7 CFR 614.11 - Mediation.
(a) A participant who wishes to pursue mediation must file a request for mediation under this part with the official designated in the decision notice no later than 30 days after the date on which the decision notice was received. Participants in mediation are normally required to pay fees established by the mediation program.
(b) A dispute will be meditated by a qualified mediator as defined at § 614.2(n).
(c) The parties will have 30 days from the date of the first mediation session to reach a settlement agreement. This date can be extended upon agreement of the parties. The mediator will notify the State Conservationist whether the parties have reached an agreement.
(d) Settlement agreement reached during, or as a result of, the mediation process must be in writing, signed by all parties to the mediation, and comply with the statutory and regulatory provisions and policies governing the program. In addition, the participant must waive all appeal and judicial rights as to the issues resolved by the settlement agreement.
(e) At the outset of mediation, the parties must agree to mediate in good faith. NRCS demonstrates good faith in the mediation process by, among other things:
(1) Designating an NRCS representative in the mediation;
(2) Making pertinent records available for review and discussion during the mediation; and
(3) To the extent the NRCS representative does not have authority to bind the agency, directing the NRCS representative to forward, in a timely manner, any written agreement proposed in mediation to the appropriate NRCS official for consideration.
(f) Mediator impartiality.
(1) No person may serve as mediator in an adverse program dispute who has previously served as an advocate or representative for any party in the mediation.
(2) No person serving as mediator in an adverse program dispute may thereafter serve as an advocate for a participant in any other proceeding arising from or related to the mediated dispute including, without limitation, representation of a mediation participant before an administrative appeals entity of USDA or any other Federal agency.
(g) Confidentiality. Mediation is a confidential process except for those limited exceptions permitted by the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act at 5 U.S.C. 574. As a condition of participation, the participants and any interested parties joining the mediation must agree to the confidentiality of the mediation process. The mediator will not testify in administrative or judicial proceedings concerning the issues discussed in mediation, nor submit any report or record of the mediation discussions, other than the mediation agreement or the mediation report, except as required by law.