The executive director of USDA's Farm Service Agency in Iowa, John Whitaker, reminds farmers to vote in the 2012 FSA county committee elections. The election began on November 5 with the mailing of ballots to eligible voters. The deadline to return the ballots to local FSA offices is December 3, 2012.
"The role and input of our county committee members is more vital than ever," says Whitaker. "New county committee members provide input and make important decisions on the local administration of disaster and soil and water conservation programs. With better participation in recent years, we also have seen promising increases in the number of women and minority candidates."
Eligible voters who did not receive a ballot can obtain one from their local USDA Service Center. December 3, 2012, 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 December 3, 2012. Newly elected committee members and their alternates will take office January 1, 2013.
Who is eligible to vote in county FSA elections?
To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program, explains Whitaker, who oversees the state FSA staff that administers USDA farm programs in Iowa. A person who is not of legal voting age, but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm also may be eligible to vote. Agricultural producers in each county submitted candidate nominations during the nomination period, which ended August 1, 2012.
It is important for farmers to vote and help select the right people to serve on the county FSA committee, notes Whitaker. While FSA county committees do not approve or deny farm operating loans, they make decisions on disaster programs, soil and water conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs and other agricultural issues. Members serve three-year terms. Nationwide, there are about 7,700 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. Committees consist of three to 11 members who are elected by eligible producers.
More information on county committees, such as the new 2012 fact sheet and brochures, can be found on the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections or at any local USDA Service Center.