NASCOE News Flash: 2018 Negotiation and All Association Meeting with Management

NASCOE President Dennis Ray

NASCOE President Dennis Ray

The week of April 2-6 was very busy for NASCOE leadership and the NASCOE negotiation team. We traveled to Washington DC to participate in the 2018 All Association Meeting and to conduct NASCOE’s annual negotiation meeting with management. Those traveling included officers Dennis Ray, Brandon Wilson, Curt Houk, Marcinda Kester and Wes Daniels; Area Executives Chris Hare, Rick Csutoras, Jay Goff, Mike Mayfield and Jessi Colgrove; Area Negotiation Consultants Debbie Staley, Tracy Wilson, Sabrina Conditt, Jenae Prescott and Jessica Walls. Also traveling to WDC were National Programs Chair Michelle Stahl and National Legislative Chair Donny Green.

Monday was a travel day for most of the team however Brandon and I traveled in on Sunday in preparation for Monday meetings with some key members of management. Brandon and I began by meeting with Acting Administrator Steve Peterson and his chief of staff Kathy Sayers to follow up on some pending issues. We discussed staffing numbers and the critical need to hire. We then met with Undersecretary Northey and discussed that our ability to provide the service as mandated is being severely hampered in some parts of the country due to the low staffing numbers. Both the acting Administrator and the Undersecretary expressed optimism that another round of hiring would be coming soon, possible within a few weeks. FSA has been developing a workload and staffing tool that NASCOE has been involved with for the past two years. The ability to use the tool to help determine where staffing needs are, and the passing of the Omnibus spending package should help assure the decision makers that FSA can effectively determine the staffing level needed and the locations where they are needed most.

Tuesday the NASCOE negotiation team held a meeting at our hotel to make a final review of our negotiation items and to prepare for presenting our positions to management. This year, NASCOE submitted 11 new items for consideration and revisited items from previous years that were still pending. Negotiating County Office concerns with management is one of our main purposes as an association. Also, it is important to point out that NASCOE is the only organization that can negotiate with management on behalf of county office employees.

Wednesday, April 4th, was the All Association Meeting held in the Jefferson auditorium. All FSA employee associations were invited to attend including National Association of Farmer Elected Committees and the Retired Association of ASCS/FSA Office Employees. Among the presenters were Acting FSA Administrator Steve Peterson, Undersecretary Bill Northey, Joy Harwood, Tom Christenson, Kim Graham, Linda Treese and Patrick Spalding and Brad Karmen.

Thursday April 4th was the actual negotiation session with management. One of the carryover items was the Aspiring Leadership Program for PT’s. This item was agreed upon a couple of years ago and development of the program had started but not completed. NASCOE asked the status and was pleased to hear that the program development is nearly completed, and the program will be offered in FY-2019. This program will offer a training program for PT’s who wish to develop their leadership skills. There will be a limited number of participants so be looking for more information as it is released.

Shared management operations are an annual discussion topic at negotiations and it was again this year.  There are changes coming in 27-PM (Rev. 2) that will contain language about the requirements for pre-decisional involvement by the affected county committees and the state association to accompany the request to DAFO when shared management operations are proposed. Management also agreed to begin work on the shared management task force within 60 days of the negotiation session. This has been tabled for the past couple of years, but they have agreed to establish the work group and begin discussions. The negotiation session was mainly positive, and the results of the negotiations will be made public once NASCOE and management can review the wording of the resolutions for accuracy. These will be posted to the website as soon as they are received back from management.

I know that the current staffing level and delays to hiring are a couple of the biggest concerns expressed to NASCOE leadership. We have been pressing as hard as we can to encourage management to add staff to get back to the level of funding enacted by Congress. We bring that up during every conversation at every level where we have the opportunity including at the Secretary, Undersecretary, FPAC and FSA level. We have also expressed staffing concern with the Senate Ag Committee and many members of Congress. Our legislative Consultant and National Legislative Chair made 14 Hill visits last week and discussed staffing levels, customer service, Farm Bill Reauthorization, county office structure and the importance of the county committee.

I would like to thank all the negotiation team and those who traveled to Washington for this meeting for the hard work, dedication and the long hours spent during the trip. It takes a lot of effort beginning in December to be prepared for this type of meeting with management and I want to publicly express my thanks. I would also like to thank Wes Daniels, Past NASCOE President for his service to NASCOE the past seven plus years. Wes has taken a DD position and will be providing his leadership in a new arena going forward. Please thank Wes when you have the opportunity for the years of service to NASCOE.

The actual negotiation session happens once a year, however employees are encouraged to submit items throughout the year via the online submission form. Those items are reviewed periodically to see if they are time critical. If meritorious the item may be escalated for consultation by the President and the Vice President during our trips to Washington, DC.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

NASCOE News Flash: Legislative Update – 03-21-2018

NASCOE President Dennis Ray Photo and Contact InformationNASCOE will be heading to Washington DC the first week of April to conduct our annual negotiation session. The negotiation team has been preparing to present and negotiate the items submitted by membership. For those unfamiliar, suggestions on how to improve efficiency, improve working conditions or improve service to our producers are submitted by membership through the online submission form located on the NASCOE webpage. Those suggestions are vetted and then sent to management for consideration. The negotiations team which is comprised of the officers, the area execs and area negotiation consultants, then meet face to face with management to negotiate the item. To ensure equal representation from the areas, negotiation consultants must be a PT if the area exec is a CED and vice versa. All members are encouraged to participate in the negotiation process by submitting items for review.

NASCOE has received a few questions regarding the comment during the town hall regarding the one to ten ratio for supervisors and employees. This has been the standard touted by OPM for the federal workforce for the past several years. It is important to keep in mind the goal is to average one supervisor for every ten employees across the agency, not that every supervisor must have ten employees. It is very likely you will see this standard used while standing up the business center and in areas of the mission area where possible. NASCOE will continue to monitor this and other areas of concern as we move forward.

In addition to the negotiating with management, NASCOE will also participate in an all association meeting on Wednesday, April 4th. We will have the opportunity to see and visit with leaders from the agency, department and FPAC. This will give us the opportunity to follow up on some of the information that was provided in the recent town hall meeting. An update will be provided to the membership soon after the meetings.

The following is a legislative report from our consultant Hunter Moorhead.

“All – I hope this note finds you well. I want to update NASCOE’s membership on two important legislative initiatives, the omnibus appropriations measure and Farm Bill. The current continuing resolution is set to expire on March 23. We expect the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will soon wrap-up negotiations and meet the current deadline. This legislation will fund the government through fiscal year 2018. The Congress recently agreed to new spending limitations (caps) that should allow for adequate FSA salaries and expenses funding. We continue to urge Secretary Perdue to make available any additional funds for hiring county office staff. When finalized, we will share information about the final package.

“The other important legislative issue is reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill. While I expected the House Agriculture Committee this week to release draft legislative language, our contacts tell us it will likely be the middle of April. A group of Democratic House members have raised concerns with any effort to limit Food Stamp benefits. The other challenge for Chairman Michael Conaway is securing House floor debate time. On the Senate side, the negotiations are slowly moving forward, and any draft bill will follow action by the House of Representatives. We will continue to monitor the Farm Bill process and share any legislative information.”

NASCOE News Flash: Update from President Dennis Ray – February 27, 2018

NASCOE President Dennis RayNASCOE knows membership has many questions regarding reorganization of the department and FPAC realignment and we are working to secure answers to those questions. NASCOE is monitoring activities as they occur and engaging in the process when possible. Many of you have seen the FPAC Friday Roundup that indicated all employees would be receiving an update on the FPAC realignment. The leaders of the FPAC agencies (FSA, NRCS & RMA) have been charged with the task of sharing this information at the local level but were not given a specific delivery strategy to do so. Some State Offices have decided to provide the information jointly with sister agencies and others have not. Some are hosting webinars at the state level and others are doing it by district. There isn’t any one way or one agency that is dictating how this information is being shared. The FPAC Friday Roundup also mentioned they are planning a virtual town hall meeting in mid-March and continuing on a periodic basis after that. NASCOE encourages the membership to participate in the town hall meetings as they become available.

Convention and rally season is getting here quickly. Attending a state convention or area rally is an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with senior members of management from the national office, co-workers from across the state or area and NASCOE area executives and officers. The National Office has committed to having two members of senior management at the area rallies and I encourage everyone who can to make reservations and attend. With the many changes and challenges we are currently facing, being able to communicate face to face with National Office management leaders is a unique opportunity to ask questions directly to those involved in the decision-making process.

NASCOE is always seeking opportunities to participate on work groups and task forces established by management and have been provided that chance several times the past few years. For example, NASCOE has had a representative on the Managerial Cost Analysis work group for nearly two years. This group has been working on a workload tool. In addition to the cost analysis part of the tool, a smaller group has been established to start the process of developing a staffing tool. This work group has been holding multiple conference calls weekly and is scheduled to travel to Washington, DC the week of March 12th to continue the work in a face to face setting. Past NASCOE President Wes Daniels is NASCOE’s representative on the work group.

NASCOE was asked to provide names to participate in a Competency Assessment focus group, which is tasked with looking at and establishing the necessary competencies for various grades and positions. Their focus will be to identify the necessary competencies needed to move from a current level of responsibility to a level requiring a higher level of responsibility. Donny Green, a CED from Tennessee and Brenda Moore, a PT from Oklahoma are NASCOE’s representatives on this group.

We have also been asked to provide names to represent field employees on a task force to help write the policies and procedures for the new ad hoc disaster bill announced in the Bipartisan Budget Deal recently passed. The new program will focus on providing relief for producers who grow crops, vines, bushes and trees. NASCOE has provided several names to be considered for final selection on the task force. NASCOE will share those names as they become known.

NASCOE is making every effort to monitor activities as we transition into the new mission area. We will continue to provide as much information as possible going forward. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to your area executive or NASCOE officers.

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

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