November 6, 2018
The midterm elections aren’t the only civic opportunity for farmers and ranchers this November. In addition to casting their votes for federal, state, and local elected officials, producers who participate or cooperate in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) program are also eligible to vote in the upcoming FSA County Committee elections.
USDA began mailing ballots to eligible agricultural producers for the 2018 FSA county committee elections on November 5, 2018. Eligible producers who do not receive a ballot in the mail can pick one up at their local FSA office if their Local Administrative Area is holding elections. Ballots must be delivered to FSA offices or postmarked no later than December 3, 2018.
Nominations for those interested in serving on an FSA County Committee are open from June to August each year. Newly elected committee members will take office on January 1, 2019.
FSA County offices are responsible for delivering and administering FSA farm programs at the local level, including commodity programs. These responsibilities involve overseeing many important USDA programs, including: the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the CRP Transition Incentives Program, the Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership Loan programs (including down payment loans and microloans), Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, and the Farm Storage Facility Loan program.
FSA County Committee Members are the primary liaisons between farmers, community members, and FSA administrators at the county and state level. As such, they are in a unique position to elevate the concerns and suggestions of those directly affected by USDA programs and policies.
In addition to the normal responsibilities of the County Committees, Committee members may be asked to provide feedback on new or emerging issues. With the next farm bill on the horizon and several major structural changes being proposed by USDA in recent years (e.g., eliminating its Rural Development Mission Area, proposing to relocate core research agencies), holding the agency accountable to the farmers it serves is more important than ever.
Today there are nearly 7,700 FSA county committee members serving nationwide. Each committee has three to 11 elected members who each serve three-year terms; one-third of county committee seats are up for election each year.