In situations where a neighborhood conflict has escalated, the Agricultural Ombudsman Program offers moderation and facilitation services.
According to Merriam-Webster definitions:
- Moderation: to guide a discussion or direct a meeting that involves a group of people
- Facilitation: to make something easier; to help cause something; to help something run more smoothly and effectively
It is our experience that large, public meetings do not provide the environment for rational, civil discussion between representatives of parties involved in conflict situations. Experience shows that small, moderated meetings are much more conducive to the exchange of information, better understanding of points of view of different parties, and possibly a resolution to a situation. We suggest holding local meetings moderated by an Ombudsman (Beth or Shelly), with approximately 5-10 people, including:
- the farmer/farmers involved in the situation
- 1-2 representatives from an agricultural agency, as requested by the farmer(s)
- 1-2 representatives from the municipality
- 1-2 representatives from the neighborhood
- any other reasonable representative(s) to provide technical expertise
The Agricultural Ombudsman Program advocates for the viable future of agriculture, but remains neutral in contentious situations. The Ombudsman will not solve problems for individuals, agencies or governmental entities. We do not “take sides”. If a situation can be facilitated from behind the scenes, the Ombudsman Program is willing to do that too. Sometimes meetings are not needed, but gently making connections, explaining things, or serving as a “middle man” is all that is needed to make communications flow better and hurt feelings be soothed.
Communities benefit when interested parties work out an agreeable solution together that considers regulatory issues, the needs of the agricultural producers and concerns of the neighboring residents.