NASCOE has been in communication with management over Departmental directives which were issued to all FSA employees late Friday evening.
It has been confirmed that, unless prior leave arrangements have been made, FSA employees should report to work this week per approved and normal work schedules so they can review and be brought up to speed on the latest guidance.
NASCOE has, and will continue to express concerns of county office employees regarding this unprecedented situation to management.
Many of you have been watching the news and following the development of the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID‑19. In just the last few days, we’ve seen many events get cancelled, such as the Farm Bureau Leadership Conference in Kentucky and the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo. Sporting leagues are canceling games or ending their seasons early. These cancellations are disruptive and inconvenient, but they are being cancelled out of an abundance of caution for everyone’s safety. NASCOE and our affiliates are unfortunately required to make similar difficult decisions.
We encourage you to read the following important update on NASCOE Events from NASCOE President, Brandon Wilson.
The NASCOE Leadership team anticipates updating membership with additional information as the status of the COVID-19 outbreak evolves.
One of the more important values that NASCOE provides to its membership, is the collection of input on processes that affect programs, customer service and working conditions. As needed, management will engage NASCOE by asking for names of participants from the field, who can help provide a perspective on how policy might look.
NASCOE has negotiated with management, through the NASCOE negotiations process,
for the creation of a Shared Management Task force. Recently, the national office has committed
to improving resources available to shared management operations by preparing
for the implementation phase of the negotiated task force. This task force will take ideas from CED’s
and PT’s in the field and help mold a model of guidance and available tools to
assist shared management operations. All
ideas are on the table.
addition to the Shared Management Task Force, the national office is preparing
to create a County Committee (COC) Training task force. This task force will be charged with
improving the functionality of COC roles and responsibilities. The group will assist in developing a training
program for COC members so that they know and understand their very important everyday
roles and responsibilities in program and human resource matters. In addition to the creation of a COC training
program, a similar effort will be launched to refresh State Committee
forces are equally important, and both impact CO employees in the field. To make these initiatives successful, NASCOE
needs YOUR help. NASCOE has been charged
with finding a handful of good solid county office employees to help fill
positions on both task forces. If you
think you can help out, we need you to tell us some information in a short, written
you are a CED or a PT
task force in which you would like to participate
relevant experience and qualifications you have (pertinent to the task forces)
you are interested in participating -AND if you think you have solutions to
make the effort succeed.
duties will be on official time. Travel
may be possible but will probably be limited.
Participation will most likely be by teleconference and kept to a couple
hours a week or several hours per month until the task is finished. To participate you must have your CED or COC
approval to participate.
deadline to submit your name to participate is Sunday, March 15, 2020. Entries and questions shall be emailed to the
following address: .
Task force positions will be limited, therefore NASCOE will be reviewing
your written submissions to help decide who will be chosen to help-out. Members who are not selected to be on the
primary task force will still be engaged.
They will be included in a group that will provide input and ideas for the
main task force.
I want to
close by thanking you for your involvement in NASCOE. Your membership creates wonderful
opportunities for COF employees to participate in initiatives that improve
customer service and make their workplace better. NASCOE look forward to hearing from
interested members who would like to lend a hand and help make processes
One of the more important functions of NASCOE is to guide employees on matters of HR issues. As the Business Center has matured following the FPAC reorganization, NASCOE has been working with FSA to educate Departmental leadership on the CO hiring process. With recent NASCOE budget wins in Congress and the subsequent increase in hiring, NASCOE has recently received several inquiries on the topic of County Office (CO) Hiring. Specifically, members are wanting to know what is the current administrative structure of CO hiring since Departmental reorganization.
While the GS system was introduced first, CO hiring authority was created later by Congress to provide a local alternative that responds rapidly and efficiently to the agricultural community. In this way, the CO system is the original “direct hiring” authority. NASCOE and FSA are both very proud of this system and both support it in its entirety. FSA has provided extra resources to increase integrity and decrease the time it takes to onboard employees. It takes about 80 days between the job announcement and full onboarding for CO while it takes roughly 125 days for GS. These timeframes are expected to decrease with FSA providing increased administrative teamwork for CO hiring and direct hiring authority for GS hiring. The biggest “hang-up” in hiring at this time is the required security background check.
At present, CO hiring is administered by FSA as part of a team effort that involves the CED, the STO and the National Office. The STO and the National Office assist with certain administrative functions of hiring while the CED and COC retain ultimate responsibility for interviewing and hiring a qualified candidate. In an effort to clarify and clear up confusion about the CO hiring process, NASCOE is working to INFORM and EDUCATE membership about the current hiring process which FSA has implemented. To ensure that local roles and responsibilities are clear, NASCOE is asking local CEDs and COC’s to remember the following important aspects of CO hiring:
CED’s and COC’s have the responsibility to hire qualified candidates.
CED’s should be granted access to staffing software, where they can view candidates who have submitted complete information (this step doesn’t apply to COC’s because they do not have access to government IT systems).
CED’s and COC’s have the responsibility to choose candidates which they want to interview. These candidates come from the list of qualified applicants who have submitted all necessary documentation during the application process. Completeness of application is determined by STO’s.
CED’s and COC’s may inquire with their STO why certain candidates were determined to have incomplete applications.
CED’s have the responsibility to schedule candidate interviews.COC’s should be involved in scheduling timeframes for interviews, however, it is typical for the STO or the District Director to assist the COC with this step.
Although the CO hiring system remains largely intact, there are some concerns from the field about the STO completing the review of application completeness. Also concerns exist with increased time spent on background investigations. NASCOE has already begun to address those concerns with management as we move forward.
Another common HR question that NASCOE receives centers around the topic of compensation and pay for work. We all agree that it is very important to serve our customers and deliver benefits to them in this tough farm economy. With condensed timeframes for achieving sign-up, and extremely high workload, we have a reputation for doing whatever it takes to serve our producers. Having said that, as government employees we must remember that we should never be working without recording our time and receiving compensation.
Working for no compensation is not advised because:
It creates liability
AND work measurement becomes a concern (in the long run, not recording our time skews COF workload numbers and results in less staff to assist our producers and decreased customer service)
Recently, while participating in a Congressional hearing, NASCOE was told by a member of Congress that FSA employees always stay late and get the job done. This is a reputation that should make us all proud. There have been and always will be times when FSA’s service becomes a critical function and employees are asked to work extra hours to help our farmers. Recently the national office has announced overtime is available for county office employees if approved by SED’s. Ensuring these extra hours are compensated ensures that our producers (and the public) realize the required amount of work needed to get the job done. We are hopeful that management will allow tools such as overtime, comp time and credit time to help serve our customers.
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:
Subject Line should be: Action Request (11/29/2019): NASCOE Volunteers Sought for Internal Task Force (Insert your name here)
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.
On January 22, 2019 the National Office held a teleconference with all Employee Associations in an effort to update them on Agency furlough activities to date.
The call also included Q&A’s.
Attached to this NASCOE News Flash are teleconference notes from the “All Employee Association Furlough Teleconference”
NOTES: The notes are not official agency policy / directive, but rather taken from handwritten contemporaneous notes created by a participant on the reference call.
Many of the items in this document were covered with the NASCOE State Association President’s on the January 23, 2019 call with the NASCOE Officers.
If there are any questions regarding the topics contained in this document, please contact your state association President. They will refer your questions or concerns to the NASCOE Officers through your Area Executives.
NASCOE leadership believes it is possible that all
County Office Employees may be called back as “excepted” employees. Excepted employees would be required to
perform limited duties if approved by OMB and to work without pay until
shutdown ends. The negative employee impacts that are the most concerning to
NASCOE are the potential loss of unemployment benefits and the loss of the
ability to utilize outside employment to make ends meet.
NASCOE fully understands that the negative impacts of
the current agricultural economy are compounded by the additional loss of FSA
benefits. While NASCOE is sympathetic to
the burdens our farmers face, NASCOE cannot support sacrificing the financial
security of Farm Service Agency County Office Employees by subjecting them to a
callback without pay.
As fellow employees, we are dealing with the same
financial stress and fully understand the situations that employees are
facing. NASCOE is in constant
communication with Administration leadership in an effort to discuss ways to
minimize the impact on FSA employees.
NASCOE is deeply concerned that the callback could
force some employees to leave the agency and force others to make the decision
to retire. These actions will have a negative long-term impact on FSA’s ability
to provide quality service to our producers when they need us the most.
Trained, experienced and committed employees who leave the agency will not be
NASCOE has been very disappointed in the lack of clear
direction and instructions from the very beginning of this historic
furlough. NASCOE has diligently made an
effort to keep members up to date. Keep in mind this is not official
notification. As details continue to
emerge, NASCOE will be sharing information with our membership as quickly as
possible. Please continue to look for
email correspondence and website updates with the latest news from NASCOE.