It is the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) County Committee nomination time and counties across the nation are reaching out in their communities for a diverse group of nominees. Butler County, Missouri, has seen firsthand the benefits of outreach efforts.
During the 2010 election, a woman and an African-American were elected to serve as members of the committee, making it the first time the county has not had to identify a minority advisor. The current committee is comprised of Jim Hover, chairperson; Isaiah Jones, vice-chairperson and Karen Buttrey, member. Jones and Buttrey have previous experience on the committee, serving in an advisory capacity. Jones served as an advisor from 2006 until being elected to the committee in 2010. Buttrey served as an advisor from 2001 to 2007. Hover was first elected to the committee in 2009.
Stanley Lamb, Butler County executive director understands that having a diverse committee has a positive effect in his county.
“Since it is a diverse mix of farmers, I think the minority producers are more comfortable meeting with the committee,” Lamb said. “Since they are represented on the committee, they are also more likely to contact that committee person and ask questions or express concerns.”
Moving from an advisory role to an elected member role allows Buttrey and Jones to vote on proposed decisions affecting local farmers. Lamb said most of the minority producers in his county operate on smaller acreage, so having minority representation on the committee also lets the small farmer feel represented.
In preparation for the election, Lamb mails election materials to underserved groups, community organizations and minority churches. Additionally, he encourages his previous advisors to be active in the outreach efforts along with all members of his committee. Lamb actively reaches out to producers throughout the year by holding meetings and making personal contacts with minority producers to encourage them to run for the committee.
“Active outreach efforts are key to obtaining a diverse county committee,” said Lamb.