In January the Lodi Winegrape Commission hosted a very informative and well-attended workshop on negotiation presented by Jim Olson from the Graduate School of Management at U.C. Davis.  Jim is extremely knowledgeable and his presentation was universally well received.

Jim defined negotiation as “a form of decision making in which two or more parties talk with one another in an effort to resolve their opposing interests.”  He then gave us many tips on how to succeed in negotiation.

However, what do you do when negotiation doesn’t work?  There are certainly many options.  Historically, when nations were unable to successfully negotiate they would go to war.  In business when negotiations don’t work the parties sometimes go to court.  In the case of agricultural negotiations that don’t work the parties sometimes choose to go to agricultural mediation.

Mediation is just another form of negotiation.  I define it as “negotiation assisted by a neutral, impartial third-party.”  The mediator doesn’t decide what the solution to the dispute will be but rather assists the parties in the negotiation process.  The parties still have the final decision-making authority regarding any agreement that they reach with each other.

In California agricultural mediation is provided by the California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) which is affiliated with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).  Funding is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  CALAMP contracts with private mediators throughout the state who are experienced in agricultural dispute resolution.

Although all of the mediators have extensive training, I believe that the key to their effectiveness is that they are neutral.  Because they have no stake in the outcome of the mediation they are not emotionally involved in the negotiation and can often help the parties to generate and evaluate options for resolution more clearly than they would be able to do on their own.  In addition, all of the CALAMP mediators are familiar with common agricultural disputes.

Many of you know Karen Ross who is currently the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and who was previously the President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) from 1996-2009.  This is what she has to say about CALAMP:  “The California Agricultural Mediation Program provides free mediation services to the agricultural community on many issues.  Mediation is an informal and fast way to resolve problems and I encourage you to contact them if you need assistance.”

CALAMP’s mediation services are FREE for mediations regarding farm loans, credit issues, and adverse decisions from USDA agencies.  For more information about CALAMP or to fill out a mediation request form, visit  The site is full of information and even includes case studies and testimonials!


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