MANHATTAN On the face of it, the drought and late freeze in Kansas have been plenty hard enough, but the difficulties don't end with smaller yields and lack of forage. They sometimes mean struggles when the bills come due.

To help farmers and ranchers, as well as lenders, work through legal and financial issues, the Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services offers free or low-cost services to farmers, ranchers and others.

"This year, USDA disaster designations due to drought have been declared in all 105 counties in Kansas," said Forrest Buhler, KAMS staff attorney. "As a result, many farmers and ranchers may be unable to make payments to creditors."

KAMS, based at Kansas State University, offers advice and assistance, including: mediation and negotiation with banks, suppliers and other creditors to restructure debt; development of feasible, objective restructure plans; and determination of loan restructure options on USDA Farm Service Agency direct and guaranteed loans.

Services provided include: low cost on-farm computer analysis of options through the K-State Research and Extension Farm Analyst Program; low cost legal advice under the Farm Mediation Legal Counseling Program of KAMS through Kansas Legal Services; and mediation assistance through KAMS mediators.

"The services are available to all parties producers and lenders to help analyze, generate options, and resolve difficult financial situations," Buhler said.

Part of his role as staff attorney, he said, is to visit with callers confidentially and at no cost, regarding legal and financial issues. Those include such situations as USDA denial letters, appeal options, farm foreclosures, and disputes between landlords and tenants, among others.

Agricultural producers, creditors and others interested in accessing KAMS services can call toll free: (800) 321-FARM (3276). More information is also available on its website: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/kams/.