NASCOE Legislative Update: Federal Appropriations for FY18 & Congressional Meetings

NASCOE_LogoTo:                     NASCOE Membership
From:               Hunter Moorhead
Subject:          Federal Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018 and Congressional Meetings


This memorandum outlines the recent budget agreement for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The two-year budget agreement allowed for finalization of the 2018 bill which runs through September 2018.  The higher spending limits also allowed Congress to end sequestration cuts and add funding to certain programs.  In addition, the second portion of this document details recent Congressional meetings.

The final budget agreement included specific funding for the below policies.

Budget agreement:

FY17 FY18 FY19
Current law defense cap 551 549 562
Cancel defense sequester 54 54
Security priorities 26 31
New defense cap 551 629 647
OCO/emergency 83 71 69
Defense discretionary total 634 700 716
——————————————————– ————- ————- ————-
Current law nondefense cap 519 516 529
Cancel nondefense sequester 37 37
Domestic priorities 26 31
New nondefense cap 519 579 579
OCO 21 12 8
Nondefense discretionary total 539 591 605

Agreement includes:

  • National Institutes of Health – $1B for 2018 and $1B for 2019;
  • Opioids and Mental Health – $3B for 2018 and $3B for 2019;
  • Veterans Administration healthcare backlog – $2B for 2018 and $2B for 2019;
  • Infrastructure – $10B for 2018 and $10B for 2019;
  • Child Care Development Block Grant – $2.9B for 2018 and $2.9B for 2019; and
  • Higher Education – $2B for 2018 and $2B for 2019.

Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations:
On March 23, the Congress approved and President signed the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill.  The agreement was positive for NASCOE and we believe will lead to additional employees.

The bill includes $23.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $2.1 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. In total, the bill allows for $146 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding – $7.6 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The legislation provides $1.70 billion for farm programs, which is $2 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding will continue support for various farm, conservation, and emergency loan programs, and will help American farmers and ranchers. It will also ensure customer service through full staffing of local county Farm Service Agency offices, including additional funding for farm loan officers, and meet estimates of demand for farm loan programs.

FSA Salaries and Expenses:

2017 Enacted 2018 Request Final Bill Final Bill vs 2017 Final Bill vs Request
1,515,720,000 1,428,051,000 1,519,756,000 +  4,036,000 +  91,705,000

The final agreement provides an increase of 22,216,000.  Based on the FPAC reorganization, the Committee transferred $4,944,000 for the Warehouse Act and $13,236,000 for international food procurement to the Agricultural Marketing Service.

  • Please know that certain NASCOE members have requested details about FSA’s salaries and expenses spending levels. The information will be provided soon.

Public Law / Bill Language:

FARM SERVICE AGENCY SALARIES AND EXPENSES
(INCLUDING TRANSFERS OF FUNDS)

For necessary expenses of the Farm Service Agency, $1,202,146,000: Provided, That not more than 50 percent of the $78,013,000 made available under this heading for information technology related to farm program delivery, including the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems and other farm program delivery systems, may be obligated until the Secretary submits to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, and receives written or electronic notification of receipt from such Committees of, a plan for expenditure that (1) identifies for each project/investment over $25,000 (a) the functional and performance capabilities to be delivered and the mission benefits to be realized, (b) the estimated lifecycle cost, including estimates for development as well as maintenance and operations, and (c) key milestones to be met; (2) demonstrates that each project/investment is, (a) consistent with the Farm Service Agency Information Technology Roadmap, (b) being managed in accordance with applicable lifecycle management policies and guidance, and (c) subject to the applicable Department’s capital planning and investment control requirements; and (3) has been reviewed by the Government Accountability Office and approved by the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress: Provided further, That the agency shall submit a report by the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 to the Committees on Appropriations and the Government Accountability Office, that identifies for each project/ investment that is operational (a) current performance against key

H.R.1625—14 indicators of customer satisfaction, (b) current performance of service level agreements or other technical metrics, (c) current performance against a pre-established cost baseline, (d) a detailed breakdown of current and planned spending on operational enhancements or upgrades, and (e) an assessment of whether the investment continues to meet business needs as intended as well as alternatives to the investment: Provided further, That the Secretary is authorized to use the services, facilities, and authorities (but not the funds) of the Commodity Credit Corporation to make program payments for all programs administered by the Agency: Provided further, That other funds made available to the Agency for authorized activities may be advanced to and merged with this account: Provided further, That funds made available to county committees shall remain available until expended: Provided further, That none of the funds available to the Farm Service Agency shall be used to close Farm Service Agency county offices: Provided further, That none of the funds available to the Farm Service Agency shall be used to permanently relocate county based employees that would result in an office with two or fewer employees without prior notification and approval of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

House Report language:
The Committee does not: 1) provide the one-time FY 2017 increases of $6,000,000 (this language was included in the House language but was not part of the final budget agreement); 2) accept reductions in non-federal full time employees (FTE); 3) accept savings from farm program modernization; and 4) accept any reduction in FTE for international commodity operations and food aid programs including Food for Peace Title II and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program.

The Committee does: (1) accept savings from FTE attrition; (2) provide funding for CCC audit readiness; (3) accept savings from federal and non-federal operating expenses; (4) direct farm program modernization savings to be used for other IT purposes proposed and as determined by the Secretary; and (5) accept IT operation maintenance and imaging savings.

CLEAR Initiative.—The Committee is encouraged by FSA’s announcement of the new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) initiative, which creates a funding mechanism for the installation of saturated buffers and denitrifying bioreactors (NRCS Standard Codes 604 and 605, respectively) into CRP buffers (CP 21 & CP 22). The CLEAR announcement established policy to incentivize and allow the installation of bioreactors into new, existing, and re-enrolled CRP buffers. However, saturated buffers were only allowed in new and re-enrolled CRP buffers. The Committee understands this has limited the ability of stakeholders to install saturated buffers into CRP without penalty. The Committee recommends FSA look into changing the CLEAR guidelines to allow the installation of saturated buffers in new, re-enrolled and existing CRP contracts to allow FSA cost-shared installation of saturated buffers, and to examine allowing for installation of saturated buffers through non- federal programs and initiatives without penalty to landowners.

Emergency Conservation Program (ECP).—The Committee encourages USDA to continue providing updates of funding needs for ECP, especially in the aftermath of drought, wildfires, and other natural disasters. The Committee encourages FSA to be flexible in meeting new challenges as it was during recent wildfire outbreaks when it allowed grazing on CRP lands.

Senate Report language:
Deputy Under Secretary for Conservation.—The Committee recognizes that NRCS, FSA, and RMA each play an important role in helping farmers, ranchers, and foresters manage risk and build the resilience of their operations. Additionally, better coordination and data sharing between the three agencies can limit inefficiencies, improve conservation outcomes, and enhance USDA’s ability to serve its customers. The Committee therefore encourages the Secretary to establish a Deputy Under Secretary for Conservation under the Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area to facilitate such coordination and ensure that each of the three agencies is supporting the conservation objectives of the producers that they serve.

Emergency Response.—The Committee directs USDA to produce a report outlining the average and longest length of time it takes USDA to provide reimbursement under the following emergency assistance programs: crop insurance; Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program [NAP]; Livestock Indemnity Program [LIP]; Livestock Forage Disaster Program [LFP]; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program [ELAP]; Tree Assistance Program [TAP]; Emergency Conservation Program; and Emergency Forest Restoration Program [EFRP]. USDA is also directed to include in the report any barriers to implementing a more efficient reimbursement process and recommendations to the Committee on potential improvements.

Continuous Conservation Reserve Program.—The Secretary is strongly encouraged to, within the total acreage made available for enrollment in the conservation reserve program and without reducing the periodic availability of general signup, enroll, to the maximum extent practicable, acreage for activities included in the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practice or other similar administratively established wetland and habitat practices that benefit priority fish and wildlife species identified in State, regional, and national conservation initiatives with a priority for initiatives that provide large blocks of cover ideal for wildlife nesting.

Information Technology.—The Committee remains dedicated to ensuring FSA has reliable and functioning IT systems because it is critical that farmers and ranchers have access to the tools they need to succeed. The Committee has invested significant taxpayer dollars to modernize outdated systems and continues to provide resources above the budget request. The Committee continues statutory language that allows funds for IT to be obligated only after the Secretary meets certain reporting requirements. The Committee has reviewed the third-party IT analysis and expects the agency to follow the recommendations where applicable.

National Agriculture Imagery Program.—The Committee recommends that funding shall be allocated to purchase imagery products to meet programmatic requirements.

Congressional advocacy efforts:
Donny Green, NASCOE Legislative Chairperson, and Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant, recently spent two days on Capitol Hill raising the importance of additional county office staff and rebuilding our footprint.  According to FSA’s Leadership, the agency lost over 150 employees between October 1 and December 23, 2017.  The current county office staffing level is unacceptable and hiring new employees is our top priority.

We met with the following offices;

Senator Thune – R-SD                Senator Gillibrand – D-NY            Senator Daines – R-MT
Senator Klobuchar – D-MN    Senator Heitkamp – D-ND            Senator Donnelly – D-ID
Senator Fischer – R-NE             Senator Smith – D-MN                     Senator Perdue – R-GA
Senator Hoeven – R-ND            Senator Casey – D-PA                     Senator Grassley – R-IA
Senator Boozman – R-AR         Senator Bennet – D-CO
Senate Ag Committee Staff – Majority         Senate Ag Committee Staff – Minority

Donny spoke about the below staffing numbers and the agency’s inability to service customers.

Years Total CO Total GS Total
17-18 Totals 6785 1745 8530
16-17 Totals 7104 1838 8942
15-16 totals 7180 1639 8819
14-15 totals 7145 1586 8731
13-14 totals 6944 1724 8668
12-13 totals 7484 1625 9109
11-12 totals 7678 1621 9299
10-11 totals 8636 1863 8636
09-10 totals 8661.5 1934 10595.5
08-09 totals 8651 1908 10559
07-08 totals 8637 1866 10503
06-07 totals 8647 1820 10467
05-06 totals 8823 1854 10677
04-05 totals 9209 1860 11069
03-04 totals 9329 2110 11439