September 16, 2020
One of the historic elements of the 2018 Farm Bill was the inclusion of dedicated resources and programs for urban agriculture, for the first time. Urban agriculture gives city residents a chance to purchase healthy foods from farmers not just in their state, but sometimes right in their very own neighborhoods. Urban farms can also be a place of education, an opportunity to connect to the realities of farm production, an economic engine for food companies, and a bridge between rural and urban communities.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, championed a number of provisions supporting urban agriculture that were included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The centerpiece of her efforts was the creation of USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production (Office of Urban Agriculture) and its associated grant making authority.
In addition to creating the office of Urban Agriculture and its associated programming, the 2018 Farm Bill instructed the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to create a 10-pilot Urban and Suburban County Committee. In August, FSA announced the formation of 5 of the 10 pilot committees and plans to begin accepting nominations for individuals to serve on the county committees. The first five locations are listed below and the five additional locations will be announced later in the fall.
Traditionally, FSA County offices are responsible for delivering and administering FSA farm programs at the local level. 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.
County committees have been used as the vehicle for farmer input on FSA programs since the 1930s. Today there are nearly 7,700 FSA county committee members serving nationwide. Each committee has three to eleven elected members who each serve three-year terms. County committee members are non-salaried, public service positions, however small stipends are provided to offset expenses.
Until now, there have been 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. The Urban County Committees will work to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices. Urban farmers are uniquely qualified to identify the needs of growers and their communities and provide direction on how USDA can best serve them. County committee members will be included in local decisions for USDA programs and can positively impact the services USDA provides urban farms. These are new county committees and they do not take the place of existing county committees and for the most part will be housed in the local county office.
The new county committees 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 will also make determinations, listen to appeals and make decisions, and conduct outreach to urban and suburban farms and farmers for both FSA and NRCS. For those who are nominated, and subsequently elected to serve on a county committee, there will be extensive training for the new county committee members, including virtual trainings.
Urban farmers who actively participate in the operation of a farm or ranch in the local area identified for the Urban County Committee may nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else or an organization to serve on the Urban County Committee. The nominations process is now open.
Nomination forms (FSA-669A nomination form) must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by Oct. 2, 2020 (disregard the fact that the form says the due date is August 1, 2020)
While the Urban County Committees are new they will be associated with existing FSA county offices. The following is a listing of the FSA county offices that the new Urban County Committees will be associated and where prospective nominees should mail their nomination forms.
VALENCIA COUNTY FARM SERVICE AGENCY
2600 PALMILLA RD
LOS LUNAS, NM 87031
MEDINA-CUYAHOGA COUNTY FARM SERVICE AGENCY
6090 WEDGEWOOD RD
MEDINA, OH 44256-8828
BUCKS/MONTGOMERY COUNTY FARM SERVICE AGENCY
1000 E WALNUT ST
PERKASIE, PA 18944
CLACKAMAS COUNTY FARM SERVICE AGENCY
221 MOLALLA AVE
OREGON CITY, OR 97045
General questions about these FSA county committees can be sent to UrbanAgriculture@usda.gov.