Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Jonathan Coppess says the 2009 FSA county committee elections began Nov. 6, with USDA mailing ballots to eligible voters. The deadline to return the ballots to local FSA offices is Dec. 7, 2009.
"It is imperative that all eligible farmers and ranchers get involved and vote in this year's county committee elections," said Coppess.
"County committee members will provide input and make important decisions on among other things, the local administration of new disaster and conservation programs under the 2008 farm bill. I particularly encourage minority and women producers to get involved so that county committees fairly represent the producers of a county or multi-county jurisdiction."
County committee members are an important component of the operations of FSA and provide a link between the agricultural community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Farmers and ranchers who serve on county committees help deliver FSA farm programs at the local level, applying their knowledge and judgment to make decisions on: Commodity price support loans and payments; conservation programs; incentive indemnity and disaster payments for some commodities; emergency programs and payment eligibility. FSA committees operate within official regulations designed to carry out federal laws.
To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program. A person who is not of legal voting age, but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm may also be eligible to vote. Agricultural producers in each county submitted candidate nominations during the nomination period which was held last summer and ended on Aug. 3.
Eligible voters who do not receive ballots this week can obtain ballots at their local USDA Service Center. Dec. 7, 2009, is the last day for voters to submit ballots in person to local USDA Service Centers. Ballots returned by mail must also be postmarked no later than Dec. 7. Newly elected committee members and their alternates will take office Jan. 1, 2010.
Close to 7,750 FSA county committee members serve in the 2, 248 FSA offices nationwide. Each committee consists of three to 11 members who serve three-year terms. Approximately one-third of county committee seats are up for election each year.
More information on county committees, such as the new 2009 fact sheets and brochures, can be found on the FSA Web site at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections or at your local USDA Service Center.