Changes will likely come to Farm Service Agency offices sooner or later as the budget tightens and Congress pressures USDA to cut. One visible sign is already occurring-some long-time staff are taking advantage of an opportunity to retire early this year.
With all that said, you won't have room to talk unless you participate in the process. While many decisions may be made at the national or state level, county committees still make important local decisions, says Julia Wickard, Greenfield, currently state director of FSA. She's urging every qualified producer to vote in their county elections for FSA county committee members.
The election process has technically been underway since Nov. 4. However, the final day for ballots to be received in local FSA office is coming up Dec. 5, which is next Monday. You can return ballots directly to the local office, or submit them by mail. However, if you submit ballot nominations by mail, they must be postmarked no later than December 5.
You're eligible to vote if you participate or cooperate in any FSA program, Wickard says. Even a person not of legal voting age but who supervises and conducts farming operations of an entire farm may also be eligible to vote. That particular exception could be in jeopardy next time election s are held if the Department of Labor has its way, and age limits for youth working farms are raised. This is the final day for comment on those proposals. To learn more about the youth labor law proposals, visit www.infarmbureau.org.
Nominations for county FSA committee positions were determined earlier in the year. Ag producers submitted nominations during the nomination period, which ended August 1.
Each county FSA committee has three to five members, depending upon the county. One-third, or about one-third, of the seats are supposed to be up for election each year. Elections are typically for a three-year term. You can find a 2011 fact sheet about the county committee election process and rules for serving on an FSA county committee on the FSA Website. Find it at: www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. You can request the same information if your county office.Remember to make sure to have your voice heard and your vote counted. Vote by Dec 5 in a county office, or mail back your ballot on or before Dec. 5.