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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

New Guidelines Help Mediators Handle Grazing Permit Disputes

LAS CRUCES -- The New Mexico Agricultural Mediation Program is now better prepared to handle grazing fee disputes between the Forest Service and ranchers.

The New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service, which runs the USDA certified state agricultural mediation program, recently received preliminary guidelines from the National Forest Service on dealing with grazing disputes. These guidelines are effective until final regulations are drafted.

"The guidance on the grazing issue is of utmost importance in New Mexico because we have a large amount of National Forest Service land that is grazed here," said Patrick Sullivan, Extension economic development specialist. "The livestock industry has been depressed. We've been in a drought. Prices are down, and right now the cattle industry is going through some very difficult economic times."

The U.S. Congress created the program in the late 1980s when declining land values and poor commodity prices were forcing many people off their farms. Originally, it was set up to mediate disputes, primarily between borrowers and lenders. Legislation later was passed to include wetlands determinations, agriculture credit, rural water loan programs, pesticides, grazing on National Forest Service land, and compliances with farm programs, including conservation programs.

Most agricultural issues can be handled quickly and efficiently through mediation to avoid formal appeals, which are costly and time-consuming, Sullivan said.

Mediation is much more "user friendly," he said. All sessions remain confidential and meetings usually are conducted in the community where the dispute exists. The mediator is not an arbitrator or a decision maker, and only facilitates communication and negotiation between the disputing parties.

"We try to come up with a situation where both parties win," Sullivan said. "They come to a mutual agreement. Both give and take, and both win, rather than an appeal situation or even litigation where you have a winner and a loser."

For more information about the New Mexico Agricultural Mediation Program call (505) 646-2433 or 1-800-289-6577.