.05 Application and Eligibility.

A. A person interested in receiving mediation services shall submit a written request to the Department. This request shall contain the following:

(1) Name and contact information of the requesting party;

(2) Contact information for other parties involved; and

(3) A brief description of the issues to be addressed during mediation.

B. After initial consultation with all necessary parties, the mediation coordinator shall determine if the parties and issues for discussion are eligible for mediation. Factors the mediation coordinator shall consider include:

(1) The authority of each party to finalize an agreement, if a resolution is reached during the mediation process;

(2) The existence of issues involving violence or likely to give rise to violence;

(3) A conflict of interest between the Department and any party;

(4) Any other reason as determined by the mediation coordinator; and

(5) Whether the issues surrounding the request for mediation meet the criteria of 7 CFR §785.2 of the USDA's Certified Mediation Program guidelines.

C. Upon the mediation coordinator's determination that each party is eligible for mediation, a form shall be sent to each party. The form shall be completed and returned to the Department before mediation. If a party declines to participate in mediation, the mediation coordinator shall inform all other parties within 5 business days.

D. If all parties agree to mediation, the mediation coordinator shall arrange for an appropriate location, time, and mediator within 45 days of the mediation request.

E. All individuals present at the mediation, including the parties, the mediator, and any observers, shall sign an "Agreement to Begin Voluntary Mediation". The mediation process may not begin if an individual present does not sign the agreement.