Program Submission Response: MIDAS Associated County

ISSUE:

Adding Associated County in MIDAS when there is only 1 county.

FACTS:

When adding a new customer into MIDAS profile one of the steps is to add a new customer’s Program Participation and then their Associated Counties. However, in an effort to be more efficient, when there is only 1 county, when the employee hits SAVE that Associated County should automatically update to the 1 county listed in Program Participation. If there is more than 1 county the MIDAS User should get a red stop to select a county. Making this selection automatic would make the MIDAS User more efficient and save time when adding a customer.

PROPOSED SOLUTION:

Software update to make Associated County automatically update when SAVE is clicked when there is only 1 county involved.

NATIONAL OFFICE REPONSE:

Thank you for taking the time to share NASCOE’s recommendation with us. We will take this idea into consideration and work with the development team to discuss the possibility of implementing the enhancement.

As you probably know, COF users can be assigned to more than one county within a service center, so having the software automatically populate the customer’s Associated County based on the employee’s assigned would require a system suggestion to the user…rather than an automated assignment.

We will discuss and let you know if we are able to add it to the investment plan.

Thanks again for the recommendation!

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 Attends FPAC Employee Associations Joint Meeting

NASCOE Officers, Area Executives and Negotiation Consultants traveled to Washington, DC the week of April 2 to 5, 2018 for the annual Negotiation Session with FSA Management.  NASCOE is the only association authorized to represent County Office FSA Employees with Management.

While in Washington, DC, the NASCOE delegation participated in the 2018 FPAC Employee Associations Joint Meeting, held April 4, 2018 in Washington, DC.  NASCOE’s representatives are pictured with FPAC Under Secretary Bill Northey, FSA Acting Administrator Steve Peterson and FSA Acting Deputy Administrator for Field Operations Linda Treese.

NASCOE Officers, Executives and Negotiations Consultants pictured with FPAC Under Secretary Bill Northey, Acting FSA Administrator Steve Peterson and Acting Deputy Administrator for Field Operations Linda Treese.

Official Photo courtesy of the Office of the Deputy Administrator for Field Operations.

From Left:
Wes Daniels (SC), NASCOE Past President;
Debbie Staley (IL), MWA Negotiations Consultant;
Linda Treese, Acting Deputy Administrator for Field Operations;
Jay Goff (OK), Southwest Area Executive;
Janae Prescott (ID), NWA Negotiations Consultant;
Steve Peterson, Acting Administrator – Farm Service Agency;
Jessi Colgrove (NE), Northwest Area Executive;
Dennis Ray (MO), NASCOE President;
Brandon Wilson (KS), NASCOE Vice-President;
Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area;
Curt Houk (IA), NASCOE Treasurer;
Michelle Stahl (OH), NASCOE Programs Committee Chair;
Richard Csutoras (PA), Northeast Area Executive;
Tracy Wilson (OK), SWA Negotiations Consultant;
Jessica Walls (WV), NEA Negotiations Consultant;
Marcinda Kester (FL), NASCOE Secretary;
Sabrina Conditt (AR), SEA Negotiations Consultant;
Mike Mayfield (TN), Southeast Area Executive; and
Chris Hare (IN), Midwest Area Executive.

Programs Submission Response: CRP CCMS Reports

ISSUE:

CRP has a $50,000 payment limitation. It is becoming increasing difficult to research multi-county producers’ payment limitations due to the limited report access in CCMS by county. Since FSA employees are only able to access the administrative county they are responsible for in CCMS. We are forced to make a mental note of our multi-county producers and constantly reach out to neighboring counties or counties across the country to research their current payment limitation status.

FACTS:

After our 2017 CRP payment cycle it was discovered that a multi-county corporation was over the $50,000 CRP payment limitation for the last 2 years. This was unknown to the one of the 2 county office’s involved or the producer, due to how the payments were processed. Multiple CRP contracts were enrolled in several counties over the last 3 years.

SOLUTION:

FSA is currently operating under nationwide customer service. Our reports need to be the same. Please, allow county offices to pull reports in CCMS for an individual producer on a nationwide basis, NOT per Admin County. One report is much more efficient to track than individually contacting every county office associated with the producer and the time constraints involved with those actions.

DAFP RESPONSE:

From a CCMS reports perspective I agree with the concern.  To help with this situation we are moving CCMS data into the EDW for more flexible reporting.    The EDW will have the ability to view outside of the county(s) the user has access to in CCMS.  This should allow users to develop a list of all the contracts a producer has regardless of location.  Until that time there are CCMS reports in the Common Data SharePoint site that provide the CCID.  An office can filter by a CCID to see all contracts a producer has an interest in.  I know this is less than ideal as users would need to look up a CCID in CRM/BP first, but it does allow better multi county visibility than CCMS provides.

I cannot provide any comments on the specific PL issue mentioned, that will need to be address by others.

Program Submission Response: CCMS interface with Subsidiary for AGI

ISSUE:

CRP approvals require AGI forms on file prior to approval.

FACTS:

CRP-1s approved prior to obtaining applicable AGI requires STO and National Office attention.

SOLUTION:

Would it be possible to modify the software to read from the subsidiary file?  CRP software should be modified to read the AGI file similar to payment processes for the CRP approval process.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:

We have been working on adding the ability to check if AGI has been filed at time of contract revision/division approval and development for this new functionality is approved but has not yet started due to resource constraints.  After the enhancement is moved into production, additional information will be provided to the field on the use of the new functionality.

Program Submission Response: NAP NCT prices

ISSUE:

Handbook 1-NAP paragraph 4B states STC shall establish average market prices and payment factors at least 120 calendar days before the sales closing date for the crop.

FACTS:

The average market prices and payment factors are not posted until after the closing date so producers have no way to accurately estimate risk management.

SOLUTION:

Set the software to lock the prices loaded by 120 days before the sales closing date for the crop.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:

Thank you for your submission.  The purpose of the requirement to have the STC establish the average market prices and payment factors at least 120 calendar days before the application closing date for the crop is so producers will know the potential coverage and can make an informed decision as to whether or not obtaining NAP coverage is a good risk management tool for them in advance of the application closing date.  It was because of this requirement that the rules were changed to no longer require the most recent crop year when establishing the price or yield because we knew those prices and yields might not be available far enough in advance to establish the crop data timely.

Based on the issue that was raised in your email, it seems as though the applicable state does not understand the importance of not only establishing the average market price and payment factors, but updating that information in the NCT in a timely manner.  We will look for the best method to communicate to State Offices the importance of both of those things because as the submitter indicated, producers should be aware of their potential coverage in advance of making the decision of whether or not to obtain NAP coverage.

Program Submission Response: Bridges to Opportunity Enhancement

ISSUE:

Bridges to Opportunity – New Customer Interaction – Receipt for Service

It is possible to make the menus for the customer service, items provided to customer, items received from customer, and receipt drop-down menus, instead of the current scroll menus.

FACTS:

When trying to see which options to choose, it is hard to find them because you only see four options at a time.

SOLUTION:

Would it be possible to incorporate drop down menus to see more available options.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:

We have discussed various ways to make that aspect of the application more user friendly. We will pursue improvements as you suggest in the coming weeks and months. One solution that may be possible is having autocomplete fields in which one starts typing what they want and a list of possibilities are shown. This may be even more effective than drop down menus. Either way, we will be improving the interface soon.

Program Submission Response: MIDAS Farm Records Enhancement

ISSUE:

Farm record changes such as ownership changes, operator changes, and other tenants.

FACTS:

Handbook policy requires notification of farm record changes.

SOLUTION:

MIDAS software will generate an automatic FSA-476 in letter form to notify reconstitution participants of changes to base acres.  Would it be possible to enhance the software to generate a letter when changes are made to ownership, operation and tenants added? It would be more efficient if the software automatically generated a letter, and it would save employees time.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:

Thank you for the suggestion on automating the notification letters when producer changes occur on a farm.   I agree that this would benefit the county offices and help insure that the required notification letters are being sent to all applicable producers. I will add this to our list of software enhancements, though implementing this change will be up to prioritization and budget.

Additionally, another specialist, who handles the policy side of Farm Records, and I have discussed the need to have a standard letter available in 10-CM to be used when notifying the associated producers when any acreage change occurs on a farm . We hope to have this standard letter included in a future amendment to 10-CM.

Program Submission Response: Conservation User Guides

ISSUE :

Field offices spend a lot of time trying to locate procedure and instructions found in user guides and program guides that have not been incorporated into a particular handbook.  For example, COLS and CCMS. Some of these user guides also need to be updated to reflect software that is currently in use.

FACTS:

Most guides are located on various sharepoint sites and are extremely difficult to locate.  It is also difficult to determine if the guides are current.

SOLUTION:

Since handbooks and notices are now stored in electronic format, searching for this information could be much quicker if it were stored on the same page as access to handbooks.  Eliminating excessive searching, and having current versions of user guides will result in field personnel performing their jobs more timely and with greater confidence.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:

The current software user guides for all Conservation Systems are all located here:

https://sharepoint.fsa.usda.net/mgr/dafp/CEPD/User_Guides/SitePages/Home.aspx

We are working towards putting all of this documentation into FSA Handbook format that will be located on the handbooks website when completed.

Program Submission Response: ARCPLC Enrollment Reports

ISSUE :

ARCPLC Enrollment Reports.  It is difficult to locate farms that are missing enrollment in ARCPLC when comparing to previous years.  When trying to locate farms that were enrolled/approved in the previous year, but are missing in the current year, we are having to use multiple excel spreadsheets to cross reference, which can lead to human error.

FACTS:

Currently there is no report for enrollment that will list and compare enrolled/approved farms for the previous year as compared to the current year.

SOLUTION:

Would it be possible to make available a report to cross reference previous year to current to aid in enrollment?

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:

We will put this request on our list of enhancements.  The key issue is funding.