The Convention Cash Club Contest is now Open!

May 18, 2021

The NASCOE Publicity Committee announces that the NASCOE Convention Cash Club Contest is now taking entries through June 15, 2021.

NASCOE members in good standing who have never attended a NASCOE National Convention are invited to enter the contest.  Applicants will submit a one-page essay of 500 words or less discussing the following topic:

“This year’s NASCOE convention theme is: Have a Ball in Indiana.  How is NASCOE like a baseball team and
what position do you play on that team?”
 


A maximum of five stipends of $500 each will be awarded.  One winner will be chosen from each NASCOE Area.  Winners must attend the 2021 NASCOE Convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana and be present for all general sessions and the awards banquet.  Failure to meet the attendance requirement will result in forfeiture of the stipend.

Please visit the NASCOE Convention Cash Club Contest page for full contest details and information on how to enter.

Thank you,
Teresa Holmquist
NASCOE Publicity Chair / Webmaster

Candidacy Announcement Reminder

NASCOE Secretary, Richard Csutoras reminds members that NASCOE will post to the NASCOE Website announcements of persons desiring to run for any NASCOE office. In order to be published on the NASCOE website, announcements must be received by the Secretary no later than May 15.

All announcements will be posted at the same time as soon after June 1 as practical. In no way is this to be construed that announcements must be publicized in this manner as candidates may, if they so desire, initiate their own mailing.

Please transmit any Candidacy Announcements to NASCOE Secretary, Richard Csutoras at . Announcements must be received no later than May 15, 2021.

If no announcement for an Officer, Area Executive or Alternate Area Executive is received by May 15, a statement will be placed on the NASCOE Website that no candidates have announced at this time for the respective position(s).

Neither the NASCOE newsletter nor area bulletins are to be used for announcements of candidates. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that the announcement has been correctly posted.

FSA National Office Work Details Available

The National Office has two, that’s right TWO work details open to FSA employees.  The first detail is to assist with DAFP and closes on April 7, 2021.  The second detail is to assist with the Conservation Division and closes on April 9, 2021.  NASCOE realizes the abundance of talent FSA employees have across the country and wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to apply.  If you or a co-worker are interested in applying, this is a great way to be a part of our agency at a national level.


Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs (DAFP) Detail

Duties:
Seeking current FSA CO or GS employee with strong FSA program knowledge and experience to assist the Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs (DAFP) with new and existing program implementation and policy.  (Two positions available).

Timeframe:
8-week detail starting in mid-April 2021.

Location:
Remote, with potential for travel to Washington DC (travel is optional).

Response Date:
COB April 7, 2021 (include brief overview about yourself and your work experience at FSA).

Contacts: Please send requested information/responses and/or questions to: and

Summary:  Selected individuals will work from their current location and can split their time between their current duties and this temporary assignment.  They may be able to work in Washington DC for a two-week period, but travel is not required.  They will assist DAFP to implement existing and new programs.  Applicants must obtain approval/written concurrence from their supervisor(s), before applying.  Applicants should respond by COB April 7th 2021 and include a few bullets about themselves.  Include information about FSA work experience.  It is anticipated the assignment will start in mid-April and last 8 weeks.  Both CO and GS employees are encouraged to apply.


Conservation Division Detail

Duties: The FSA Conservation Division is seeking up to 3 individuals to serve as Agricultural Program Specialists to assist the Program Managers of the Conservation Division.  Tasks may include, but are not limited to:

  • Reviewing and editing FSA State Office amendments to Handbook 2-CRP regarding specific CREP Agreements.
  • Reviewing and editing FSA State Office amendments to Handbook 2-CRP regarding specific SAFE projects.
  • Reviewing and recommending edits to Handbooks (2-CRP, 1-ECP, and 1-EFRP).
  • Develop a method to identify and track approved management activities.
  • Assist in developing a new CRP emergency haying and grazing tracking system.
  • Assist in automating the CRP haying and grazing provision in CCMS.
  • Assist in responding to requests from FSA State Offices.
  • Assist in the development of briefing materials, notices, and training materials.

Qualifications:

  • GS-9 or higher.
  • Working knowledge of the FSA Conservation Programs.
  • Experience writing clear, informative documents.
  • Ability to communicate and work collaboratively.
  • Open to all FPAC employees.

Timeframe:
Detail assignment will be for up to 120-days, beginning on or about April 12, 2021.

Location:
Duties will be completed mainly from the employee’s current duty station with potential for 1-3 weeks in Washington, D.C. National Headquarters or Kansas City, as needed.  Travel duration and timing will be determined with the individuals upon selection.

Response Date:
Apply to this detail by close of business April 9, 2021, by submitting your resume including specific relevant experience (not more than 2 pages), and a short cover letter stating your interest in this detail.

Contact:
Please send requested information and/or questions to: Dana Ashford-Kornburger at

Summary:

Apply to this detail by close of business April 9, 2021, by submitting your resume including specific relevant experience (not more than 2 pages), and a short cover letter stating your interest in this detail.  Written approval from your immediate supervisor and/or concurrence from the State Executive Director/State Conservationist/Senior Supervisor must also be included.  All documentation and questions should be submitted directly to Dana Ashford-Kornburger at

Legislative Committee Update – March 29, 2021

By Clint Bain and Neil Burnette

We hope this legislative update finds you all well.  With COVID-19 continuing to impact our work environment, we are doing our best to serve NASCOE members and production agriculture.  Recently, the Department of Agriculture announced our offices would be operating under limited capacity.  We continue to urge our leadership to make decisions regarding office status based on data in the local area as opposed to government wide mandates.  It is our belief that the new team leading USDA understands the importance of allowing our county offices to operate and service our customers.

In addition to COVID office concerns, we have heard about various states lowering annual employee ceilings.  Despite FSA receiving a budget increase this year, some state offices have cited “budget cuts” as the reason for lowering the total number of county office employees NASCOE leadership is working to better understand the budget challenges our agency faces for the current fiscal year. FSA employees continually respond to every challenge as they do their part to support American farmers.  Over the past two years, county office employees have worked tirelessly implementing trade adjustment and COVID relief payments.      

The chart below provides details about recent FSA spending levels. These funding levels can be found in the annual Agriculture Appropriations report.  The funding chart appears as the Comparative Statement of Budget Authority (CSBA).   

FPAC Business Center (including transfers)FSA Salaries and Expenses (including transfers)
FY 2021 = $291,960,000FY 2021 = $1,437,038,000
FY 2020 = $280,186,000FY 2020 = $1, 414,214,000
FY 2019 = $292,659,000FY 2019 = $1,375,177,000

NASCOE has been diligent showing members of Congress the need to provide funding increases year after year.  To assist Congress with preparing this year’s budget, NASCOE visited with the House Agriculture Chairman and spoke about staffing concerns before the House Agriculture Sub-Committee on Nutrition and Forestry. 

Please keep us updated should you hear about employee ceilings in your state being lowered based on funding reductions.  NASCOE leadership shares the frustration and concerns of those states that had a reduction in staffing.  We will continue to work with the new administration and use every avenue available to seek resolution to these issues.

American Rescue Plan Act

NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs
Clint Bain and Neil Burnette
March 10, 2021

The House approved the $1.9 trillion COVID Relief Bill which is now headed to President Biden for signature. The following provisions are a few of the items contained in the bill:

AGRICULTURE The measure would appropriate $4 billion to the Agriculture Department to purchase and distribute food and agricultural commodities, including seafood, and to make grants and loans to small and midsized food processors and distributors.  

The package also would appropriate such sums as may be necessary for loan modifications and payments to farmers and ranchers who are members of groups that have been socially disadvantaged in Agriculture Department programs. The department could pay as much as 120% of each such farmer or rancher’s debt on loans it made or guaranteed.

It would provide $1.01 billion for grants and loans to improve land access for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, as well as scholarships, outreach, financial training, and other technical assistance. A portion of this funding will support the activities of one or more equity commissions that will address racial equality issues within the Department of Agriculture and its programs.

FEDERAL EMPLOYEE LEAVE – The measure would provide $570 million for an Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund to be administered by the Office of Personnel Management. The funds could be used to reimburse federal agencies for emergency leave taken by civilian employees and postal workers which include the following purposes: employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis, obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine, subject to quarantine orders, or looking after children participating in virtual learning classes.

Paid leave could not exceed 600 hours per employee or $2,800 for a biweekly pay period, and it would have to be used by Sept. 30, 2021. Any leave provided to an employee would reduce the total service used to calculate retirement benefits.

TAX PROVISIONS – The bill provides another round of direct payments of as much as $1,400 for an individual, $2,800 for joint filers, and $1,400 for each qualifying dependent. The payments would begin to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 and would be zero for AGIs of $80,000 or more. Those amounts would be doubled for joint filers. Payments would be based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns.

NOT INCLUDED – Senate Democrats did not include the House passed $15 an hour minimum wage provision.

NASCOE President’s Message on USDA Facility Staffing

As you may know, FPAC has issued updated guidance regarding COVID-19 staffing at all USDA facilities. The guidance calls for staffing in facilities at 25% of normal employee presence.  Understandably, NASCOE has received significant feedback from our membership on how this new guidance will impact our ability to meet customer demand. NASCOE has contacted USDA leadership about our concerns.  As with previous COVID-19 decisions, we have learned this will likely be implemented across the entire federal government.

The safety of our members will always be NASCOE’s number one priority.  Recent safety measures and office protocols implemented by county office employees has contributed to decreased COVID-19 cases. We believe county office decisions regarding safe staffing levels should be made locally based on sound science and established criteria.

Please know that our work with USDA is focused on identifying any opportunity to keep our offices staffed with appropriate safety measures, which will allow our employees to service production agriculture.  In the meanwhile, NASCOE is working to resolve concerns about deficient supplies of laptops and low internet access available for telework.  The support and feedback you provide to NASCOE during this challenging time is greatly appreciated.

County Committees are Mission Critical

As we begin 2021, we continue to be faced with unprecedented times, which often make our job in the county office more difficult.  We have been challenged to find new, innovative ways to reach our producers, carry out and meet program deadlines, as well as conduct COC meetings, in a safe and healthy manner. 

COC meetings are considered mission critical and should continue to be conducted according to COVID-19 protocol either remotely or where feasible, in service centers or other suitable locations where proper social distancing can be achieved.  As a reminder, according to 16-AO (Rev.3) paragraph 176 E, more than one-half of the members or alternates serving for them are required as a quorum to conduct official committee business.  When official business is being conducted, COC members must be paid according to 27-PM.  This requirement encompasses all types of meetings including in-person, teleconference or virtual.

When elected, COC members are given authority to carry out certain statutory and regulatory functions and responsibilities.  The National Association of Farmer Elected Committees (NAFEC) has worked to compile various COC functions and responsibilities from federal statutes, federal regulations, and FSA handbooks in one document.  A link to the compilation is located below.  We encourage you to access this document for your reference and review. 

NAFEC is an employee association for current and past COC and STC members.  NAFEC’s mission is similar to the mission of NASCOE.  Anyone who wants to support NAFEC can join as an associate member.  More information about NAFEC can be found at https://www.nafecfsa.com/

The NASCOE County Office Advocacy Committee works with NAFEC to protect, enhance, and provide continual education for the farmer-elected committee and county office system for the betterment of NASCOE’s membership, county office FSA employees, and the agricultural communities we serve.  If you have any questions, please reach out to Morgan Limmer, County Office Advocacy Chairperson at .

NASCOE Benefits Update – Complimentary Retirement Analysis

Dear NASCOE Members,

The unavailability of the retirement calculator for retirees has left a backlog of employees needing retirement benefits calculated and analyzed.  The NASCOE benefits provider is helping by offering the same calculation services to our members with their software.  This is a complimentary service for NASCOE members, so please reach out to them to obtain a calculation and analysis of your retirement benefits.  You can call 1-800-692-7643 or email them at .

New NASCOE Member Benefit: ABCmouse and Adventure Academy

In our continued efforts to provide valuable benefits, we have partnered with Age of Learning to provide their flagship programs, ABCmouse and Adventure Academy to our membership.

During these trying times with COVID and remote learning, ABCMouse and
Adventure Academy is a great way to supplement your children’s education. Members will receive a 74% discount for both programs on the full monthly price for the first two months. After that, the price is just $9.95/month for ABC Mouse and $9.99/month for Adventure Academy until cancelled.

Please visit https://nascoe.org/benefits/ for more information about this benefit and how to sign up.

NDAA Carryover Leave Provision Update/Conclusion

Clint Bain and Neil Burnette
January 14, 2021

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 limitsHigher 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 usageMust be used during leave year 2021Varies, but at least 2 years. (See 5 CFR 630.306- 630.310.)
Inclusion in lump-sum annual leave payment upon separationMay not be included.Is included.
Limitation on amountLeave 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.