County committees have served as a direct link between the farm
community and USDA for more than 75 years, helping to deliver FSA
farm programs at the local level. Eligible farmers serving on
committees provide feedback to USDA on the types of FSA agricultural
programs that best serve the needs of local producers.
"As we continue to build a USDA that is responsive to the needs
of an evolving, 21st-century agricultural economy, we must ensure a
strong and sustainable future for these important committees," said
Vilsack. "Appointing new voting members to committees that lack
representation will help ensure that county committees continue to
play a vital and relevant role in delivering important federal farm
programs to citizens of rural communities across our nation."
County committees were formed in the 1930s to oversee federal
farm programs. This was a tool for grass-roots engagement whereby
locally elected committees gave farmers effective self-government
authority. That authority continues today, making farmers primary
stewards of farm programs passed by Congress, including
administration and outreach to all farmers and ranchers in their
Secretarial appointments would add SDA voting members to county
jurisdictional areas where representation is lacking, according to a
statistical review conducted by USDA. The appointments will
supplement the existing election process, in which there are
currently 7,700 elected county committee members representing 2,244
"We are proud of the great diversity that makes up our rural
communities, and appointing voting members to committees that lack
representation is an important step in helping to maintain a robust
county committee system for all producers," said Bruce Nelson, FSA
Authority to appoint voting SDA members was granted in the 2002
Farm Bill passed by Congress. The interim rule allows the secretary
of agriculture to ensure fair representation on county committees by
appointing a voting member in areas identified as underrepresenting
the diversity of area producers. Each year, USDA will conduct a
fresh statistical analysis, and appointments with voting authority
will continue to occur in areas identified as underrepresenting the
diversity of area producers.
A copy of the interim rule is on display in Wednesday's Federal
Register. To submit comments, use any of the following methods:
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Boyd, Field Operations Program Manager, FSA, United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mail Stop 0542, 1400
Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0542.
Hand delivery or courier: Deliver
comments to the above address.
Under Vilsack's leadership, USDA is ushering in "a new era of
civil rights" for the department. In May 2011, USDA released its
"Civil Rights Assessment," which includes support for appointing
voting SDA members.
The Obama administration, with Vilsack's leadership, has worked
to strengthen rural America, implement the farm bill, maintain a
strong farm safety net and create opportunities for America's
farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one
of its most productive periods in American history, thanks to the
productivity, resiliency and resourcefulness of our producers.
A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of
American agriculture. For example, in response to tighter financial
markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping
struggling farmers refinance loans. In the past three years, USDA
provided 103,000 loans totaling $14.6 billion to family farmers.
Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially
disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
For more information about FSA county committee elections, visit
[Text from file received from
Illinois Farm Service Agency]