A little-used federal debt mediation program benefiting a tiny fraction of farmers is costing taxpayers almost $11,000 per application, records show. Auditors questioned the value of the Farm Debt Mediation Service.

“The cost of service delivery is increasing,” said the Department of Agriculture audit. Costs to process applications averaged $10,731 each. Costs of applications approved for mediation averaged $14,519 each.

Parliament in 1997 passed the Farm Debt Mediation Act to offer free advice to insolvent producers and their creditors prior to bankruptcy court filings. Farmers had numerous alternatives including mediation through banks, credit unions, lawyers and licensed insolvency trustees, wrote auditors.

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