NSAC's Blog

Changes Give Minority and Women Farmers More Input on Farm Programs

March 1, 2013

USDA recently finalized federal regulations that allow the Secretary of Agriculture greater authority in ensuring fair representation and participation of minority, tribal and women farmers on local Farm Service Agency (FSA) committees.

FSA is the credit lending arm of USDA, and also has responsibility for administering and delivering other services to producers, such as issuing commodity and disaster assistance payments, and enrolling farmers in conservation and renewable energy programs.

FSA State and County committees serve an important role in ensuring local input on the administration of USDA programs.  They are also an integral part of the Department’s outreach efforts, help decide which federal programs will be offered at the local level, and provide input on how program delivery can be improved.

The duties of county FSA committees currently include:

  • Informing farmers of the purpose and provisions of FSA programs;
  • Keeping the State FSA Committee informed of local administrative area conditions;
  • Monitoring changes in farm programs;
  • Participating in monthly county meetings;
  • Directing outreach activities;
  • Making recommendations to the State committee on existing programs;
  • Conducting hearings and reviews as requested by the State committee; and
  • Ensuring socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers are fairly represented.

There are currently more than 7,700 committee members serving on more than 2,100 FSA committees nationwide.

The changes included in this week’s Final Rule were developed in order to ensure that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (including minority, tribal, and women producers) are appropriately represented on local FSA committees, to increase transparency and accountability in the committee election process, and to clarify requirements for committee membership.

These changes are needed to make federal regulations consistent with legislative changes contained within the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills.  USDA first announced these proposed regulatory changes in 2006, and has already implemented most of provisions, except for the directive that allows the Secretary of Agriculture to appoint a member to local FSA committees in order to ensure fair representation of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

The final rule is the same as the interim final rule published last year.  The changes therefore actually went into effect September 2012, but are now final permanent rules as of March 1, 2013.

The 2012 FSA county committee elections were held in December 2012.  The determination of need for appointed members based on the results of the election 2012 cycle was made by January 2013 and newly appointed socially disadvantaged members will start their 2013 term this month.

To read the complete text of the Final Rule, click here.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers

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