WASHINGTON, March 1, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that he will appoint voting members from socially disadvantaged (SDA) communities to serve on county committees in county jurisdictions that lack fair SDA representation under the authority granted in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill). Appointments will be made beginning next week. The final rule that will be published in the March 4, 2013, Federal Register affirms the interim rule from June 4, 2012.
“For decades, county committees have played a critical role in delivering important federal farm programs to citizens of rural communities across our nation,” said Vilsack. “By strengthening county committees so that they fully represent the ethnic, racial and gender segments within the counties they serve, we are helping to ensure that these governing bodies play a vital and relevant role well into the future.”
Secretary Vilsack will use the authority granted in the 2002 Farm Bill to appoint SDA committee members with voting privileges. The appointed SDA committee members do not replace voting members who were elected but will supplement the existing election process. Currently there are 7,700 elected county committee members representing 2,244 county jurisdictions. Individuals who serve as non-voting minority advisors were encouraged to submit a nomination form indicating their willingness to serve. Nomination forms also have been accepted from community-based organizations representing SDA producers. The Secretary will appoint SDA voting members from the nominations received.
FSA will continue outreach efforts to increase SDA voter participation and SDA representation on county committees through the regular election process. Additionally, each year, USDA will conduct a fresh statistical analysis, and appointments with voting authority will continue to occur in areas identified as under-representing the diversity of area producers.
County committees were formed in the 1930s to oversee federal farm programs, a tool for grassroots engagement whereby locally elected committees give farmers effective self-government authority. That authority continues today.
For more information about FSA County Committee elections, visit the FSA website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov.
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