The Farm Service Agency County Committee Elections are taking place Nov. 1 through Dec. 6, and there are a few things to know to make your vote count.
The first thing is why you should vote. The FSA provides USDA programs that have a big impact on our community’s economy and wellbeing. The Blackfeet Nation’s main industry is agriculture despite the harsh environmental conditions and the systematic deprivation of economic resources for decades. The programs that the USDA puts out can be critical to the success of our agriculture industry. They are important for young and socially disadvantaged producers who face a lot of challenges in getting a foothold into the industry. They also help producers ride out the ever-growing environmental difficulties of extreme weather events and drought.
Despite the necessity of the support of these programs, 48% of producers in our area have difficulty accessing FSA programs, and 64% are not involved in FSA programs at all, according to the O’komi Survey gathered by the Blackfeet Agriculture Resource Management Plan. County Committee members are our community’s link to the USDA, and they make sure our producers are supported. By voting you can help make sure we have strong leaders in our county committee who are dedicated to representing the public’s needs and helping more people get the benefits that the USDA has to offer.
So, if you’ve decided to vote, the next thing to know is that the committee seat up for election is for the Local Administrative Area (LAA)
1. A person may only vote in one LAA (the LAA in which he or she participates or cooperates in FSA programs or programs administered by FSA). So, how do you know if LAA 1 is your district? In Glacier County the LAA1 district includes Townships 32-37 of Ranges 5-8. Now if that still doesn’t clear up where you are located, you can contact the FSA office to make sure. There is also a map with the district lines marked.
If LAA1 is your voting district, the next step is to be sure you are eligible to vote in the election. According to FSA, to vote “farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation(s) but may not have applied or received FSA program benefits. A person who is not of legal voting age but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm, may also be eligible to vote.”
There is also a specific rule allowing American Indian Tribal Landholders to be eligible regardless if they produce crops on that land. The FSA 2021 County Committee Elections Factsheet puts it this way: “Members of American Indian tribes holding agricultural land are eligible to vote in an FSA county committee election if the tribal member meets the voting requirements…Every member of an American Indian tribe is considered an agricultural landowner if the land on which the tribal member’s voting eligibility is based is tribally owned or held in trust by the United States for the tribe, even if the individual does not personally produce a crop on that land.”
So if you hold trust lands or tribal lands, but are not necessarily utilizing them for agriculture, you are still eligible to vote.
In short you can vote in the LAA1 election if you hold land in LAA1 and participate in FSA or provide them information about your operation. You are also eligible if you are an American Indian Tribal Landholder in LAA1 or if you are under voting age but are the supervisor of the farm and participate in FSA programs.
The next thing to know is who is running. The candidate descriptions provided by the Glacier County FSA office include:
Robert “Bob” Williams
Mr. Williams resides in LAA 1 and has produced livestock for 48 years and hay crops for 25 years. He is an active member of the Blackfeet Stock Growers.
Timothy “Tim” Kipp
Mr. Kipp resides in LAA 1 and has produced livestock and hay crops for his lifetime, growing up helping his parents’ ranching operations.
Mr. Kimmet resides in LAA 1 and has produced crops for five years.
Mrs. Johnson resides in LAA 1 and has produced beef cattle, quarter horses for over 25 years and produced dry land farming crops for over 20 years. She is an active member of the Farm Bureau and Montana Grain Growers.
To vote use the ballot you should have received in the mail, or ask the FSA Services Center in Cut Bank or Browning for one.
If you have questions you can reach out to Acting Glacier County Executive Director Lacey Orcutt at 406-873-5618, ext. 2059, or email@example.com.
More more local news, pick up a copy of this week’s issue or subscribe to the Browning Glacier Reporter, Cut Bank Pioneer Press, Shelby Promoter and The Valierian newspapers at http://www.cutbankpioneerpress.com/site/services/