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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 9) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to establish a "County Committee" to give local farmers and ranchers more control over farming programs.

Rueben A. Flores, USDA Farm Service Agency state executive director for Hawaii and the Pacific basin, said the committee will serve as the farmers’ "ears and eyes" for federal agriculture programs.

To coordinate directly with the Agency’s Guam office, three committee members will be chosen, one each from Saipan, Rota and Tinian. They will start serving a three-year term in Jan. 2007.

The Farm Service Agency offices will begin accepting nominations in June next year while the committee election will be held in December next year.

Yesterday, Flores met with 34 CNMI farmers at the Kagman Community Center where they discussed the importance of the County Committee.

"This 3-member team will be the commonwealth’s advisory board to the USDA-Guam office and will participate in the fed’s decision-making process on agriculture matters," he said,

Participation in the committee election process gives local landowners, farmers, and ranchers a chance to have their opinions and ideas represented across the nation through the Farm Service Agency, Flores said.

He said there are more than 8,000 individuals serving on County Committees that meet in more than 2,300 USDA service centers nationwide.

"This is the first time the CNMI will select members of the County Committee and they will closely coordinate with Guam’s office," he said.

November 9, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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