California farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural eligible producers can vote in Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee elections until Dec. 7, 2009.

“FSA county committees provide producers with the opportunity to help implement federal farm programs in their communities,” said Val Dolcini, executive director of USDA’s Farm Service.

“It is vital that all farmers and ranchers, especially women and minorities, participate in the elections process to ensure the opinions expressed in committee meetings reflect an area’s agricultural sector.”

Producers must return ballots to their local FSA offices. Newly elected committee members and alternates will take office Jan. 1, 2010.

FSA county committees help administer federal farm programs at the local level. Committee members make decisions on conservation programs; commodity price support loans and payments; disaster assistance payments; and other agricultural issues.

County committees consist of three to five elected members who serve three-year terms. Committees may also have one or more female or minority advisors to further represent the local interests of women and minority farmers and ranchers.

Each year, one-third of all committee members are elected across the country. More than 8,000 county committee members serve in more than 2,300 local FSA offices nationwide.

To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers 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 vote. Agricultural producers in each county submitted candidate names during the nomination period held last summer.

For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov and enter COC in the search option.