Programs Submission Response: Cost Share Software Enhancements

ISSUE # 1:
Cost Share Software – when terminating an FSA-848, why can’t we use a Search function for that process? A search feature has been built in for all other functions in that software but the Terminate/Reinstate. You have to scroll through all of the 848’s in the system.

FACTS:
When terminating an FSA-848, you have to scroll through all pages of 848’s to find the one you need, by scrolling from 2013 forward. All other functions that have a search feature, you can enter either the source contract, application number, or producer’s name.

SOLUTIONS:
Build a search feature in the Terminate/Reinstate section of Cost Share Software.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Users currently have the ability to use the search function when terminating an FSA-848.  Users need to be sure they are utilizing the Agreement Search located near the bottom of the left navigation menu under the Agreement Maintenance header and not the Application Search located near the center of the left navigation menu under the Cost Share header. When an agreement is located using the Agreement Search, a terminate or reinstate process link is contained in the Links column of the search results. Whether that link is a terminate link or a reinstate link depends upon the status of the agreement that is selected. 

It would appear that the user(s) who submitted this question may be unfamiliar with the difference between the Application Search and the Agreement Search. If the Application Search is used to access an agreement, no link to the terminate or reinstate process will be displayed. The results of the end user satisfaction survey that was recently conducted contained several similar comments, so it appears there may be widespread misunderstanding of the difference between the two searches. In an attempt to clarify the differences this topic was covered during a conference call with State Conservation Specialists on July 20, 2017. Specialists were provided with a document explaining the differences between the two searches and were asked to cover this topic with users in their states.


ISSUE # 2:
When revising 848’s in CSS, we are unable to remove a component code. So if NRCS originally marked code 6DP ($17.26/ac) on the component code but it should have been 6SOP ($11.98/ac), we are unable to remove that 6DP code which would also de-obligate the funds for 6DP.

FACTS:
Our only option is to add the corrected component code and then zero out the dollar amount to de-obligate the funds for the incorrect component. However, the incorrect information (unnecessary component) will still appear on the 848.

SOLUTIONS:
Add capability to CSS to allow for us to remove a component code from the 848.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Prior to approval of the FSA-848, components can be deleted from incomplete applications.  Additionally, components can be removed from applications with a status of complete if the application is first un-submitted to return it to an incomplete status. However, as you indicate, the current design of CSS does not permit removal of a component after approval of the FSA-848. Users who completed the end user satisfaction survey also expressed the desire to have the ability to remove a component from an agreement. Due to limited funding and resources for software enhancements it is not expected that the ability to remove a component will be added to the existing CSS. However, this suggestion is appreciated and will be considered as work is undertaken to redesign the cost share process in new software that will be created.

Programs Submission Response: COC Election LAA Detail

ISSUE:
In a Farm Loan team HDQ many producers are added to MIDAS Business Partner that are borrowers only, and not a producer that is eligible to vote in COC elections in this HDQ service Center.

FACTS:
These producers who do not need an LAA assigned will show up on reports with the appearance they need to have an LAA assigned. This takes much time to research.

SOLUTIONS:
On the screen “COC/LAA Election Detail” add an entry in the “Reason for Ineligibility” to the effect of PRODUCER IS FLP ONLY. Once the producer is flagged with this entry, the COF will not have to research again this same producer in another election year.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
This request has been to our developers and I was told a new line can be added to the “reason for Ineligibility” field. This new line not a high priority so I was given a very wide date range of when this might occur. After adding the line and testing, it can happen anywhere from this week to a few months.  I will let the STO POC know once it has been added. It will also be added to the handbook amendment I am working on.

 

Programs Submission Response: Producer Dashboard

ISSUE:
Often a producer will come into the county office during the busiest time of the year (crop reporting) with the intention of taking care of the whole year’s business in one office visit. It is very easy to miss something the producer needs to sign or complete in that office visit. Consequently, the producer will have to make at least one, and sometimes two return visits to the County Office.

FACTS:
With the tools we currently have available, and the deadlines we rush to meet, it is unrealistic to believe a COE can and will catch everything a producer needs to complete for a year during the middle or end of crop reporting.

SOLUTIONS:
To increase efficiency, if farm programs  could offer a dashboard by producer, this would be a very valuable tool. The dashboard could reflect all farms the producer is associated with, all ARC/PLC contracts the producer is associated with, all subsidiary paperwork needed for the FY, the producer’s direct deposit information, CRP contracts on the farms the producer is associated with, as well as any management still due on that CRP contract. And added enhancement could be that items completed show green, and items that need immediate attention would be red.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
We are going to add this recommendation to our list of future enhancements.

 

Programs Submission Response: COC Election Reports

ISSUE:
The list of available reports in Handbook 15-AO is not current and needs to be updated.

FACTS:
The table and descriptions are missing for the following reports:

  • Producers not Associated with and LAA
  • COC Election Results for Candidates
  • Current COC Ballots Returned Report

Descriptions should be listed so new employees can learn about reports and know what to expect when reviewing.

Reports need to be added so the COF can site this paragraph in the COC minutes to record that the reports have been reviewed.

SOLUTIONS:
Update Handbook 15-AO with missing reports and descriptions.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
The handbook is being worked on with the issues stated below and some additional issues not stated.

 

Programs Submission Response: TAP

ISSUE:
Is document CCC-899 timely filed?

FACTS:
Applicants who suffered eligible tree, brush and vine losses on or after January 1, 2015, must provide an application and supporting documentation to FSA within 90 calendar days of each disaster event or date when the loss is apparent to the producer.

SOLUTIONS:
If would be helpful if the TAP application process would mirror NAP somewhat and have a disaster beginning date and end date with no requirement of end date for those event such as greening, drought, etc., that appear ongoing. Right now we force the producer to put a disaster date on the application when it truly should be the date it was apparent.

NATIONAL OFFIC RESPONSE:
The changes you mention below would require a regulatory change (see below).  

§ 1416.405 Application.

(a) To apply for TAP, a producer that suffered eligible tree, bush, or vine losses that occurred:

(1) On or after October 1, 2011, through December 31, 2014, must provide an application for payment and supporting documentation to FSA by the later of January 31, 2015, or 90 calendar days after the disaster event or date when the loss is apparent to the producer.

(2) During the 2015 calendar year or later, must provide an application for payment and supporting documentation to FSA within 90 calendar days of the disaster event or date when the loss of trees, bushes, or vines is apparent to the producer.

The statutory language specifies:

(2) ELIGIBILITY.—

(A) LOSS.—Subject to subparagraph (B), for fiscal year 2012 and each succeeding fiscal year, the Secretary shall use such sums as are necessary of the funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation to provide assistance—

(i) under paragraph (3) to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers that planted trees for commercial purposes but lost the trees as a result of a natural disaster, as determined by the Secretary; and

(ii) under paragraph (3)(B) to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers that have a production history for commercial purposes on planted or existing trees but lost the trees as a result of a natural disaster, as determined by the Secretary.

Losses due to plant disease differs from natural disaster because the time period between infection and symptom appearance can be from a few days to several years. In the case of plant disease, the 15% mortality threshold and normal mortality is cumulative (with DAFP approval). See subparagraph 31 C and D of 1-TAP.

 

Programs Submission Response: Updating 902 Land Contributions

ISSUE:
Updating the 902 Land Contributions when a producer needs to revise his/her Farm Operating Plan

FACTS:
It is very time consuming to select each:   *Farm Number *Tract Number *Owner Name * Farmland or Cropland *whether or not they farmed it last year Yes/No *Acres

SOLUTIONS:
It would be much more efficient to be able to have an option to “select all” above each column so we could uncheck the ones not needed.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
We agree the option to select “All Tracts” would be beneficial when recording leases. I will add this suggestion to the list of enhancements that we would like to complete but it may be a while before we can implement the change due to resource and budget constraints. 

However, the option to “select all” for the Type of Acres, Land Interest the same as last year question and Name, we intentionally default the type of acres and land interest question to empty to force a selection and if there are multiple producers with relationship to the tract, the producers with the lease to or lease from must be selected. These fields should be reviewed and entered independently for each tract to ensure the information selected is accurate. In addition, for the Name, it is very possible different tracts have different customers related to the tract so the ability to “select all” cannot be used.

Programs Submission Response: MAL/CLPS

ISSUE:
CCC-666 Commodity Loan Request form should be automated and part of the MAL CLPS software.

FACTS:
Completing these forms manually is very inefficient and leaves much room for human error, especially during the bin bushel calculation. 

SOLUTIONS:
Modify existing input screens so data on the form could be captured and calculated within the CLPS system. Input data should include County and Township location for each bin so that proper loan rates could be automatically pulled in from a table. Bushel calculation errors and loan rate errors could be avoided by automating this form.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Thank you for the suggestion.  I will add automating the form to our list of enhancements.

 

Programs Submission Response: Corn Intended Use Policy

ISSUE:
Corn silage acreage must be loaded as forage for FSA and then for ACRSI we must clarify the intended use to silage.

FACTS:
Many years ago the RMA crop information screen used corn silage before it was switched to forage. Since there are thousands of corn silage fields in the country, is there any thought to switching back to silage so COFs don’t have to address a silage field every time it is loaded in a crop report?

SOLUTIONS:
Amend handbook 2-CP and CARS so that all corn silage acres are loaded as corn silage, not corn forage or have the ability to load a default that addressed the RMA intended use. At one time FSA did report as silage.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Submit your request to add SG as a valid intended use for corn according to 2-CP, subparagraph 41 B.

 

Programs Submission Response: LFP Software Availability

ISSUE:
LFP Software Availability

FACTS:
LFP software availability is being delayed for counties that have been declared eligible. 

Manual applications taken for LFP require second party review for correctness.  This results in triple man hours when you have taken the application manually, then loaded, then additional employee has second partied.  Manual applications also increase the potential for human error.

SOLUTIONS:
LFP software should be made available to counties immediately upon being declared eligible OR open the software to allow users to load applications regardless of county eligibility.  Payments are determined by a downloaded payment factor which will not trigger until the file is appropriately received from National Office anyway.  County Offices and their producers are very aware of the drought monitor and LFP eligibility.

NATIONAL OFFICE SOFTWARE  RESPONSE:
In 2016 it was determined that the LFP application software did not meet certain compliance requirements and the program underwent a rewrite to correct these compliance issues. When the rewritten program was released in December 2016, we discovered several bugs in the program that hadn’t been discovered in testing. One of the bugs involved updating the monthly payment rates for eligible counties. The software was not updating drought intensity factors, so the software was not calculating new payments based on the new drought intensity factors. Information Bulletin 8545 was issued in February to let the field know that there was a problem with updates.  Once corrections to the software were made, and extensive testing was completed to assure the problem had been fixed, Information Bulletin 8556 was issued on March 10, 2017 to notify the field that the problems with the LFP application software had been resolved and county eligibility had been updated.

“LFP Eligible Counties” report is updated on a weekly basis. The National Office receives the list of “LFP Eligible Counties” on Thursday of each week, and the “LFP Eligible Counties” report is usually updated by Friday or no later than Monday of the next week, depending on the number of eligible counties on the listing.  Once the LFP eligible counties are approved each week, our Program Delivery Branch website is updated with a link for the latest drought intensity factor for all eligible counties nationwide. The only official source for “LFP Eligible Counties” is found at this address under the heading “LFP”: http://fsaintranet.sc.egov.usda.gov/ffas/farmbill/ccc/. The link will reference the date of the latest data.

NATIONAL OFFICE POLICY  RESPONSE:
LFP applications should only be taken when a county has received notification that a forage type is eligible for LFP on the “LFP Eligible Counties” listing found at: : http://fsaintranet.sc.egov.usda.gov/ffas/farmbill/ccc/ for the specific grazing period.  No other report or listing authorizes eligibility.  So, if county offices are taking applications without their county and forage type being listed, then manual applications should be taken because the crop and county have not been officially approved for LFP.

Programs Submission Response: Farm Reconstitutions and Transfers

ISSUE:
Difficulty in tracking reconstitution history and county transfers

FACTS:
It can be difficult to trace the history of a farm after multiple recons. MIDAS currently shows the “Combined from” and “Divided from” information in Farm Records. 

SOLUTIONS:
Would it be possible to include the Combined from and Divided from information print on the FSA-156EZ?

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Thank you for submitting the concerns with tracking reconstitutions and the suggestions for the FSA-156EZ. We recognize that the ability to track reconstitutions has been a pain point with the field staff since the expected reconstitution reports were not able to be implemented immediately in MIDAS CRM. I am hoping that the software update that occurred this last weekend with MIDAS Release 2.19 provides the tools and reconstitution reports the users are needing to assist with tracking the history of a farm or tract through the completed reconstitutions. Please see Web Transmittal No. 536 for additional information on the new reconstitution ID and reports that are now available. A notice will also be posted in the near future with additional information and instructions.

While the new reports in CRM Farm Records will not reference the reconstitutions completed in CRM prior to the software update, all reconstitutions completed from this time forward will be assigned a Reconstitution ID number and reports can be generated to identify the parent and/or child farms and tracts associated with the specific reconstitution. Concerning the FSA-156EZ, this initial release of the reconstitution reports did not include populating the FSA-156EZ with the reconstitution ID. This has been identified as a needed update. We will also look into adding the “combine from” and “divided from” on the form. Adding the reconstitution ID and the additional reconstitution data to the FSA-156EZ will be an enhancement to the existing functionality and will be subject to prioritization and funding.

There currently is not a plan to add a County Transfer report in CRM Farm Records, but there will be a County Transfer report in the new reporting application that is being developed. Hopefully this report will assist counties with tracking the farm transfers as needed.