November 8, 2021
It’s that time of the year! Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee elections and Urban County Committee elections are underway in certain counties. Perhaps you are not able to make the trip to influence agriculture policies and programs in Washington, DC, but these decisions are also in the hands of farmers, ranchers, and rural community members across the country – like you! It is crucial that every eligible producer take part in these elections because county committees are a direct link between the farm community and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
USDA is mailing ballots to all eligible agricultural producers and private landowners across the country. Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote. Producers can find out if there is an election in their area and if they are eligible to vote by contacting their local FSA county office.
To be counted, producers and landowners must return ballots to their local FSA county office or be postmarked by December, 6, 2021.
Read the full press release from FSA here.
Historically, FSA County offices have been responsible for delivering and administering FSA programs at the local level. These include the Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership Loan programs (including down payment loans and microloans), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), CRP Transition Incentives Program, Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Farm Storage Facility Loan program, and National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.
Elected FSA County Committee Members have an important role to play by helping to organize and oversee outreach for these programs. While County Committee Members do not have legislative powers, as the primary liaisons between farmers, community members, and FSA administrators, they do have a considerable platform to make recommendations to agency leaders and legislators and to push for programmatic and policy changes.
FSA County Committee Members are also asked to serve as a check to ensure that FSA decisions related to outreach, technical assistance, and potential programmatic changes support and incorporate the needs of socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers and ranchers (including minority, tribal, and women producers).
Until last year, there were few mechanisms by which urban growers could inform USDA about whether programs that work in rural communities translated well into the urban context, and even fewer ways they could influence USDA program priorities and funding. Urban and Suburban County Committees now work to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices. They may address issues such as food access, community engagement, support of local activities to promote and encourage community compost, and food waste reduction. Committee members also make determinations, listen to appeals and make decisions, and conduct outreach to urban and suburban farms and farmers for both FSA and NRCS.
Elected members serve three-year terms and committees consist of three to 11 members. Nearly 7,700 farmers and ranchers across the country are currently serving on committees. You can find spotlights of FSA County Committee Members and learn how they serve their communities with this platform here.
Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Commodity, Crop Insurance & Credit Programs, Conservation, Energy & Environment, General Interest, Grants and Programs, Implementation & Rule-making, Local & Regional Food Systems