the meeting.

“Mediation is a particularly attractive option as it provides both parties with control of the process and real time feedback,” said Jim Auer, Program Manager of MDA’s Mediation program. “Its confidential, promotes fair solutions for both sides, and usually provides a quick turnaround for decisions. A successful mediation is a win-win for both parties because everyone involved takes in creating a solution.”

Information on the program can be found at or by contacting Jim at 406-444-5424 or    

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