NASCOE News Flash: Hiring Plan and Workload Tool Presentation

Dennis Ray, NASCOE PresidentIf you have been following our NASCOE updates, you know that the hiring plan for FSA to bring on over 1,039 FTE’s was approved a few weeks ago. Recently, 400 of the 1,039 were allocated to the states and most, if not all, will have been advertised by the time you read this update. An additional 400 are scheduled to be hired in August and the balance in September and October. These hires are in addition to the 150 approved in February and the 175 temporaries that were allocated to states. It is important to note that the 1,039 FTE’s include positions at all levels of FSA, not just the county level. NASCOE welcomes and supports the hiring of permanent employees.

State Executive Directors were recently given their state ceiling numbers for FY-18. National ceiling numbers are driven by budget and allocations. NASCOE has been advocating for a workload tool ever since 126 offices were closed without any consideration to workload during the last round of office closures. For the past few years FSA has had a working group develop a workload tool and staffing model. NASCOE requested representation on that working group and NASCOE, along with the other employee associations, have been part of that process. While the tool developed by the working group will never be perfect, it is the closest method of determining workload that we have seen since we stopped doing work measurement.

The FY-18 staffing numbers are the first to be allocated using the new staffing tool. As mentioned earlier, the budget sets the number of employees we can have on board. The staffing tool is used to determine where those employees are needed. The workload tool counts metrics in 25 programs and the corresponding time recorded in Activity Recording System is used to calculate processing rates that can identify efficiencies or inefficiencies. These processing rates are then used to identify where staffing is needed. Even though the workload tool demonstrates a need for increased staffing, there was an overall reduction in fiscal year 2018 ceilings due to the amount of funding to FSA for salaries and expenses. The reduction in ceilings due to the decreased funding was distributed among the states according to analytics suggested by the staffing model.

Workload can fluctuate from year to year based on the programs that are enacted in the farm bill. Due to this fluctuation, we have seen some changes in the approved staffing levels for several states. Since there is an overall lower ceiling in FY-18 those changes have been amplified in some states. NASCOE has advocated and will continue to advocate that the workload data should be transparent and available to the county level so that FSA employees in the field can see how and why decisions are made.

NASCOE is aware that some states have taken a significant hit on staffing levels based on the changing workload data and the staffing model. We also know that due to the changing workload and staffing model other states staffing levels have increased. It is also our understanding that if unrestricted by budget the workload tool shows the need for more employees than what the budgeted FY-18 ceiling allows.

In August, at the National Convention, management will provide a demonstration of the workload tool and staffing model during a presentation to members at the general assembly. NASCOE hopes membership will take this opportunity to learn about the tool and the results it produces. As we move forward, NASCOE will keep telling our story to members of Congress and working with our legislative consultant to secure the highest level of appropriations that we can for County Offices.

Respectfully submitted,
Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

2018 NASCOE Convention Deadlines and Updates

Have you registered for the Convention?

The 2018 NASCOE Convention is right around the corner.  The South Dakota Association (SDASCOE) is excited to host the convention and look forward to seeing you.  We want everyone to have the opportunity to register so below are a few things that will make the process a smooth transition.

Registration Fees

The registration fee increases by $10 to $65 after July 15 so if you already know you are attending then get the registration completed online or in the mail by July 15.  If you are coming for only one day you must pay a one-day registration fee so please consider registering for the one-day session no later than July 25 so we can get an accurate count for the lunch.  For those wishing to come Thursday just for the meetings and register that day there will be a registration fee only for $15 with no meal provided.

Registration fees help cover all incidentals associated in bringing you a successful convention.  If you plan to attend the Wednesday or Thursday evening event along with attending for one day then a full registration fee is needed as that helps cover the cost of the evening events.

T-Shirts for Friday night fun

All registrations for Friday night Convention T-shirts will need to be to us by July 9th in order to fill the order in time.  We are ordering extra wrist bands so any registrations received after July 9th will get a wrist band for the Friday night evening activity.  The
T-shirts or wrist band is your ticket into the Falls Park for the meal.  We cannot guarantee a meal for Friday night after July 25.

Registrations and Meal Reservations

We suggest that all registrations be sent in reaching us no later than July 20th.  If mailing in the registrations make sure they reach us by that date.  We will need to give final count on all meals no later than July 25th.

So why wait — register now!  If you wait until after that date (JULY 25th) meals for any of the functions may not be available.

Suggestions for Later Arriving Reservations

If you are getting close to the deadline for the meals, then email a copy of your registration form to Jeanie Emmett, (Registration Chairperson) and/or Joel Foster, so that they know a late filed registration is on the way.  We hope this will work for those who have been waiting to register due to last minute decisions on whether or not to attend.  We will accept all late registrations, but there are no guarantee on meals for those registered after July 25th.

Cash raffle tickets and tickets for quilt or cookbooks

Please mail all tickets (sold and unsold) along with the money to Terri Roth no later than July 20th   After that date please bring them with you and turn the tickets and money into the fundraising table.  We would hate for the mail to hold them up if not here in time.

Terri Roth
37761 169th St
Redfield, SD 57469

Scholarship Auction

Please send a picture and the form (found on www.sdsascoe.org site under 2018 NASCOE Convention) of the auction item you are providing to Jennifer Chavez.  We would like to promote by providing information on the items that will be available to all of the Members.  NASCOE will also post photos of auction items on the NASCOE News Facebook page – what a great way to help our youth out.  Please consider doing this no later than “NOW” or as soon as possible.

2018 NASCOE Convention Deadlines

Program Submission Response: MIDAS Associated County

ISSUE:

Adding Associated County in MIDAS when there is only 1 county.

FACTS:

When adding a new customer into MIDAS profile one of the steps is to add a new customer’s Program Participation and then their Associated Counties. However, in an effort to be more efficient, when there is only 1 county, when the employee hits SAVE that Associated County should automatically update to the 1 county listed in Program Participation. If there is more than 1 county the MIDAS User should get a red stop to select a county. Making this selection automatic would make the MIDAS User more efficient and save time when adding a customer.

PROPOSED SOLUTION:

Software update to make Associated County automatically update when SAVE is clicked when there is only 1 county involved.

NATIONAL OFFICE REPONSE:

Thank you for taking the time to share NASCOE’s recommendation with us. We will take this idea into consideration and work with the development team to discuss the possibility of implementing the enhancement.

As you probably know, COF users can be assigned to more than one county within a service center, so having the software automatically populate the customer’s Associated County based on the employee’s assigned would require a system suggestion to the user…rather than an automated assignment.

We will discuss and let you know if we are able to add it to the investment plan.

Thanks again for the recommendation!

NASCOE Legislative Update — Senate Passes Farm Bill

Donny Green, NASCOE Legislative ChairToday, the 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2) passed the Senate with a strong show of bi-partisan support with a 86-11 vote.

The Bill sets federal agriculture and food programs/policy for the next five years. Passage of the Senate Farm Bill moves Congress one step closer to sending a bill to the President before the current legislation expires September 30.

Both the House (passed 6/21/18) and Senate bills will now move to conference, where they must reconcile the bills before they head to the President for his signature. We will work to review all adopted amendments and prepare for conference negotiations between the House and Senate passed bills.

NASCOE will continue to monitor the progress of the Farm Bill and keep membership updated as developments occur.In addition, we will soon release an update regarding FSA’s hiring process.

NASCOE Roundup – 2018 National Bulletin Posted

As part of NASCOE’s strategy to keep membership informed, each NASCOE Area publishes a minimum of three bulletins each year.  In addition, an Annual Bulletin is published at the national level, featuring updates from the NASCOE officer team, as well as information about the upcoming NASCOE Convention.

This year’s bulletin features the following articles:

The NASCOE Roundup national bulletin for 2018 has been posted to the NASCOE website at nascoe.org.  The bulletin can also be downloaded at the following link:

NASCOE Roundup June 2018  (PDF 1.09 MB)

NASCOE_Roundup_2018

2018 NASCOE Candidacy Announcements Posted

Handwritten word ElectionCandidacy announcements have been submitted by the following NASCOE members for NASCOE and Area Executive positions.  The elections for these offices will be held at the NASCOE Convention in Sioux Falls, SD on August 1 – 4, 2018.  Please click on the candidate’s name to view the announcement.  Note:  All announcements will open a PDF document in a new window.


NASCOE Offices

President

Dennis Ray

Vice President

Brandon Wilson

Secretary

Marcinda Kester

Treasurer

Curt Houk


Area Executives and Alternate Executives

Midwest Area Executive and Alternate Executive

Jackson Jones
Mary Roberts

Northeast Area Executive and Alternate Executive

Lawrence Parker
Annette Hyman

Northwest Area Executive and Alternate Executive

Jessi Colgrove
Joel Foster

Southeast Area Executive and Alternate Executive

Mike Mayfield
Elizabeth Farmer

Southwest Area Executive and Alternate Executive

Jay Goff
Kristal Jackson

NASCOE News Flash – Hiring Update

NASCOE President Dennis RayI hope this note finds you well as can be during these challenging times. Many of you have been working hard for your farmers and ranchers with limited staffing which has challenged your ability to get the job done. I would like to share some promising news that should help relieve some of those challenges and improve service to our producers.

First, we are aware that FSA has approved the hiring of 400 FTE’s in May-June and states should know soon how those FTE’s will be distributed and their FY18 ceilings. These are in addition to the 175 temporary FTE’s that were recently allocated to the states. Furthermore, the FSA hiring plan that has been approved includes adding another 400 FTE’s in July-August and 239 FTE’s to be added in September and rolling into the next fiscal year. These new hires come after many meetings by the NASCOE officers and the Legislative Team with members of Congress, Secretary Perdue, Undersecretary Northey and Acting Administrator Peterson.

Second, the Secretary appointed Richard Fordyce as the FSA Administrator. Mr. Fordyce is a fourth-generation farmer who served as Missouri’s Director of Agriculture and Missouri’s FSA State Executive Director. I have had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Fordyce about NASCOE and look forward to working with him in his new position.

NASCOE welcomes and appreciates the hiring plan announced and recognizes the positive impact it will provide our producers and members. Going forward, NASCOE will continue to tell our story and use our resources as we work to improve the working environment for our members.

NASCOE News Flash — President’s Update – May 2018

It has been a very busy past few weeks attending state conventions and are rallies. The meetings have been well attended and very informative. I would like to thank Acting Administrator Steve Peterson for ensuring that the National Office was represented at the Area Rallies. In addition, I would like to thank Undersecretary Bill Northey for participating by VTC. He has been very gracious with his time and has been open with his comments and been very receptive to our questions at each of the Area Rallies. If he did not have an immediate answer he has taken notes to follow up as he can.

Being able to hear from and interact with the senior leadership of our agency and now mission area is one of the biggest advantages of attending an area rally or the national convention. I encourage everyone to try to attend the National Convention at Sioux Falls, SD this August and take advantage of the opportunity to hear from our national leaders first hand.

For those who have not been able to attend, I would like to provide a few highlights the national office attendees shared with membership during their presentations and the question and answer sessions.

Hiring and Staffing: Staffing levels and hiring have been two of the most common concerns expressed by membership. Both Undersecretary Northey and Acting Administrator Peterson have indicated they want to be at or above the number of on board employees as of October 1, 2017 by the end of this fiscal year. It is anticipated there will be multiple phases to the hiring process in an effort to not overwhelm HRD.

There were 150 slots approved back in February with 75% of those being internal hires and 25% being external. It is expected that the next groups of hiring will be much more directed toward external hires. It is also expected that vacancies created by an internal hire will be able to be back filled if warranted.

There were 175 temporary FTE’s allocated to state offices recently. The process of hiring temporary employees is shorter and quicker than advertising for permanents so hopefully the temporaries will be on board relatively quick. While we all want to see permanents brought on board we do appreciate the temporaries that have been approved.

Workload tool and staffing model: FSA has been working on a workload tool for the past couple of years. NASCOE and the other employee associations have been involved with that process. The first part of the work was developing the workload metrics (what items are to be counted, how they are to be counted, etc.). The second part of the process was to take the workload metrics and time reported in ARS to develop a staffing tool. Part of the delay in hiring has been the mandate that SED’s have the tool available to determine where staff is needed most in their respective states.

The SED’s are in Washington the week of May 7-11, 2018 to be trained on the staffing model and it is hoped that the deployment of the staffing tool will expedite the hiring process.

There are parts of the country where the customer service FSA is expected to provide has been severely impacted due to lack of staff. NASCOE has emphasized our concerns about the hiring difficulties with FSA, USDA and members of Congress and how that is adversely affecting the ability to provide customer service. We are cautiously optimistic, based on comments shared at the rallies, we are close to seeing progress on the staffing issue.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

What is the Farm Bill and Why is it Important?

Donny Green, NASCOE Legislative ChairOn April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed its Farm Bill, H.R. 2, the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018”. The full legislative text of H.R. 2 is 641 pages. The Section-By-Section version (link attached at end of this article) is much more condensed and offers highlights of the legislation. The Bill passed the House Agriculture Committee and will now move to the full House which is expected to vote on the measure next month. The Bill will move through the Senate Agriculture Committee next and the Senate is expected to release its version in the next few weeks.

Passage of the House Bill is just one early step in a series of many steps that must be taken before a Farm Bill becomes law. The process can be confusing and therefore we hope to shed a little light on the process to make it a little easier to understand.

So you might ask, “What is the Farm Bill and why is it important?” The Farm Bill is an omnibus, multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. An omnibus bill is a single document accepted in a single vote by Congress that packages together several measures into one or combines diverse subjects. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity price and income supports, agricultural conservation, farm credit, trade, research, rural development, bioenergy, foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. Because it is renewed about every five years, the Farm Bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues.

The current Farm Bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, expires September 30, 2018. When a farm bill expires, not all programs are affected equally. Some programs cease to operate unless reauthorized, while others might continue to pay old obligations. The farm commodity programs not only expire but would revert to permanent law dating back to the 1940s. Nutrition assistance programs require periodic reauthorization, but appropriations can keep them operating. Many discretionary programs would lose statutory authority to receive appropriations, though annual appropriations could provide funding and implicit authorization. Other programs have permanent authority and do not need to be reauthorized. These permanent programs include LFP, LIP, ELAP, and TAP.

The second page of this article contains a flow chart that will serve as a guide to help NASCOE members understand the legislative process and how a bill becomes a law.

NASCOE’s Legislative Team is working hard for our members to stay informed and proactive as the 2018 Farm Bill process continues. We not only monitor Farm Bill issues, but other issues that affect membership such as benefits, annual appropriations and re-organization. NASCOE is proud to represent employees who want our customer service and program delivery to align with Secretary Perdue’s motto to “Do right and feed everyone” in a fiscally responsible manner to benefit our agricultural economy.

H.R. 2, Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2019, Section-By-Section:

https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018_section_by_section.pdf

How a Bill Becomes a Law Flow Chart