16 U.S.C. § 590h - Payments and grants of aid

Cite as16 U.S.C. § 590h

(a) Repealed. Pub. L. 87-703, title I, §101(2), Sept. 27, 1962, 76 Stat. 605

(b) Conservation and environmental assistance

(1) Environmental quality incentives program

The Secretary shall provide technical assistance, cost-share payments, and incentive payments to operators through the environmental quality incentives program in accordance with subchapter A of chapter 4 of subtitle D of title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985 [ 16 U.S.C. 3839aa et seq.].

(2) to (4) Repealed. Pub. L. 104-127, title III, §336(a)(1)(A)(i)(I), Apr. 4, 1996, 110 Stat. 1004

(5) State, county, and area committees

(A) Appointment of State committees

The Secretary shall appoint in each State a State committee composed of not fewer than 3 nor more than 5 members who are fairly representative of the farmers in the State. The members of a State committee shall serve at the pleasure of the Secretary for such term as the Secretary may establish.

(B) Establishment and elections for county, area, or local committees

(i) Establishment

(I) In general

In each county or area in which activities are carried out under this section, the Secretary shall establish a county or area committee.

(II) Local administrative areas

The Secretary may designate local administrative areas within a county or a larger area under the jurisdiction of a committee established under subclause (I).

(ii) Composition of county, area, or local committees

(I) In general

Except as provided in subclause (II), a committee established under clause (i) shall consist of not fewer than 3 nor more than 5 members that-

(aa) are fairly representative of the agricultural producers within the area covered by the county, area, or local committee; and

(bb) are elected by the agricultural producers that participate or cooperate in programs administered within the area under the jurisdiction of the county, area, or local committee.

(II) Combination or consolidation of areas

A committee established by combining or consolidating 2 or more county or area committees shall consist of not fewer than 3 nor more than 11 members that-

(aa) are fairly representative of the agricultural producers within the area covered by the county, area, or local committee; and

(bb) are elected by the agricultural producers that participate or cooperate in programs administered within the area under the jurisdiction of the county, area, or local committee.

(III) Representation of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers

The Secretary shall develop procedures to maintain representation of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers on combined or consolidated committees.

(IV) Eligibility for membership

Notwithstanding any other producer eligibility requirements for service on county or area committees, if a county or area is consolidated or combined, a producer shall be eligible to serve only as a member of the county or area committee that the producer elects to administer the farm records of the producer.

(iii) Elections

(I) In general

Subject to subclauses (II) through (V), the Secretary shall establish procedures for nominations and elections to county, area, or local committees.

(II) Nondiscrimination statement

Each solicitation of nominations for, and notice of elections of, a county, area, or local committee shall include the nondiscrimination statement used by the Secretary.

(III) Nominations

(aa) Eligibility

To be eligible for nomination and election to the applicable county, area, or local committee, as determined by the Secretary, an agricultural producer shall be located within the area under the jurisdiction of a county, area, or local committee, and participate or cooperate in programs administered within that area.

(bb) Outreach

In addition to such nominating procedures as the Secretary may prescribe, the Secretary shall solicit and accept nominations from organizations representing the interests of socially disadvantaged groups (as defined in section 355(e)(1) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act ( 7 U.S.C. 2003(e)(1) ).1

(IV) Opening of ballots

(aa) Public notice

At least 10 days before the date on which ballots are to be opened and counted, a county, area, or local committee shall announce the date, time, and place at which election ballots will be opened and counted.

(bb) Opening of ballots

Election ballots shall not be opened until the date and time announced under item (aa).

(cc) Observation

Any person may observe the opening and counting of the election ballots.

(V) Report of election

Not later than 20 days after the date on which an election is held, a county, area, or local committee shall file an election report with the Secretary and the State office of the Farm Service Agency that includes-

(aa) the number of eligible voters in the area covered by the county, area, or local committee;

(bb) the number of ballots cast in the election by eligible voters (including the percentage of eligible voters that cast ballots);

(cc) the number of ballots disqualified in the election;

(dd) the percentage that the number of ballots disqualified is of the number of ballots received;

(ee) the number of nominees for each seat up for election;

(ff) the race, ethnicity, and gender of each nominee, as provided through the voluntary self-identification of each nominee; and

(gg) the final election results (including the number of ballots received by each nominee).

(VI) National report

Not later than 90 days after the date on which the first election of a county, area, or local committee that occurs after May 13, 2002, is held, the Secretary shall complete a report that consolidates all the election data reported to the Secretary under subclause (V).

(VII) Election reform

(aa) Analysis

If determined necessary by the Secretary after analyzing the data contained in the report under subclause (VI), the Secretary shall promulgate and publish in the Federal Register proposed uniform guidelines for conducting elections for members and alternate members of county, area, and local committees not later than 1 year after the date of completion of the report.

(bb) Inclusion

The procedures promulgated by the Secretary under item (aa) shall ensure fair representation of socially disadvantaged groups described in subclause (III)(bb) in an area covered by the county, area, or local committee, in cases in which those groups are underrepresented on the county, area, or local committee for that area.

(cc) Methods of inclusion

Notwithstanding clause (ii), the Secretary may ensure inclusion of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through provisions allowing for appointment of 1 additional voting member to a county, area, or local committee or through other methods.

(iv) Term of office

The term of office for a member of a county, area, or local committee shall not exceed 3 years.

(v) Public availability and report to Congress

(I) Public disclosure

The Secretary shall maintain and make readily available to the public, via website and otherwise in electronic and paper form, all data required to be collected and computed under section 2279-1(c) of title 7 and clause (iii)(V) collected annually since the most recent Census of Agriculture.

(II) Report to Congress

After each Census of Agriculture, the Secretary shall report to Congress the rate of loss or gain in participation by each socially disadvantaged group, by race, ethnicity, and gender, since the previous Census.

(C) Termination or combination of committees

The Secretary may not terminate a county or area committee or combine or consolidate two or more county or area committees unless-

(i) the Secretary first notifies the committee or committees involved of the proposed action; and

(ii) the State committee of the State in which the affected counties are located approves of such action in a vote taken after the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date the notification is received.

(D) Use of committees

The Secretary shall use the services of such committees in carrying out programs under this section and the agricultural credit programs under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act ( 7 U.S.C. 1921 et seq.) and in considering administrative appeals as provided by section 6932(d) of title 7. The Secretary may use the services of such committees in carrying out programs under other authorities administered by the Secretary.

(E) Regulations

The Secretary shall issue such regulations as the Secretary considers necessary relating to the selection and exercise of the functions of the respective committees, and to the administration through such committees of the programs described in subparagraph (D). Pursuant to such regulations, each county and area committee shall select an executive director for the area or county. Such selection shall be made in the same manner as provided for the selection of the county executive director under section 7.21(b)(2) of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on January 1, 1994. Regulations governing payments or grants under this subsection shall be as simple and direct as possible, and, whenever practicable, they shall be classified on the following two bases:

(i) Soil-depleting practices.

(ii) Soil-building practices.

(F) Mandatory duties of Secretary

In carrying out this section, the Secretary shall-

(i) insofar as practicable, protect the interests of tenants and sharecroppers;

(ii) accord such encouragement to producer-owned and producer-controlled cooperative associations as will be in harmony with the policy toward cooperative associations set forth in Federal laws and as will tend to promote efficient methods of marketing and distribution;

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