NASCOE News Flash: Shutdown Update from President Dennis Ray

NASCOE President Dennis RayAs you are all aware by now, Congress has failed to pass a budget or continuing resolution and federal funding has lapsed. While we are hopeful that this can be resolved sooner rather than later, at this point we are not certain how long the shutdown may last. The NASCOE political consultant has been closely monitoring the situation and providing updates as they became available. Congress is expected to resume negotiations today in an attempt to reach agreement.

If the funding lapse continues we know that we will go into work Monday morning to begin the shutdown process. Employees will also have to finish loading time and attendance if they couldn’t complete it prior to Web-TA crashing. Employees can also load their time and attendance from home using their eAuth login and personal computer. According to the FAQ’s provided in the OSEC email received late yesterday afternoon, PP 1 direct deposits are scheduled to be processed as normal.

Secretary Perdue tweeted the following information earlier today.

As new information becomes available, NASCOE will be using various communications methods to inform membership. These include the NASCOE national database, updates to the NASCOE webpage and normal email distribution through the NASCOE Area Execs to State Association Presidents.

NASCOE established its database several year ago to be able communicate with membership in times such as these. If you provided your email address at that time and it has not changed you should be receiving database updates already and do not need to sign up now. If you did not enroll in the database at that time you can go to this link and enroll now. Please share this link with our co- workers.

Members can also receive email updates any time the NASCOE webpage is updated by subscribing to the follow button. It is located on the home page at https://nascoe.org/ and only requires providing your email address and clicking on the follow button. Additionally, we will use our normal email distribution lists. If you are not currently receiving information by one of these various methods, I would encourage you to begin now.

Hopefully the Congress will find a way to agree on funding the government before it drags out too long. In the mean time we will keep monitoring the situation and provide any information we can.

Sincerely,

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

CR Update: January 16, 2018

Below is an update from Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant.

Donny Green & Jackson Jones
NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs


The House has introduced the attached continuing resolution funding the government through February 16. The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3:00 p.m. 

Lifted from House Appropriations Committee:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen today introduced legislation (H.J.Res 125) to maintain current funding for federal operations and prevent a government shutdown. The Continuing Resolution (CR) is a stop-gap measure that will extend government funding through February 16, 2018. In absence of this legislation, existing funding would run out on January 19, 2018.
 
In addition to continuing government funding, the bill includes language to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, a provision that allows the Department of Defense to provide funding for “Missile Defeat and Defense Enhancements” activities, and extensions of several health care related tax provisions.

HR195

Secretary Perdue Announces State Committee Appointments 

Washington, D.C., January 4, 2018 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a slate of Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Committee Appointees. State committees are selected by the Secretary, serve at the pleasure of the Secretary, and are responsible for carrying out FSA’s farm programs within delegated authorities.

“The State Committees will help to ensure USDA is providing our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agricultural producers with the best customer service,” Secretary Perdue said. “They serve as a liaison between USDA and the producers in each state across the nation by keeping them informed and hearing their appeals and complaints. The committees are made up mostly of active farmers and ranchers, representing their peers and ensuring USDA’s programs are supporting the American harvest.”

The following is a list of State Committees released today:

Alabama

Committee Chair Monica Carroll – Ozark

Andy Lavender – Brundidge

Rodney Moon – Harvest

Steve Penry – Daphne

Doug Trantham – Alexandria

Alaska

Committee Chair Scott Mugrage – Delta Junction

Joe Orsi – Juneau

Richelle Plummer – Matanuska Valley

Al Poindexter – Kenai Peninsula

Arizona

Committee Chair Pamela Griffin – Globe

Andy Grosetta – Prescott

Steven Killian – Phoenix

David Lamoreaux – Gilbert

Lyndon Smith – Gilbert

Arkansas

Committee Chair Ron Chastain – Faulkner County

Gary Churchill – Pope County

Sarah Dunklin – Desha County

Nathan Reed – Lee County

Vivien Wright – Sevier County

California

Committee Chair Greg Wegis – Buttonwillow/Bakersfield

Blake Alexandre – Crescent City

Thomas J. Butler – Woodland

Joe Egan – Susanville

Colorado

Committee Chair Jo Stanko – Steamboat

Glenn Hirakata – Rocky Ford

Robert Mattive – San Luis Valley

Alex Rock – Wray

Nathan Weathers – North Yuma County

Connecticut

Committee Chair Bonnie Burr – Storrs

Melissa Greenbacker-Dziurgot – Middlesex County

Bruce Gresczyk – New Hartford

Diane Karabin – Southington

Mark Sellew – Lebanon

Delaware

Committee Chair Richard Bergold – Dover

Jay Baxter – Georgetown

Donnie Collins – Millsboro

Lori Ockels – Milton

Florida

Committee Chair Michelle Williamson – Dover

Mike Adams – Jennings

Mack Glass – Marianna

Mark Sodders – North Palm Beach

Georgia

Committee Chair Allen Poole – Haralson County

L.G. (Bo) Herndon, Jr. – Vidalia

Meredith McNair Rogers – Camilla

Donnie Smith – Willacoochee

Hawaii

Committee Chair Teena Marie Rasmussen – Kula

Wilson Kenzo Koike – Waianae

Glenn Martinez – Waimanalo

Boyd J. Ready – Haleiwa

Simon Russel – Makawao

Idaho

Committee Chair Mike Guerry – Castleford

Joe Anderson – Potlach

Kaitlin Davis – Cascade

Matt Gellings – Idaho Falls

Randy Hardy – Oakley

Illinois

Committee Chair Jim Reed – DeLand

Martin R. Barbre – Carmi

Melanie DeSutter – Woodhull

Ron Moore – Roseville

Troy Uphoff – Findlay

Indiana

Committee Chair Ken Rulon – Arcadia

Kim Ames – Fillmore

Bill Gelfius – Hartsville

Clint Orr – Forest

Kirk Perkins – Wolcottville

Iowa

Committee Chair Ray Gaesser – Corning

Nathan Anderson – Cherokee

Laura Cunningham – Nora Springs

Jim Stillman – Palo Alto

Pat Swanson – Ottumwa

Kansas

Committee Chair Garrett Love – Gray County

Lexy Goyer – Cowley County

Nick Gutterman – Miami/Johnson County

Michael Jordan – Mitchell County

Greg McCurry – Sedgwick County

Kentucky

Committee Chair Sharon Furches – Calloway County

Tom Flowers – Shelby County

Kenny Imel – Greenup County

Brenda Paul – Paris

Bart Peters – Cadiz

Louisiana

Committee Chair Ray Young – Wisner

Julie Baker-Richard – Abbeville

John Earles, II – Bunkie

Emery Jones – Natchez

Donna Winters – Lake Providence

Maine

Committee Chair Sue McCrum – Belfast

Gregg Garrison – Blaine

Heath Miller – Newburgh

Nancy Ricker – Turner

David Tuttle – North Berwick

Maryland

Committee Chair Jenny Rhodes – Centerville

Steve Ernst – Washington County

Steve Isaacson – Cecil County

Pat Langenfelder – Kennedyville

Massachusetts

Committee Chair Bradford N. Morse – Rochester

James J. Larkin – Sheffield

Matthew J. Parsons – Hadley

Michigan

Committee Chair Sally McConnachie – Deckerville

Blaine Baker – Clayton

Ben Lacross – Lake Leelanau

Matt Schwab – Standish

Isaiah Wunsch – Traverse City

Minnesota

Committee Chair Scott Winslow – Fountain

Kurt Blomgren – Butterfield

Jay Nord – Wolverton

Mike Yost – Murdock

Karolyn Zurn – Callaway

Mississippi

Committee Chair Ted Kendall IV – Bolton

Scott Flowers – Clarksdale

Bobby Moody – Louisville

Henry Reed – Belzoni

Rita Seward – Jackson County

Missouri

Committee Chair Julie Hurst – Atchison

Marc Allison – Dade

Cindy Schroeder – Saline

Will Spargo – Ripley

Barbara Wilson – Audrain

Montana

Committee Chair Carl Mattson – Chester

Joe Dooling – Helena

Chaley Harney – Billings

Bruce Tutvedt – Kalispell

Nebraska

Committee Chair Scott Spilker – Beatrice

Cindi Allen – Ogallala

Mark Jagels – Davenport

Hilary Maricle – Boone County

Geoff Ruth – Rising City

New Hampshire

Committee Chair Kathy Sherman – Conway

Gary LeClair – Claremont

Madison Lowell Hardy – Hollis

Scott Mason – North Stratford

Kirk Scamman – Stratham

New Jersey

Committee Chair Linda DuBois – Pittsgrove

Kurt Alstede – Chester

Sam Conard – Hillsborough

Jim Etsch – Middlesex

New Mexico

Committee Chair Alisa Ogden – Carlsbad

Dustin K. Johnson – Farmington

Matthew L. Lansford – Clovis

John M. Romero – Laguna

New York

Committee Chair Judi Whittaker – Broome County

Michael Bittel – Greenwich

Lawrence Eckhardt – Rensselaer County

Theodore Furber – Wayne County

Barbara Hanselman – Delaware County

North Carolina

Committee Chair Alice Scott – Lucama

Jeffery Lee – Benson

Nathan Ramsey – Fairview

Richard Renegar – Harmony

Jeff Tyson – Nashville

North Dakota

Committee Chair Jim Hauge – Mandan

Jared Hagert – Emerado

Erika Kenner – Leeds

Edward Kessel – Dickinson

Barton Schott – Kulm

Ohio

Committee Chair Trish Levering – Knox County

Ronnie Clifton – Pickaway County

Kim Davis – Carroll County

Daryl Knipp – Sandusky County

Joe Steiner – Warren County

Oklahoma

Committee Chair Gary Crawley – McCallister

Sarah Dorsey – Bixby

Karen Eifert Jones – Stillwater/Waukomis

Don Allen Parson – McCurtain County

Oregon

Committee Chair Anna Sullivan – Baker County

Sam Asai – Hood River

TJ Hansell – Hermiston

John Phillip (Phil) Hassinger – Cove

Pennsylvania

Committee Chair Bonnie Wenger – Lebanon

George Greig – Linesville

Doug Graybill – Granville Summit

Bill Hoover – Tyrone

Rhode Island

Committee Chair Doreen Pezza – Providence County

Judy Carvalho – Newport County

Christopher Jaswell – Providence County

Ellen Pucetti – Providence County

South Carolina

Committee Chair Tony Grant – Columbia

Bob Battle – Mullins

Bill Surratt – Spartanburg/Gaffney

Landy Weathers – Bowman

Beth White – York

South Dakota

Committee Chair Mark Gross – Bridgewater

Gwen Kitzen – Belle Fourche

Tiffani Robertson – Hermosa

Bill Simonsen – Roslyn

Tennessee

Committee Chair Steve Officer – Dekalb County

Daryl Brown – Maury County

Charlotte Kelly – Tipton County

Renea Jones Rogers – Unicoi County

Texas

Committee Chair Jerry Harris – Dawson/Gaines County

Juan Garcia – Willacy County

Rodney Schronk – Hillsboro

Michael Skalicky – Ganado

Linda G. Williams – Dumas

Utah

Committee Chair William Tolbert – Piute County

Scott Mower – Sanpete County

Randy Sessions – Morgan County

Mike Yardley – Beaver County

Vermont

Committee Chair Sally Goodrich – Cabot

Jacques Couture – Westfield

Heidi Dolloff – Springfield

Joe Tisbert – Cambridge

Virginia

Committee Chair Brian K. Harris – Heathsville

Gary D. Cross – Zuni

Matthew J. Lohr – Broadway

Charles P. Shorter – Blacksburg

Steve Sturgis – Eastville

Washington

Committee Chair Melanie Wyss – Okanagan County

Maureen Harkcom – Lewis County

Jesus Limon – Grandview

Robyn Meenach – Spokane County

Bruce Nelson – Spokane County

West Virginia

Committee Chair Andrea Lambert – Taylor County

Lois Alt – Hardy County

Russell Linger Jr. – Huttonsville

Rocky Peck – Wood County

Sarah Wayne – Braxton County

Wisconsin

Committee Chair Lisa Condon – Horicon

Thomas Gillis – River Falls

David Heideman – Clintonville

Anthony Kurtz – Wonewoc

Tom McClellan – Delavan

Wyoming

Committee Chair Nancy Tarver – Gillette

Julie Hahn – Rawlins

David Slover – Worland

Puerto Rico

Committee Chair Carmen Rullan – Adjuntas

Duahmed Colon – Gurabo

Yanice Deynes – San Sebastian

Rebeca Feliciano – Aibonito

State committees are appointed for a one year term which began on January 1, 2018. Each state committee has five members, one chairperson and four members. States that are not listed here or that have incomplete lists will be announced at a later date.
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https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2018/01/04/perdue-announces-farm-service-agency-state-committee-appointees

Update on Continuing Resolution and Budget Process

Budget handwritten with blue lettering and underlined. Hand shown underlining the word
Good morning – With the current continuing resolution (CR) expiring on December 8, we want to share some information about federal spending bills and how Congress may fund the government. At this point, we don’t expect any government shutdown.
Hunter Moorhead
NASCOE Legislative Consultant


APPROPRIATIONS:
After the reconciliation process on tax reform is concluded, the Congress will turn to completing legislative action on funding the government for FY 2018 and other must pass items. The Senate Appropriations Committee has reported 8 of the FY 2018 appropriations bills from full committee and “posted” the remaining four unreported bills and reports (DoD, Financial Services, Homeland Security, and Interior). Those bills and reports can be viewed at:

DoD:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-defense-appropriations-bill-released ;

Financial Services:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-financial-services-and-general-government-appropriations-bill-released ;

Homeland Security:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-homeland-security-appropriations-bill-released

Interior:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-interior-environment-appropriations-bill-released .

This release of the Senate Appropriations Committee recommendations for the remaining FY 2018 bills sets the stage for conference activities between the House and the Senate on an omnibus appropriations spending measure once a “top line” spending level is agreed to between House and Senate leadership. Observers expect the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will need about three weeks to work out the differences between the 12 appropriations bills and assemble them into an omnibus appropriations bill.

Currently, under the existing continuing resolution, the government is funded through December 8, and an additional CR is expected to be necessary to fund the government beyond December 8 while the appropriations bills and other must pass legislation is finalized. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has suggested a CR until the end of the year may be necessary to complete the Congress’s legislative agenda and others have suggested CRs through December 22nd and through January 15 (2018). The longer the tax reform/relief process takes, the more likely continuing resolutions extending into 2018 become.

Spending levels for Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary continue to be the topic of speculation, with a two year spending adjustment to the Budget Control Act (BCA) of between $182b ($57b DoD, $34b NDD) and $224b ($70b DoD, $42b NDD). Expect the Budget Control Act adjustment to be on the lower side of the range being discussed. After the top line levels are agreed upon by leadership, the Appropriations committees will provide subcommittee allocations for the 12 individual bills to be negoatiated between the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairs and professional staff.

3rd EMERGENCY DISASTER RELIEF SUPPLEMENTAL:
On the 18th of November, the White House submitted the third emergency supplemental request for hurricane (Harvey, Irma, Maria) disaster recovery efforts. That request can be viewed at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/Letters/fy_2018_hurricanes_supp_111717.pdf

While the request included $44b for FEMA ($23.5b), the Small Business Administration ($1.6b), agricultural assistance ($1b), Education Recovery fund ($1.2b), and miscellany Federal agency recovery costs ($4.6b), the request was notable for what it did not include: any funding for California wildfires relief efforts, incomplete funding for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands hurricane recovery efforts, etc. The Administration acknowledged that further supplemental requests would result from continuing efforts with Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands “to identify, refine and articulate additional emergency funding requirements.” The supplemental is expected to move first through the Senate (on an existing and available appropriations vehicle), grow in size and scope, and move to the House in December. Both House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected, time permitting, to hold oversight hearings on the administration’s request. The 3rd Supplemental may also carry other must pass legislative measures as it moves through the Senate and the House.

Possible other legislative measures rumored to be under consideration for inclusion in a Disaster Relief Supplemental, CR, or Omnibus measure that moves in December:

  1. Budget Control Act cap adjustments;
  2. Extenders (CHIP, Medicare, other);
  3. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fix;
  4. FISA Section 702 Extension;
  5. Debt Limit Increase;
  6. National Flood Insurance Program Authorization (NFIP); and
  7. Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) Stabilization legislation.

NASCOE Legislative Update – Federal Retirement

Below is a legislative update from Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant, with information on the House and Senate actions regarding federal retirement benefits and other budget actions. Please distribute widely to membership:


The US Senate has completed Committee consideration of the 2018 Budget Resolution. I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t include language impacting Federal retirement benefits. The full Senate is expected next week to consider the Committee’s budget resolution.  Following adoption by the full Senate, House and Senate negotiators will conference the two resolutions. At that point, the House will insist on including the retirement cuts and the provision will be negotiated between the two bodies.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

President’s Budget:

On May 23rd, 2017, President Trump announced the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget request. In this request are proposals to make significant changes to the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System. Included in the changes are:

  • Cost-of-living allowances for current and future FERS retirees eliminated.
  • COLAS for CSRS retirees would be reduced by 0.5 percent each year.
  • FERS employees would see employee contributions to their annuities increased by one percent each year for the next six years, without any corresponding benefit increase.
  • The FERS annuity supplement would be eliminated for new retirees starting in 2018.
  • Federal pensions would be based on the average of the highest five years of salary instead of the highest three.

Following the President’s FY 2018 request, the CBO argued that these changes would better align federal practices with those in the private sector through:

  • Basing pensions on five-year average earnings.
  • Many employers not offering health insurance benefits for retirees.
  • Many companies shifting from lifetime annuities to defend contribution plans that require smaller contributions from employers.

However, the CBO also noted that these changes would lessen the attractiveness of the overall compensation package provided by the federal government, potentially affecting the ability to attract and retain a highly-qualified workforce. Additionally, under the President’s proposed changes, positions requiring professional and advanced degrees may become harder to fill, private-sector counterparts already provide a higher compensation to comparable federal government positions.

Under the current budget circumstances and within the current political situation, it will be difficult for the President’s proposed changes to become reality. The President’s budget request is the first step in a long process to actually forming the budget.

House Budget:

On July 19th, 2017, the House Budget Committee approved their FY 2018 Budget 22-14. At this time, the House of Representatives has not yet scheduled floor or full House consideration of their Committee proposal.  However, Speaker Ryan has publicly stated that the House will consider the budget in September.

The House FY 2018 budget instructions dictate that the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to submit changes in laws within its jurisdiction sufficient to reduce the deficit by $32 billion for the period of fiscal years 2018 through 2027. The House FY 2018 budget includes measures affecting changes to federal government retirement practices, including ending the supplement only for future retirees, how much to raise the required contribution, over how long a period, and whether it would apply to all employees, to reach this required $32 billion savings over the next 10 years.

The Budget committee report includes the language, “Reform Civil Service Pensions. The policy describes in the Income Support, Nutrition, and Related Programs section of this report would increase the share of Federal retirement benefits funded by the employee. This policy has the effect of reducing the personnel costs for the employing agency. The budget assumes savings from a reduction in agency appropriations associated with the reduction in payments that agencies make into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund for Federal employee retirement.”

Additionally, the Report includes the following policy statement on the same, “Reform Civil Service Pensions. This budget adopts a policy proposed by former President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. The policy calls for Federal employees, including members of Congress and staff, to make greater contributions toward their own defined benefit retirement plans. It would also end the ‘‘special retirement supplement,’’ which pays Federal employees the equivalent of their Social Security benefit at an earlier age. This would achieve significant savings while recognizing the need for new Federal employees to transition to a defined contribution retirement system. The vast majority of private sector employees participate in defined contribution retirement plans. These plans put the ownership, flexibility, and portfolio risk on the employee as opposed to the employer. Similarly, Federal employees would have more control over their own retirement security under this option. President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget calls for a phased-in increase to contributions federal employees pay into the Federal Employee Retirement System so that both employees and the government are contributing an equal amount.”

And finally, the Report encourages limiting Federal Health Coverage Funding for federal employees. It states, “currently, Federal contributions to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program grow by the average weighted rate of change in these programs. This budget supports restricting the growth in these plans to inflation. It also proposes restricting Federal employees’ retirement benefits based on length of service, which would bring Federal benefits in line with the private sector model.”

Thanks,

Jackson Jones & Donny Green,
NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairpersons

USDA Press Release: Perdue Applauds President Trump’s Selections for Key USDA Posts

(Washington, D.C., September 1, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today applauded President Donald J. Trump’s selection of three individuals for key positions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The president announced Gregory Ibach as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), Bill Northey as Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC), and Stephen Vaden as USDA’s General Counsel.

The Under Secretary for MRP oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Agricultural Marketing Service; and the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration.  The Under Secretary for FPAC oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency.

“I look forward to the confirmations of Greg Ibach, Bill Northey, and Stephen Vaden, and urge the Senate to take up their nominations as quickly as possible,” Perdue said.  “This is especially important given the challenges USDA will face in helping Texans and Louisianans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”

Regarding the individual selections, Perdue issued the following statements:

On Greg Ibach:
“Greg Ibach will bring the experience and vision necessary to serve as a first rate Under Secretary for MRP at USDA.  His exemplary tenure as Nebraska’s Director of Agriculture places him squarely in tune with the needs of American agriculture, particularly the cattle industry.  His proven track record of leadership will make him a great asset to USDA’s customers, the hard working, taxpaying people of U.S. agriculture.”

On Bill Northey:
“Bill Northey will continue his honorable record of public service in leading FPAC.  Having served the people of Iowa for the last ten years as their Secretary of Agriculture, and as a fourth generation corn and soybean farmer, Bill has a unique understanding of issues facing farmers across the nation.  He will be an invaluable member of the team.”

On Stephen Vaden:
“Stephen Vaden has a keen legal mind, as we have already experienced through his work since he joined USDA as part of the beachhead team on day one.  He has a firm grasp of the legal issues facing American agriculture, and very importantly, understands the breadth and complexity of the regulatory burdens placed on our producers.  Our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers will be well served by his counsel.”

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Update on Proposals Regarding Federal Employee Retirement Benefits

The purpose of this memorandum is to review proposals and the current status of federal retirement programs. Our legislative team is working to monitor the proposals and urging Congress to protect the current system. The below includes proposals released by both the President and the House of Representatives. The Senate Budget Committee has not yet released their proposal.

President’s Budget:
On May 23rd, 2017, President Trump announced the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget request. In this request are proposals to make significant changes to the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System. Included in the changes are:

  • Cost-of-living allowances for current and future FERS retirees eliminated.
  • COLAS for CSRS retirees would be reduced by 0.5 percent each year.
  • FERS employees would see employee contributions to their annuities increased by one percent each year for the next six years, without any corresponding benefit increase.
  • The FERS annuity supplement would be eliminated for new retirees starting in 2018.
  • Federal pensions would be based on the average of the highest five years of salary instead of the highest three.

Following the President’s FY 2018 request, the CBO argued that these changes would better align federal practices with those in the private sector through:

  • Basing pensions on five-year average earnings.
  • Many employers not offering health insurance benefits for retirees.
  • Many companies shifting from lifetime annuities to defend contribution plans that require smaller contributions from employers.

However, the CBO also noted that these changes would lessen the attractiveness of the overall compensation package provided by the federal government, potentially affecting the ability to attract and retain a highly-qualified workforce. Additionally, under the President’s proposed changes, positions requiring professional and advanced degrees may become harder to fill, private-sector counterparts already provide a higher compensation to comparable federal government positions.

Under the current budget circumstances and within the current political situation, it will be difficult for the President’s proposed changes to become reality. The President’s budget request is the first step in a long process to actually forming the budget.

House Budget:
On July 19th, 2017, the House Budget Committee approved their FY 2018 Budget 22-14. At this time, the House of Representatives has not yet scheduled floor or full House consideration of their Committee proposal.  However, Speaker Ryan has publicly stated that the House will consider the budget in September.

The House FY 2018 budget instructions dictate that the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to submit changes in laws within its jurisdiction sufficient to reduce the deficit by $32 billion for the period of fiscal years 2018 through 2027. The House FY 2018 budget includes measures affecting changes to federal government retirement practices, including ending the supplement only for future retirees, how much to raise the required contribution, over how long a period, and whether it would apply to all employees, to reach this required $32 billion savings over the next 10 years.

The Budget committee report includes the language, “Reform Civil Service Pensions. The policy describes in the Income Support, Nutrition, and Related Programs section of this report would increase the share of Federal retirement benefits funded by the employee. This policy has the effect of reducing the personnel costs for the employing agency. The budget assumes savings from a reduction in agency appropriations associated with the reduction in payments that agencies make into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund for Federal employee retirement.”

Additionally, the Report includes the following policy statement on the same, “Reform Civil Service Pensions. This budget adopts a policy proposed by former President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. The policy calls for Federal employees, including members of Congress and staff, to make greater contributions toward their own defined benefit retirement plans. It would also end the ‘‘special retirement supplement,’’ which pays Federal employees the equivalent of their Social Security benefit at an earlier age. This would achieve significant savings while recognizing the need for new Federal employees to transition to a defined contribution retirement system. The vast majority of private sector employees participate in defined contribution retirement plans. These plans put the ownership, flexibility, and portfolio risk on the employee as opposed to the employer. Similarly, Federal employees would have more control over their own retirement security under this option. President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget calls for a phased-in increase to contributions federal employees pay into the Federal Employee Retirement System so that both employees and the government are contributing an equal amount.”

And finally, the Report encourages limiting Federal Health Coverage Funding for federal employees. It states, “currently, Federal contributions to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program grow by the average weighted rate of change in these programs. This budget supports restricting the growth in these plans to inflation. It also proposes restricting Federal employees’ retirement benefits based on length of service, which would bring Federal benefits in line with the private sector model.”

Stopgap Funding Bill Passed

The U.S. Congress earlier today passed stopgap legislation to avert a government shutdown at midnight and give lawmakers another week to reach a deal on federal spending through the end of the fiscal year.

The Senate passed the measure by voice vote without opposition after the House earlier approved it by a tally of 382-30. The measure now goes to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

The bill provides federal funding until May 5, allowing lawmakers to work on legislation over the next few days to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year.

Updates from the NASCOE President

I just got home from an amazing trip for NASCOE that started in Dayton, Ohio, with the MWA Rally. Acting FSA Administrator Chris Beyerhelm thanked everyone for their service to the American Rancher and Farmer. He reminded us that we made $22 billion in payments that truly strengthens the economy in rural America. He emphasized that we need to tell our story to the American people and Congress. We need to tell them what the 22 billion dollars that we disperse does. Mr. Beyerhelm also said that he was hopeful that budget cuts would not be as bad as originally thought and to remember it’s a process and that Congress will ultimately determine our funding. We are important to rural America; especially to agriculture. He also encouraged us to recognize our peers with nominations for Administrator and other awards. You could hear the passion that our Administrator has for recognizing our employees for their excellent work; this is an opportunity to show case our best employees and is something management is encouraging us to do. As the NASCOE President, I was impressed that he knew how many outstanding and superior performance ratings CO employees had earned nationwide and compared that to the number of nominations for Administrator Awards they had received. We also heard from Brad Karmen, Acting DAFP. He shared with everyone that, as he arrived at our meeting, the Whitehouse was trying to gather information on the devastating fires in several SWA states. The Whitehouse wanted the information by 12:00 p.m., which gave them less than 1.5 hours to get it together. This information was collected from each state, compiled, and delivered to the Whitehouse by 11:59 a.m. This is just another example of why FSA is known as the “can do” agency. We were reminded that Congress is aware of the job we do and dollars we disperse across the country. It’s important that we continue to do our jobs to the best of our ability.

The next stop was Washington, D.C., for the NASCOE Negotiations Meeting with FSA Management. We met in a conference room in the Whiten Building that has been used by Presidents of the United States of America and numerous Secretaries of Agriculture. Sitting in this esteemed room gave me the sense of how important our negotiations process is. Where it may not compare to discussions between a United States President and his cabinet, it did make me appreciate the seriousness of our dialogues with management. The NASCOE team did an amazing job representing you and the issues you asked us to discuss on your behalf with Management. We were very successful in reaching positive agreements with Management on most of the items. A detailed report will be forthcoming when the final results are released by Management. Thanks to FSA Management for listening and working with NASCOE to help all of us do the best job we can in serving our producers. I also want to thank the NASCOE team for all of their preparation and professionalism in presenting your issues and concerns. We also worked with Management on the possibility of some relief for recent CP Notice concerning late-filed certification and, as always, strengthening COC authorities.

Next I flew to Fargo, North Dakota, with MWA Executive Chris Hare to attend the MNASCOE Convention in Alexandria, Minnesota. We flew into Fargo because our good friend Gwen Uecker had offered to pick us up at the airport and show us a lot of the farming around Cass County and carry us to and from Alexandria, Minnesota. Some good friends joined us on our tour, and while we discussed all aspects of our various FSA jobs, we really enjoyed the vast countryside and all the rich soil and abundance of water. The convention was well attended and very informative. There is an exciting trend happening at recent conventions and rallies. There were 17 first-timers in attendance at MNASCOE Convention. I was impressed and excited as I got to visit with them and encourage them to become active members of NASCOE.

As I have traveled around the country, I have become very concerned about the County Committee (COC) delivery system and especially the COC’s authorities and responsibilities. We all should know that the COC hires and supervises the CED. The CED hires and supervises the program technicians in their office or offices. The CED manages the office. District Directors are liaisons between the State Committee and the County Committee, supervise farm loan managers, and are a tremendous resource for the county offices. DD’s have an important role in FSA, but they do not supervise county offices, as some assume. Because COC members do not have access to our government computers, DD’s electronically approve the CED’s time and attendance for the COC in WEBTA. NASCOE has also received a small number of concerns across the country with District Directors changing the COC’s performance evaluation of their CED. DD’s should always consult with the COC’s and provide factual information to support or lower the COC’s appraisal of the CED. These discussions should be taking place throughout the rating period and documented in the COC Executive Minutes. We hear too many instances where our COC’s are not adequately involved. County Committees and CED’s must understand their obligations to document performance metrics and operational progress in the monthly county committee minutes. Are you documenting sign-up numbers and your efficiency of meeting deadlines? Are you doing a good job documenting your outreach efforts and anything you do above your normal duties? It is very important to keep your COC well-informed and involved in everything going on in your office. Keep your DD informed of your COC’s actions and requests. Remember, we are a team and ultimately it is about serving our farmers and ranchers. When we need to improve, let’s recognize that and hold ourselves accountable. When we excel, let’s highlight our accomplishments. As our Acting Administrator, Chris Beyerhelm, said in Dayton, let’s recognize our employees that are doing superior and outstanding work.

It’s good to be home after an extended NASCOE trip. I tremendously enjoyed getting to spend the last ten days working with the NASCOE Team. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do for our membership! I would like to thank my FSA office staff, Christel Youmans and Tiffany Howard, for all they do for the producers of Dillon County, SC. I simply could not serve NASCOE if it were not for them and the support of my COC. Last, but not least, thanks to my wife, Anne, for supporting my efforts and travels on behalf of NASCOE, and to my son, Will, for taking care of our livestock while I am away from home.

Respectfully Submitted by,

Wes Daniels
NASCOE President

President’s Transition Report

I hope everybody is getting ready for the holiday season and has big plans to enjoy your family and friends during this time. Even as busy as it has been all across the country, we all have a lot to be thankful for. I wanted to address some concerns and thoughts that have been shared with NASCOE lately.

Many of you are anxious about the transition to a new President of the United States of America, his administration, and how it will impact FSA and the membership of NASCOE. We have read about the proposed hiring freeze and the uncertainty this creates for membership. First of all, we will probably learn more about this proposal and other changes as we get closer to the Inauguration and our new President takes office. We have all heard there will be a hiring freeze but we don’t know if that will allow us to continue to fill from within or not. For example if we have CED openings and COTs on board, can we fill those vacancies? We also don’t know if we will actually have a hiring freeze – we just know what we have read. Most of the information we can obtain doesn’t seem to indicate a hiring freeze would be long term. NASCOE’s legislative Consultant, Hunter Moorhead, has been working hard and will continue to keep us informed.  His “Legislative Update” was sent out recently, and I encourage you to read through that on the NASCOE website’s homepage if you have not already.

Membership has also inquired about changes to our retirement system and TSP. NASCOE will continue, as we always have, to monitor these benefits and will keep you updated. Most of these types of things would take congressional action and have been discussed previously without a lot of traction. Some of the conversations have addressed changes for new hires and we will stay on top of all these things. Again, having Hunter is a great advantage. He is watching, and will keep us updated on any proposed changes that will affect our membership and FSA employees in general.

Over the past two years, NASCOE’s leadership has worked aggressively to build relationships with both the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees. With the election behind us, these relationships will be important as we collectively monitor the new Administration’s legislative and regulatory proposals. Following January 20, we will start to learn more about the pathway forward. Our team can guarantee membership that we are prepared for all proposals and view the new Administration as an opportunity to improve our working environment. We feel strongly about the importance of our customer service function, and believe Members of the House and Senate are prepared to assist us throughout the process.

Most of the concerns we are hearing will become clearer in the next few months. I want to reassure you that your NASCOE Executive Committee is doing all we can to stay on top of these and many other issues. As we learn more, we will do all we can to share the information we gain with all of NASCOE. Please let us hear from you! All of your issues and concerns are important to us and our membership. You can send your issues directly to us, or go through your State Association Presidents and they will forward it to your National Leadership Team through the Area Executive Committee Persons.

At this point, as we move into the transition and New Year, let’s remain positive and continue to accomplish our main goals and mission, which is to serve the greatest farmers and ranchers in the world. One thing I know that we can be sure of, is that there has never been a more important time to be a member of NASCOE.  I hope every one of you has a Merry Christmas and the best New Year ever!!!

Respectfully Submitted by,

Wes Daniels
NASCOE President