NASCOE Legislative News — 2020 Appropriations Update

Appropriations Update

Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
December 13, 2019

The Legislative Committee is cautiously optimistic as we announce that the leaders in spending talks announced Thursday afternoon that they have reached a “deal in principle” to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2020, according to House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). A vote in the House will be scheduled for Tuesday. 

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said staff members are working out “a few details.” He and Lowey announced the agreement with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking member of Senate Appropriations, and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), ranking on House Appropriations.

Although this is very positive news and we are hopeful that Congress will be able to accomplish this task, we also acknowledge there are lot of hot topic partisan politics issues swirling in Washington that could derail these plans.  Your Legislative team will keep a close eye on the appropriations process in the coming days and let you know of any major changes.

NASCOE Seeks Volunteers for Internal Task Forces

To:  All NASCOE Members
From:  Brandon Wilson, NASCOE President
Purpose:  Recruit volunteer assistance on two special NASCOE task forces


Recently NASCOE has announced two initiatives which will utilize membership assigned to a task force for input during the planning process.  Those assignments are:   

  • Technology Coordinator Task Force: This task force will determine what qualifications are needed by a new “Technology Coordinator” volunteer position which will be created by NASCOE.  The task force will also identify key technology priorities for use in NASCOE business processes.
     
  • Teleconference Alternative Task Force:  This task force will determine cost effective alternatives to the current method of NASCOE internal communications by teleconference.  

NASCOE will fill positions in these groups with a combination of existing NASCOE leadership and new NASCOE leadership.  NASCOE is encouraging all members, (especially those who attended the recent NASCOE Leadership Conference in Dallas) to consider applying for a seat in one of these groups.  NASCOE believes there may be members in county offices who are passionate about technology and who can provide forward thinking innovative ideas to these NASCOE initiatives.

Task force interactions will likely take place using e-mail and teleconference communication.  Some minimal travel could be required.  Time commitments would be around 1-2 hours/month until the task force is completed.

Interested attendees must provide the following information:

  • Short narrative on technology interest, background and skills
  • Preference of task force
  • Contact information (e-mail and phone number)
  • Other helpful information 

The deadline to apply is end of day, December 13, 2019.  Replies should be emailed to the following:

NASCOE President Brandon Wilson Contact information

Thankful for the Blessings Amid Our Challenges

Thanksgiving is a time where we can reflect and be thankful for all the blessings in our lives.  As employees of the Farm Service Agency, we have had a really tough and stressful year on the job.   However, we should realize blessings are still plentiful, and our deeds are certainly helping an agricultural sector in need.  I hope this year each and every one of you were able to get away from work and enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday by spending it with family, friends or just relaxing. 

This year, like every year, I am thankful for my family, my friends, and my job.  I am also thankful for our employee organization (NASCOE) and what it does for its membership.  I want to make a special point and say “thank you” to those who have taken time to become members of NASCOE and help with the heavy lifting NASCOE does for FSA employees each and every day.  The basis of NASCOE’s ability to work for membership is the Labor Management Agreement that it holds with FSA.  We all should be thankful for this agreement, which allows NASCOE members to advance good ideas and provide feedback to management on how office functions are or are not working.  It’s not often that employees of such a large organization have the opportunity to provide input that may eventually foster positive change in their very own workplace. 

As you may already know, members of NASCOE can suggest good ideas on the NASCOE website at any time.  Once ideas are received, vetted, and accepted, NASCOE can then begin working with management to see if they will implement suggested changes.

The Leadership Excellence for PT Development Program is one example of an idea that was recently suggested by a PT, to NASCOE through the negotiations program.  NASCOE negotiated the suggestion with management and thankfully they accepted the idea and promised to roll it out.  Last year was the first year the program was implemented.  Program participants were overwhelmingly thankful for the opportunity to attend the program.  Reviews provided by participants were very positive.  It appears the program was able to build leaders and boost morale. 

This year Notice AO-1739 was issued, which announced the Leadership Excellence for PT Development Program would once again be held this year.  NASCOE actively encourages PT’s to consider the merits and the possibility of participating in this program.  Interested PT’s should visit with their supervisor and review the notice carefully for required application details and deadlines.   

NASCOE is thankful that FSA has amazing employees with great ideas and that we have a labor management agreement with FSA.  If any County Office employees have ideas similar to the Leadership Excellence for PT Development Program or have any thoughts on how we can improve and make our daily jobs more efficient, NASCOE encourages them to submit those ideas through the NASCOE website.

NASCOE Legislative Flash – Senate Vote on Continuing Resolution

Continuing Resolution Senate Vote
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
November 21, 2019

By vote of 74-20, The U.S. Senate today passed a short-term measure to fund the government until December 20th, buying Washington four more weeks before the threat of another shutdown.  The White House has indicated that President Trump will sign the continuing resolution. 

Since the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have both passed their versions of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, we are hopeful the two draft measures will be finalized in conference prior to the December 20th deadline. 

The NASCOE Legislative Team will continue to monitor the appropriations bill and keep the membership informed of any progress.

NASCOE Legislative Flash Update – November 19, 2019

Continuing Resolution Vote and NASCOE Preparations
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
November 19, 2019

By a vote of 231 to 192, the House of Representatives today passed the continuing resolution to keep the government open through December 20, 2019.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor statement today that the Senate will pass the continuing resolution and President Trump will sign it.

The Leader also mentioned that talks continue regarding completion of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills.  As a reminder, the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have both passed the Agriculture Appropriations bill.  We are hopeful the two draft measures will be finalized before the December 20 deadline.

Although we have no indication a government shutdown is anticipated, Chris Lary, National Benefits/Emblems Chair, has been taking a proactive role to prepare in case there were to be a furlough.  Many employees have been contacted regarding what worked well last time and what didn’t work so well.  She has complied information in order to help mitigate the impact of a furlough.

The employee checklist for furlough has been reviewed, web links have been viewed and verified and NASCOE is prepared should the need arise to get membership information to assist them.

Please make sure your State President has your current home email address so that you will receive this information timely.

Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020 Hunter Moorehead, Legislative Consultant

Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020
Hunter Moorehead, Legislative Consultant

The House of Representatives and U.S. Senate approved legislation funding the government at current levels through November 21. This allows our employees to continue working without any lapse of federal appropriations.

The bill includes language allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to continue disbursing Commodity Credit Corporation funds for the Market Facilitation Program. This will ensure farmers continue to receive financial assistance.

Our legislative committee is working to educate legislators about the need for additional salaries and expenses funding for the next fiscal year. In addition, Members of Congress continue to highlight FSA’s field office staffing needs and the inability to adequately deliver farm programs.

The agency has completed the new workload analysis and our farmers deserve better customer service. We believe field office staff numbers are short over 2,000 FTEs. The time has come for the USDA to give us the tools necessary to deliver farm programs.

2020 Appropriations Update

2020 Appropriations Update
September 11, 2019
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

On June 25th, the full House voted 227-194 to approve the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture appropriations bill which included an increase in FSA salaries and expenses of 3.8 % or $ 41 million. The Senate has yet to act on any 2020 appropriation measures. Due to this lack of progress, the House is planning to move a continuing resolution next week that will run through November 21st or 22nd, or through December 6th. It appears November 21st or 22nd will the most likely choice, but we are told the decision has not been made yet. At this time, we do not expect that the government will face another shutdown. With an election year coming up, we do not feel that anyone in Congress will have the stomach to add this as an issue for voters to take sides on.

The Senate planned on moving 4 bills this week through subcommittee and full committee appropriations. Democrats met Monday night, and decided they wanted to push back on anticipated allocations in domestic discretionary as well as on some issues important to their base (border wall restrictions, abortion/title X, etc.). There is a divide between members who want to work with the majority and address their concerns through the process (in conference) and those who want to begin fighting on every appropriations bill immediately.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell reiterated on the Sunday news programs his intention is to only pass appropriations bills in the Senate acceptable to the President.

The plan had been to mark up four bills this week (DoD, E&W, LHHS, SFO), four next (Ag, FS, MilCon/VA, THUD), and four the following week (CJS, DHS, Interior, Leg Branch). Chairman Shelby and Senate Republican Leadership hoped to have the first four bills on the Senate floor next week (9/16-9/20). Absent some agreement between Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Leahy and Senate Leadership, the FY 2020 appropriations schedule appears to be moving further down the calendar.

NASCOE fully understands that our members will have concerns, especially considering the events last year. We will continue to closely monitor the appropriations process and will keep membership apprised as new developments arise.

Photos of NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs Clint Bain and Neil Burnette.

Announcing the NASCOE Leadership Development Program

NASCOE Leadership Development Program

October 24-26, 2019
Dallas, Texas

NASCOE is excited to announce an opportunity for states to develop and enhance leadership to promote sustainability and success into the future. We are asking states to identify, engage, educate, and invest in the “NASCOE Leadership Development Program” which is designed to focus exclusively on leadership development and enhancement all the way from the state level to the national level!

We have so much undiscovered and available talent within NASCOE’s membership, and we want to do our best to recruit and train future aspiring leaders to continue carrying the torch. It is NASCOE’s goal to deliver this training in a “train-the-trainer” format so that the results and benefits will be perpetual by allowing states to take this model back home and continue “passing the torch” to future generations of up and coming leaders.

It is important to understand that this leadership training is not focused on a traditional audience compared to NASCOE’s audience for legislative conferences. Our intent is to focus on leadership development, with only a segment of legislative education.

Over the course of several months, NASCOE’s leadership has worked diligently to formulate a targeted plan of action, a suitable venue location, and a team of excellent presenters and coordinators.

Please visit the NASCOE Leadership Development page
for more details and instructions on how to apply.

www.nascoe.org/Leadership-Development/

Application Deadline: July 1, 2019

NASCOE Contacts: Donny Green and Neil Burnette, Legislative Co-Chairs

$19.1 Billion Disaster Bill Heads to President’s Desk

Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant
June 5, 2019

Below are the highlights of the disaster aid package previously passed by the Senate, passed by the House earlier this week, and is now awaiting the President’s signature:

Title I – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

  • Agricultural Programs — $3.005 billion. Payments for crop and livestock losses due to hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities, tornadoes, floods, snowstorms, or wildfires during 2018 and 2019. 
     
  • Emergency Forest Restoration Program — $480 million.  Assistance to owners of private forests to restore disaster-damaged forests. 
     
  • Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations — $435 million. Financial and technical assistance to states and local sponsors to protect and restore watersheds.
     
  • Emergency Conservation Program — $558 million. Provides emergency funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.
     
  • Rural Community Facilities Program — $150 million.  Grants for facilities to provide health care, education, public safety, and public services to rural communities.
     
  • Nutrition Assistance Program for Puerto Rico — $600 million.  Additional funding to continue disaster nutrition benefits in Puerto Rico during its recovery from Hurricane Maria. 
     
  • Nutrition Assistance Program for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — $25.2 million.  Additional funding for nutrition benefits in CNMI following typhoons in September and October.
     
  • Nutrition Assistance for America Samoa — $18 million for disaster nutrition assistance for American Samoa.
     
  • Study of Puerto Rico disaster nutrition assistance — $5 million for a study of the disaster nutrition assistance provided to the Commonwealth in 2017.

The Bill also includes:  

  • Provides trade mitigation assistance through the Market Facilitation Program to producers who derive at least 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities. 
  • Establishes crop insurance for hemp products.
  • Allows certain California communities affected by 2018 wildfires to be eligible for USDA Rural Development programs until 2020 Census data is available.
Photos of Donny Green and Neil Burnette, NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs.