INDIANAPOLIS -- USDA Farm Service Agency in Indiana Executive Director Julia Wickard recently announced the 2009 FSA County Committee elections have begun as ballots have been mailed to eligible voters.
Dec. 7, 2009, is the deadline for eligible voters to return ballots to their local FSA offices.
"The FSA county committee system is unique among government agencies, because it allows producers to make important decisions concerning the local administration of federal farm programs," Wickard said. "I urge all eligible farmers, especially minorities and women, to get involved and make a real difference in their communities by voting in this year's election.
"For the last three months, I have witnessed first hand the passion and dedication of Hoosier farmers that serve on county committees. I salute and thank them for their work at the local level."
Committee members apply their knowledge and judgment to make decisions on disaster and conservation payments, establishment of allotments and yields, producer appeals, employing FSA County Executive Directors and other local issues. FSA committees operate within official regulations designed to carry out federal laws.
To be an eligible voter, farmers must participate or cooperate in FSA programs. A person who is not of legal voting age, but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm, can also vote. Agricultural producers in each county submitted candidate names during the nomination period, which took place in the summer.
Eligible voters who do not receive ballots this week may obtain ballots at their local USDA Service Center. Dec. 7 is the last day for voters to submit ballots in person to local USDA Service Centers. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Dec. 7. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2010.
Nearly 8,000 FSA County Committee members meet monthly at more than 2,300 FSA officers nationwide. In Indiana, 255 County Committee members meet monthly at 79 USDA Service Centers. Each committee consists of three to five members who serve three-year terms. Approximately one-third of County Committee seats are up for election annually.
For more information about FSA county committees and FSA programs, log on to www.fsa.usda.gov.