USDA FSA LogoThrough participation in local FSA county committees, farmers and ranchers have an opportunity to voice to their opinions and share their ideas on federal farm programs. Committee members make important decisions about federal farm programs that FSA staff implement at the local level.

Every June, the FSA begins the annual process of accepting nominations for candidates willing to serve on county committees. Elections for these candidates are held over the month of November. Serving on a local FSA committee is an opportunity for farmers and ranchers in the Carolinas to get involved in the administration of FSA programs. Diverse representation of farmers ensures that all of the voices of agriculture are included in important local decisions about the implementation of federal programs.

What is a local FSA committee? The FSA is the branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers farm commodity, crop insurance, credit, environmental, conservation, and emergency assistance programs for farmers and ranchers. Every FSA office in the country is required to have a FSA committee made of local farmers and ranchers. Local FSA committees are important to farmers and ranchers of all kinds because each committee is an influential and direct link between the local farming community and the USDA.

Committee members are a critical component of the day-to-day operations of FSA. Members of the local FSA committees work directly with USDA staff, so being elected as a committee member is an opportunity for farmers to influence programs that should benefit and support their farming community. Diverse representation, including representation by farmers currently underrepresented on committees like sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers, would help ensure the FSA works for the benefit of all farmers in your community.

Elected local FSA committee members serve a three-year term and and each committee consists of between three and eleven members.

What do local FSA committees do? Farmers who serve on a local FSA committee help to decide the kinds of programs that their county’s or multi-county region’s FSA office will offer. They work to make FSA agricultural programs serve the needs of all local producers and they are responsible for making decisions on FSA disaster, conservation, commodity and price support programs, as well as other important federal farm program issues. Some of the duties of local FSA committee members include: informing farmers and ranchers of the purpose and provisions of FSA programs, keeping the State FSA Committee informed of local conditions, recommending needed changes in USDA farm programs, participating in county meetings, listening to farmer appeals, making Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) decisions, helping to make state level pricing decisions, and making Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) decisions on rental rates in coordination with the State FSA Committee. This list of duties may seem long, but the time commitment needed to be active on a local FSA committee is manageable and committee members are reimbursed financially for their time.

FSA County Committee Members help to ensure that FSA decisions related to outreach, technical assistance and potential programmatic changes support and incorporate the needs of socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers and ranchers (including minority, tribal, and women producers). Recognizing the importance of incorporating SDA producers’ input on FSA programs, a 2013 USDA rule supported greater SDA farmer and rancher representation on county committees. The rule also gave USDA’s Secretary authority to appoint SDA producers directly to FSA committees as full voting members in order to ensure fair representation based on the demographics of the county.

How do I run for local FSA committee membership?
Each county or multi-county region is split into between three and eleven Local Administrative Areas (LAA’s) depending on how many counties are served by your local USDA office. Representatives from each LAA all serve on the local FSA committee. Only certain LAA’s are up for election each year; you will receive a nomination postcard in the mail in late June or early July if your LAA is up for election. Any nominee must:

  • be currently engaged in the operation of a farm or ranch (as a producer, cooperator or landowner);
  • live in a LAA that is currently up for election;
  • be registered with FSA and have a farm number;
  • and be an eligible voter.

Nominations postcards must be received annually by USDA by August 1.

How do I know if I am eligible to vote for local FSA committee members? Farmers must be currently farming in the county and have signed up for a farm number with FSA to be eligible to vote for local FSA committee members. To sign up for a farm number, visit your local USDA office, sit down with a FSA technician and register with the USDA system. You will be assigned a farm number and a tract; sometimes the farm you are renting or own is already in the system from a prior owner. You do not have to participate in any FSA program or have a loan with FSA to be eligible to vote or run for a local FSA committee; however, you have to be actively engaged in farming and registered with their system.

How do I vote for local FSA committee members? Once candidates have been nominated, ballots will be mailed to you on in early Novemvber if your LAA is up for election and if you are eligible to vote. Eligible voters must contact their local FSA office before the final date if they did not receive a ballot. Typically, ballots must be returned to the local FSA office in the first week of December.

What can your food council do?

  1. Be a source of information. As an educational opportunity, food councils can contact their local FSA office for more information about the election process and the specific LAA’s in the community. Each local office should have a map of their LAA’s that they can copy and give to you and they will be able to tell you which LAA is up for election in a certain year. Individuals or food councils can share this specific election information, along with general info on local FSA committees, with their networks as a way to educate their members on the role that these committees serve in local agriculture.

  1. Encourage farmers in your network to run for local FSA committee membership! Once your council has figured out which LAA is up for election this year, encourage farmers in your network who live in that LAA to nominate themselves and run for committee membership. Diverse representation, including representation by farmers currently underrepresented on committees like sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers, would help ensure that the FSA works for the benefit of all farmers in your community.

  1. Encourage farmers to actively participate in the election process. Please encourage farmers to vote during the month of November if their LAA is up for election. Councils can also interview candidates on their specific views on agriculture and specific FSA issues and then share that information out with other farmers in the LAA where the candidate is running. Food councils can help create a space for information sharing and dialogue so that farmers can actually know the views of their peers who they will be deciding between for local FSA committee membership representation.

  1. Connect with more resources. Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a member of the Community Food Strategies team. Community Food Strategies currently has capacity to support food councils and community groups on strategic policy and advocacy planning related to food and farming (check out If your council or community group is interested in specific technical assistance to make a plan to engage with your community around local FSA committee nomination and election periods, please contact Jared Cates at [email protected] or (919) 695-3391 for more information.

Additional Information and Resources Some of this same information can be found on the website of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). More information on elections can be found at the FSA County Committee Elections website and more general FSA info can be found on the North Carolina and South Carolina FSA websites. Additional information can also be found through the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, of which CFSA is a member.

If you have any questions, please contact Jared Cates.