Minnesota Legislature Votes On Extension of Farmer-Lender Mediation Program
Legislation calling for an extension of Minnesota’s farmer-lender mediation program, known as HF 251 and written by Rep. Jeanne Poppe, has passed the House and will now go to the Senate before being enacted into law. Formerly set to expire June 30 of this year, the bill’s extension will allow the program to continue until June 30, 2017. Other than an extension of the bill’s end date, nothing else was changed in the wording of the bill in its new passage through Minnesota’s House and Senate.
According to the language of the bill, there is a $5,000 threshold for debt for farmers who are eligible to participate in the mediation sessions. That number represents approximately half an acre of farmland and is a threshold that is easily met by most farmers needing the services that the program offers. Although some opponents suggested that the threshold should be raised, others argued that since there are many new farmers growing many new kinds of agriculture, that threshold should remain. Therefore, the amount was not changed with the new bill that is currently being considered by the state’s legislatures.
The program has been effective in assisting farmers keep their farms and livelihood in the face of troubled economic times across the country. According to the stipulations of the bill, if a farmer owes a creditor for a secured debt of more than $5,000 in agricultural property and that creditor is seeking foreclosure, cancellation of the contract, a judgment, collection or repossession, the creditor must first agree to mediation before doing so.
In addition to the $5,000 threshold for debt, the farmer must also have at least 60 acres total and generate $20,000 or more in income off of that farmland and sales of the resulting agricultural products cultivated on it. While mediation is voluntary for the debtor, it is compulsory for the creditor. If a debtor chooses to forego mediation, he or she has 14 days to make that choice. Additionally, if mediation is chosen as a form of alternative dispute resolution to resolve the debt that is owed, the process must be completed within 90 days, unless both parties involved in the dispute decide that they need additional time to complete the mediation process.