FSA County Committee nominations start June 16

Local director hopes trend of more minority, female nominees continues

From Staff Reports

June 10, 2008 - Sherri McMillan, executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in Hopkins County, announced Friday that farmer and rancher candidate nominations begin June 16 for local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees.

The nomination period continues through Aug. 1, 2008. Elections will be held in November.

"I encourage all producers to participate in the county committee election process by nominating candidates by the August 1 deadline," said McMillan. "We are counting on as much participation as possible, because county committees are an important link between the agriculture community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Members of FSA County Committees do more than just warm up seats in meeting rooms. They help reach out to area farmers, and work to keep producers notified of the latest programs and resources that are available. Anyone can call and speak with the FSA employees and the County Committee members.

At its best, the County Committee serves as a grass-roots approach to farmers and ranchers for a much-needed say in how federal action affects their concerns and individual operations.

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

Once upon a time, committee memberships were largely the exclusive venue of white males. But times have changed.

Between 2003 and 2006, the number of minority and women farmers and ranchers nominated as candidates to FSA county committees nationwide increased 35 percent. Additionally, the number of African American producers nominated as candidates tripled during the same period.

"We hope that trend will continue," McMillan said.

To be eligible to serve on an 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 also nominate themselves, and organizations representing minority and women can nominate candidates.

To become a nominee, eligible individuals must sign form FSA-669A. The form and other valuable information about FSA county committee elections are available online at www.fsa.usda.gov; click on News & Events, then County Committee Elections.

Nomination forms for the 2008 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center, located at 530 Hillcrest Drive in Sulphur Springs, by the close of business on Aug. 1.

FSA will mail ballots to producers beginning Nov. 3. The voted ballots are due back to the local county office either via mail or in person by Dec. 1.

Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2009.

For more information on FSA County Committee nominations, contact the Hopkins County office at 903-885-4433.

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