Community Capacity Building to Collaboratively Mitigate - Manage Community Agricultural - Environmental Conflicts
Changing agricultural technologies, expanding farm operations, and suburban development in rural areas have precipitated farm – community conflicts. Effectively mitigating and managing these conflicts requires an understanding agricultural practices and their potential environmental impacts, a knowledge of environmental law, and unbiased, collaborative, problem solving skills. Through community meetings participants identified local concerns and actions to address farm-environmental conflicts. Future training and discussion meetings for farm and non-farm community members will focus on the social, legal, environmental, and technical context of farm – environmental conflicts and how mediation can help resolve these conflicts. A resource guide, Farm – Environmental Conflict Resolution, will facilitate discussions and future actions.
To build local capacity and strengthen relationships to help communities collaboratively address community – agricultural conflicts.
To facilitate community-based processes to prevent, mediate, and resolve community agricultural conflicts.
To develop a collaborative problem-solving guide to assist community efforts to mitigate and manage local conflicts concerning agricultural practices.
To identify the extent and type conflicts and the level of current community involvement in these conflicts, we held participatory meetings in Wyoming, Washington, Sullivan, Ulster, Delaware, Green, and Schoharie counties. Wyoming County has experienced several farm – environmental conflicts over the last decade, including one that served as the center for a landmark farm – environmental lawsuit in the early 1990s. In this county, we met with a diverse set of stakeholders in farm – environmental conflicts, including non-farm community members, small-scale farmers, large-scale dairy farmers, crop consultants, a local lawyer, town officials, local representatives from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Department of Health, as well as personnel from Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the regional Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC). Local organizations in Washington and the southeastern New York counties have been asked to address fewer farm –environmental conflicts. However, personnel in both counties felt that conditions exist for these conflicts to erupt at any time. In Washington County, meetings involved primarily members of CCE, the regional CDRC, the local Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, and town planning boards. In the southeastern New York counties, meetings involved members of CCE and CDRCs.
To build on experiences from existing programs, we obtained information from agricultural mediation centers and agricultural law programs in other states.
Participants in Wyoming and Washington counties stressed the role of town officials and planning board members in reviewing and making determinations regarding farm – environmental conflicts. Yet they noted that these people often lack background information on agricultural technologies and agricultural environmental law. CCE and agricultural agency personnel, who usually play a central role in addressing these conflicts, are often viewed by the non-farm community as being biased in favor of farmers. Participants agreed that mediation was an important tool for helping to diffuse and address farm – environmental conflicts. CDRC mediators expressed interest in helping community members resolve these conflicts, but stressed that many CDRC mediators lack training in multi-party, as opposed to interpersonal, conflict resolution skills. Funding for ongoing involvement of CDRC mediators in these complex and often time-consuming conflicts is also lacking.
Impacts and potential contributions
Information gained and relationships built during the first year of this project will help us assist CCE educators, CDRC mediators, and town officials develop effective processes for addressing farm – environmental conflicts. Meetings helped CCE and CDRC personnel better understand and appreciate the potential roles and responsibilities of each organization in farm – environmental conflicts. A CDRC facilitator played a pivotal role facilitating a potentially highly explosive town meeting between sweet corn growers who used aerial applications of pesticides and town members concerned about breast cancer risks. In Wyoming County, a CDRC mediator is planning mediation training programs for farmers and town officials. To institutionalize the relationship between CCE and CDRC offices, we are working to identify potential sources of long-term funding for CDRC involvement in these conflicts through the New York court system, legislative allocations, and the Farm Bureau. A resource guide, developed in draft form for a May, 2000 meeting in the southeast counties, is being revised for use in follow-up training meetings and for publication.
Reported January 2001
Senior Extension Associate
370 Ives Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072554380
306 Rice Hall
Ithaca , NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072554523
120 W. State St
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072739347
Senior Extension Associate
90 State Street, Suite 600
Albany, NY 12207
Office Phone: 5184622553