The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows producers and rural communities to make a second effort in applying for assistance. An appeals process is available for the various USDA programs offered through the different divisions. Director of Sustainability for Western United Dairies and the California Cattle Council, Aubrey Bettencourt explained that while it can take time, appealing a USDA decision can ultimately be beneficial for multiple reasons.
“What’s important for producers to understand is they have that right to appeal and that there is a process that they can go through. Now is it pleasant? Nope. Does it take time? Yep,” Bettencourt explained. “The appellate process even extends into NRCS, RMA, and Rural Development. Even our rural communities have a right to appeal decisions being made by these agencies.”
If an application for a USDA program is denied, an applicant will have 30 days to file a written request for an appeal. The appeals process will begin with a meeting with the local County Committee. That will offer an opportunity to further explain why a project may indeed fit the parameters of a particular program. “Maybe you feel the program is too limited and it needs to be fixed. Or maybe you feel the interpretation of the program just didn’t understand your circumstances well enough and you feel it does qualify,” Bettencourt noted.
The appeals process is made available as a means of ensuring that USDA programs are achieving their intended purposes. It also serves as a way to improve the administration and application of assistance offered through the programs. Because programs are administered on a national scale, feedback from producers is critical for ensuring that USDA is responding to localized issues. “It’s a really important process for the producer to be engaged in, in order to make the agency perform better on multiple fronts,” said Bettencourt.