The 2021 higher annual leave carryover limit established under section 1111 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (H.R. 6395), was enacted on January 1, 2021. Since the enactment, OPM has issued their determination of how this new rule will affect Federal employees.
As you may recall, NASCOE consulted with legal counsel, our legislative consultant and contacted various Executive and Legislative branch officials regarding the legislation and the potential adverse effect it could have on county office employees. We believed then and it is now confirmed that this provision will not negatively impact county office employees. FSA employees who were deemed essential due to an exigency of public business will be able to have all their excess leave restored as previously granted by the FSA administrator.
According to OPM, Section 1111 of the NDAA does not eliminate the annual leave restoration rules in 5 U.S.C. 6304(d), which are applied after annual leave hours in excess of the normally applicable annual leave carryover limit are forfeited. The following table issued by OPM, shows key differences between excess leave under section 1111 and restored leave under 5 U.S.C. 6304(d):
Section 1111 (NDAA)
Section 6304 (d)
Approach to allowing carryover above normal limits
Higher carryover limit prevents forfeiture (conditions for applying higher limit are determined by OPM Director)
Leave in excess of the carryover limit is forfeited and then restored if certain statutory conditions are met
Time limits on usage
Must be used during leave year 2021
Varies, but at least 2 years. (See 5 CFR 630.306- 630.310.)
Inclusion in lump-sum annual leave payment upon separation
May not be included.
Limitation on amount
Leave carryover ceiling is 125% of normal ceiling (for most employees, 300 hours instead of 240 hours)
No limitation (but cannot be more than a given employee can accrue in a full leave year)
In conclusion, county office employees who were previously concerned about having their leave restored or receiving lump sum payments for restored leave at retirement can now be assured that OPM has made a clear interpretation of Section 1111 of the NDAA bill. Restoration of forfeited carryover leave should be processed as scheduled with no adverse effects to county office employees.
The NASCOE Distinguished Service Awards and Scholarship deadline is approaching on January 15, 2021 at 11:59 pm Eastern Time. The Awards and Scholarship Committee would like to encourage you to get your submissions in today!
The Distinguished Service Award is designed to recognize your fellow NASCOE members for their hard work in the Community, in FSA/Ag or for NASCOE. Even if the nomination is not selected to be an area or national winner, it is still an honor to be recognized by a fellow member. After deadlines, Ad Hoc programs, and new producers in 2020, fellow FSA collogues could all use a boost in recognition for their hard work.
Do you, your spouse, child or grandchild have plans on attending post-secondary education this coming fall? The NASCOE scholarship program is designed to assist members and their families attend college. There are six different categories for applicants and awards at both the area and national level. Also, check with your state association. Many state associations use the NASCOE scholarship application for state scholarships.
County Committee (COC) ballot counting is behind us, but organizational meetings are upon us. As you have your organizational meeting this month, it is a good time to talk about the National Association of Farmer Elected Committees (NAFEC).
Since 1965, NAFEC and NASCOE have jointly worked to support the COC system of government. NAFEC officers and directors from all across the U.S. regularly visit and work with NASCOE’s leaders on issues and concerns that require working with FSA Management at the state and national level. Working on behalf of FSA COC’s and FSA County Office Employees, NAFEC and NASCOE can jointly accomplish more, for the benefit of agriculture.
Strong membership is one way to ensure goals are met. As your office has their organizational meeting, we urge you to put NAFEC on your agenda. Inform your COC about the association out there that can be a powerful ally. With NAFEC on their side, your COC is protected, reinforced, and strengthened.
Today you are receiving a NAFEC membership packet and a fact sheet with more specific information concerning NAFEC and the COC system. NAFEC believes in our COC system of government and is committed to keeping it strong, useful, powerful, and meaningful. We encourage you to make it a point to include NAFEC on your January COC meeting agenda. If you have any questions, please reach out to Morgan Limmer, County Office Advocacy Chairperson at
MorganLimmerNational County Office Advocacy ChairINTERNET
As part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress passed legislation that will allow Federal Employees to carryover an additional 25% of their annual leave into year 2021. President Trump recently vetoed the Legislation; however, the House and Senate are expected to override the veto making this year’s NDAA bill public law.
NASCOE is hearing that some State Offices are indicating the NDAA may have an unintended negative effect on employees who have accumulated “restored” annual leave, particularly those who plan to retire in 2021.
NASCOE has consulted legal counsel and contacted various Executive and Legislative branch officials about the legislation’s effect on FSA employees. We believe Congress did not intend that this provision would negatively impact our County Office employees carrying over “restored leave” and should not lead our members toward early retirement. We believe the intent of the Legislative branch is to allow “non-essential” employees, who did not have restored leave, the ability to carryover an additional 25 percent of annual leave for use during 2021.
Even though we believe the language will not affect county office employees with restored leave who were deemed essential, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will have the sole responsibility of interpreting the intent of this new law and how it is applied to Federal employees. At this point we do not anticipate any scenario where OPM will nullify any earned leave that was “restored” due to an exigency of public business.
We will update membership with any subsequent Department or OPM guidance.
Last night, President Trump signed the annual appropriations and COVID relief stimulus package. The signing of this measure provides a full year spending allocation for government agencies and averts any further shutdown concerns. We highlighted key aspects of the USDA budget in our December 22nd News Flash.
The COVID Relief Bill also makes available significant additional funding for farmers as referenced in our December 21st News Flash. Farm Bureau has recently released their assessment of forthcoming programs. If you wish to read their analysis please click here. Note: while some groups are offering their interpretation of provisions, FSA will release final rules and regulations for the programs in the near future.
Clint Bain and Neil Burnette, NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs December 23, 2020
As part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress passed legislation that will allow Federal Employees to carryover an additional 25% of their annual leave into year 2021. While this sounds like a great benefit for Federal Employees, NASCOE is hearing that it may have an unintended negative effect on County Office employees who plan of retiring in 2021 and have accumulated “restored” annual leave. The language in the bill states the extra leave (60 hours) will not be included in lump sum payments that federal employees receive when they leave federal service.
NASCOE has been working over the past week to research the following concerns on behalf of the membership:
Does this language exclude prior leave restored in previous years from being paid out? For example, in August of 2020, OPM allowed employees in Federal agencies to carry over leave due to carrying out COVID-19 relief in their respective agencies. The FSA Administrator subsequently restored excess leave for all County Office employees who assisted with COVID-19 relief.
NASCOE reads the language provided in the NDAA to be separate from any other provisions which allowed prior leave to be carried over into the new year due to COVID-19 relief efforts. Is this interpretation accurate?
Currently, USDA states that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will have the sole responsibility of interpreting the intent of this new law and how it is applied to Federal employees. We realize that immediate retirement decisions may hinge on how this legislation will ultimately be implemented. We also know that some State Offices are notifying employees this new provision may make any previously restored annual leave ineligible for a lump-sum payment upon retirement. It is our hope to find out more information regarding the intent of the legislation, and pass this along to you as soon as possible.
Last night, Congress passed the COVID-19 Relief and Omnibus Spending package as anticipated. They also passed a one-week Continuing Resolution through December 28th to allow time for procedural requirements to take place and obtain the President’s signature on the measure. The Omnibus budget provides federal civilian employees a 1% across the board pay raise. The bill also provides language that extends the deadline to repay deferred payroll taxes to the end of 2021 instead of next April.
The following bullet points highlight the Agricultural Appropriations funding affecting FSA employees:
Funding for FSA salaries and expenses increased by $22,824,000 over the 2020 enacted budget;
Funding for the Business Center increased by $11,774,000 over the 2020 enacted level;
There was $15,000,000 earmarked for the hiring of new employees to fill vacancies and anticipated vacancies at county offices;
Funds made available to county committees shall remain available until expended;
Funding for Dairy Indemnity Program payments shall remail available until expended;
The final bill continues previous law provisions related to both the relocation of county-based employees and county office closures.
NASCOE is proud to offer its membership awards in the form of education scholarships and recognition for service to others. Receiving a scholarship or recognition for selfless dedication to causes can be both encouraging and rewarding. Those who are eligible or know someone who is eligible for awards and scholarships should investigate what NASCOE has to offer.
NASCOE’s Scholarship Program is available to NASCOE members, spouses of members, children of members and grandchildren of members. There are several scholarship categories including: traditional scholarship, continuing education scholarships, grandchildren scholarship and associate member scholarship. Scholarships are awarded at the Area and National levels. Some state associations also have scholarship programs. Please contact your state association leadership for more information.
NASCOE members can nominate other members for Distinguished Service Awards (DSA’s) using the NASCOE application online. Members can be recognized at the State, Area and National levels based on the nomination. The Awards categories are: Service to NASCOE, Service to FSA-Agriculture and Service to Community.
For both Distinguished Service Awards & Scholarships, instructions for completing the online application process can be found at https://nascoe.org/awards-scholarships/. Before applying, applicants should read the “Awards and Scholarship Handbook”. This handbook contains specific details about scholarship eligibility and dollar amounts awarded.
The applications are completely online. Members have the option of starting the application and saving it to work on at a later date by using the save button on the bottom of the application. Distinguished Service Awards nominations and Scholarships are due on January 15, 2021.
The Awards and Scholarship Committee has created new fact sheets, where members can go for quick questions and to find contact information. Please navigate to https://nascoe.org/awards-scholarships/ for the fact sheets. Any questions can be submitted through the National Chair, .
The House of Representatives and US Senate announced agreement to provide additional COVID-19 assistance and the fiscal year 2021 appropriations measures. We expect one additional continuing resolution providing the time needed to send these bills to the President’s desk. We do not expect a government shutdown.
The COVID-19 assistance details are posted below for your review. We will send a second update outlining the annual funding levels provided through the appropriations bill.
Covid-19 Agriculture Assistance – $13 billion total
$11.1875 billion for agriculture producers, growers, and processors
Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments for the 2020 crop year – option for 2018 and 2019 sales – (cattle included)
Up to $1 billion for livestock and poultry contract growers
$20 million to improve and maintain animal disease prevention and response capacity
May extend the term of a marketing assistance loan
No less than $1.5 billion to purchase food and agricultural products, including seafood
Up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and hauling businesses
May make payments to producers of advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, conventional biofuel, or renewable fuels with market losses due to COVID-19
May make recourse loans available to dairy product processors, packagers, or merchandisers
$100 million to support the Farm Bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
$100 million for the Farm Bill’s Local Agriculture Market Program
$75 million for the Farm Bill’s Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program
$400 million to pay for milk to be processed into dairy products and donated to non-profit entities (food banks, feeding programs, etc.)
Establishes a Federal livestock dealer trust to ensure that livestock producers are paid for their animals
$60 million to make facility upgrade and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to Federal inspection
$28 million to be distributed as block grants to state departments of agriculture for use to support existing farm stress programs
*Additional funds were provided to domestic nutrition programs.
Over the last few months, NASCOE has received a substantial amount of feedback in reference to the length of time it takes new hire background checks to be completed by USDA. Many office managers are concerned that new hire temps will not receive their background check before their “Not to Exceed” comes and goes.
The backlog of background checks stems from two sources: Re-assignment of background check duties to the newly created Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center and FSA’s hiring of more permanent and temporary employees.
Once a background check is initiated by a state office, the check is routed to the FPAC Business Center Homeland Security Division (HSD). After cases are submitted to HSD, they are monitored by way of a new process which was implemented in October of this year. This process involves tracking the new employee through the entire background check process. The desired outcome is increased visibility of the background check by stakeholders as it travels through the process between FSA and the Business Center.
Both FSA and the FPAC Business Center are optimistic about the new tracking process. Tracking of the background checks allows FSA state offices and Washington DC staff to see:
When the background check request was submitted
When the prospective employee receives their email security survey (e-QIP Survey)
When the e-QIP survey is received back at HSD
When the Security Initial Determination (SID) is made.
By now state offices should be familiar with this new tracking process. It is likely that your state office Administrative Division is keeping a running record of when checks are submitted to the HSD and they are following up if there are apparent delays. State offices can tell if cases are moving forward, or if they are stalled. When following up, state offices can contact the FSA national office and alert them to a delayed background check. Follow-up is usually initiated if county offices and state offices don’t have results within three weeks.
If the background check is delayed, the county office may follow up to see where the process is stalled. County offices should:
Contact your state offices through normal channels and inquire about the status of the background check
Contact NASCOE by way of your state association if no response is received of the state office and NASCOE can follow-up
As of today, timeframes are improving since implementation of the system in early October. It is expected that timeframes will improve even more in the next few months. State offices and WDC staff are actively looking for delayed background checks and following up with HSD. The personnel at HSD have been responsive to concerns as they are brought to their attention. In cases where county offices have concerns, they can prompt their state office for additional information or reach out to NASCOE for additional assistance. As we move forward, NASCOE intends to continue to monitor the progress of the project and ensure that it moves in a positive direction. The ultimate goal is to continue reducing timeframes for background checks to be completed.