Local Stories

Feds could put women and minority farmers on Arizona county committees

Feds could put women and minority farmers on Arizona county committees

By Christopher Leone
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday it could appoint “socially disadvantaged” farmers in six Arizona counties where the elected county committees may be lacking in representation by women and minorities.

If adopted, the plan unveiled Tuesday could result in the addition of one committee member in Apache, Coconino, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima and Yuma counties next year. The nationwide proposal will first undergo a 90-day public comment period.

County committees are made up of local farmers who typically meet once a month and help oversee contracts, applications and eligibility related to farm programs delivered through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. The primary goal of the committees is to link the USDA directly to agricultural communities.

“For the most part it’s a thankless job. It’s a lot of work and a lot of responsibility,” said Mark Grubbs, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Arizona.

The plan to ensure representation from socially disadvantaged farmers was first approved in the 2002 farm bill but was never acted on, according to Agriculture Department spokesman Matt Herrick.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a 2009 memo that the department was “ushering in a new era of civil rights,” which included support for appointing socially disadvantaged members to committees.

A nationwide statistical analysis identified counties where local groups might be underrepresented on the county committees. In Arizona, Maricopa was identified as a county that might need representation by a woman farmer. Pima and Yuma counties were targeted for Hispanic farmers while Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties might need American Indian representation, according to the analysis.

Grubbs said counties identified as needing socially disadvantaged members are not necessarily shy of that representation, however.

“The majority of county committees in the state of Arizona have SDA (socially disadvantaged) or minority representation already on the committee,” he said. “The entire county committee in Coconino County, if I’m not mistaken, is minority or SDA . . . and they’re elected.”

County committees consist of three to five members who are elected to three-year staggered terms, with at least one seat coming up for election each year. Agricultural producers of legal voting age can vote for committee members if they participate or cooperate in any Farm Service Agency program.

In 2010, Arizona had a little less than 6,000 eligible voters and a voter turnout of 14.4 percent in all county committee elections that fall.

Under the department’s proposal, if a socially disadvantaged member is required in a particular county, the appointee would not replace an elected member but would simply be added to the committee as an extra voting member.

The department’s analysis of county representation was based on a look back at election results for the last four years. Since committee member terms last only three years, however, some of the counties identified by the USDA may have a socially disadvantaged member who was elected since the analysis was done.

Maricopa County, for example, has a female committee member who was elected last year, replacing one of three men on the committee. She still has more than two years left on her term.

A spokeswoman for Arizona Farm Bureau said the group welcomes the department’s efforts to broaden representation.
“We’re a grassroots organization and we support anything that promotes a more fair representation of our members,” said Julie Murphree, the spokeswoman.

Grubbs said proposal continues “the direction we’ve been going since 2002 when we were required to have minority representation on the county committee if you have people that were underserved.”

Click to add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Local Stories

More in Local Stories

pres-and-old-black-and-white-photo

In CT, Borinqueneers honored with major thoroughfare but input left out of design for Congressional Gold Medal

Latina ListaJune 30, 2015
20141222_0092-1-copy-e1435254669268

Mission District’s Bolivian dance group celebrates 15 years

Latina ListaJune 29, 2015
544b55bccf868.image

U.S.-Mexico Border Wells Drying Up

Latina ListaJune 26, 2015
1743525_851156791635964_1258547508640946199_n

San Antonio artist establishes “M.A.S for the Masses

Latina ListaJune 25, 2015
Critics say one disadvantage of Structured English Immersion is that the only English speaker, the teacher, may have 20 students, which makes it hard for students to practice their English.

Federal court upholds Arizona’s process for teaching non-English speakers

Latina ListaJune 23, 2015
33688848_19ee6ca849_o

Latin American flags coming to streetlights in Chicago’s Humboldt Park

Latina ListaJune 22, 2015
Chicano Legacy 40 Anos

Campaign for ethnic studies in San Diego schools is getting results

Latina ListaJune 19, 2015
heirloom-bassinette

Texas’ denial of birth certificates being challenged in court

Latina ListaJune 17, 2015
iphone-import-3-17-14-387

Univ. of Texas El Paso’s researchers developing water filter to help colonias

Latina ListaJune 16, 2015