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.].
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.
In each county or area in which activities are carried out under this section, the Secretary shall establish a county or area committee.
The Secretary may designate local administrative areas within a county or a larger area under the jurisdiction of a committee established under subclause (I).
The Secretary shall develop procedures to maintain representation of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers on combined or consolidated committees.
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.
Subject to subclauses (II) through (V), the Secretary shall establish procedures for nominations and elections to county, area, or local committees.
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.
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.
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
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.
Election ballots shall not be opened until the date and time announced under item (aa).
Any person may observe the opening and counting of the election ballots.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The term of office for a member of a county, area, or local committee shall not exceed 3 years.
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.
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.
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.
In carrying out this section, the Secretary may use other approved agencies.
In carrying out this section, the Secretary shall not have the authority to acquire any land or any right or interest in land.
A payment that may be made to a producer under this section may be assigned only in accordance with regulations issued by the Secretary. This subsection shall not authorize any suit against or impose any liability on the Secretary, any disbursing agent, or any agency of the United States if payment is made to the producer without regard to the existence of any such assignment.