A North Dakota program that helps mediate disputes between farmers and ranchers and their creditors now also will help with disagreements involving oil exploration.
Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring on Monday authorized his department's Agricultural Mediation Service to help producers and energy companies in the oil patch resolve disputes.
"The oil boom has been great for North Dakota's economy, but the actual business of producing the oil _ the surveying, the drilling, the storage and the transportation _ has resulted in some conflicts with local landowners," Goehring said. "AMS negotiators are trained in helping people settle their disputes without resorting to costly litigation."
Either side can ask for mediation, though the other side has to agree, Goehring said.
The state's leading oil and gas industry organization is encouraging its members to use the service.
"We see this as a proactive tool to help us build and maintain partnerships with surface owners," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.