The U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun sending ballots out for county committee elections for the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Producers and landowners will need to return ballots to a local FSA county office or be postmarked by December 6. Committee members are responsible for the local administration of federal farm programs. Director of Sustainability for Western United Dairies and the California Cattle Council, Aubrey Bettencourt explained the critical aspect of participating in county committees.
“Every time that notice goes around that those country committee elections are up, I cannot express how important it is for people to engage in that and to volunteer for that position,” said Bettencourt. “It is so important for you to have a voice within the agency so that the agency – this big monolithic thing – can actually take into account your needs on the ground in Sonoma County, your needs on the ground in Kern County, etcetera.”
To vote in the county committee election, producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program. Producers can contact their local FSA office to find out if their Local Administrative Area (LAA) is up for election and if they are eligible to participate in the voting process. Committees are comprised of up to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms. At least one seat representing an LAA is up for election every year. All newly elected committee members will take office beginning on January 1, 2022.
“It really is so important that each county has members of the farming, and dairy, and ranching community, the peers of the county there and available to help staff understand what’s going on on the ground to inform them of what the processes are,” Bettencourt noted. With producers serving on a county committee, it helps a committee to better understand “the challenges, complexities, nuances, or flexibilities or inflexibilities of programs so that we can create better services for our farming and ranching communities.”