Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that farmer and rancher candidate nominations will begin on June 15, 2009, for local Farm Service Agency county committees.

The nomination period continues through Aug. 3, 2009, with elections taking place this fall.

"County committees are an important link between the farm community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and give landowners, farmers and ranchers a better chance of having their opinions and ideas heard," said Vilsack. "In recent years, we have seen a trend of increased nominations of minority and women producers and I hope that will continue."

To be eligible to serve on a Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate.

Producers may nominate themselves or others, and organizations representing minorities and women may also nominate candidates. To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign the nomination form, FSA-669A. The form and other valuable information about FSA county committee elections are available online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. Nomination forms for the 2009 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business on Aug. 3, 2009.

FSA county committee members make decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs and other important agricultural issues. Members serve three-year terms. Nationwide, there are about 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. Committees consist of three to 11 members who are elected by eligible producers.

FSA will mail ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 6. The voted ballots are due back to the local county office either via mail or in person by Dec. 7. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2010.