WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Equity Commission investigating discrimination within the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants the agency to consider eliminating the county committee system that has played a big role in managing the Farm Service Agency’s agricultural programs.
US Farm Service Agency Administrator and South Dakota rancher Zach Ducheneaux told lawmakers late last week that he’ll give serious consideration to the recommendation to replace the FSA’s district committee system.
The Fairness Committee, in an interim report to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, recommended that the USDA perform research and analysis on possibly ending the district county committee system and develop what they called a fairer alternative for all farmers and ranchers. The committee said that the analysis should include what the county committees are currently doing in creating disparities for minority farmers and ranchers, as well as include the historical role of the district committee system and the current displacement of minority farmers and ranchers.
“We’ve been involved at every opportunity with members of the Equity Commission,” he says. “But we have to understand that we’re working to overcome the decades and generations when it was members of the county commissions that considered the loan applications.” Former FSA officials also say the county committees are important to the FSA’s mission.
FSA county committees affect the administration of FSA programs within a community and help deliver programs at the local level. Members can assist producers through their decision making and help shape the culture of a local FSA office. They also ensure the fair and equitable administration of FSA farm programs in their counties. Each year, FSA accepts nominations for a certain Local Administrative Area (LAA) and the LAA up for election rotates each year. The nomination period for 2022 elections closes on Aug. 1, 2022.
The final report will be completed and submitted to Vilsack soon.