August 24, 2021 By Clint Bain and Neil Burnette NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs
Annually, the NASCOE legislative team engages with Congress regarding what resources FSA needs to fulfill its mission. Even with COVID-19 restrictions this year was no different. The NASCOE legislative consultant has been working with members of Congress to advance NASCOE’s priorities by maintaining key relationships on both sides of the isle in both the House and the Senate.
Recently, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved their draft fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill and report. The House companion has now been approved by the full House of Representatives. Both the Senate and the House version will be combined to arrive at a version which will serve as a vehicle for FSA’s 2022 salaries and expense funding.
The chart below provides details about FSA salaries and expenses spending levels.
FY 2021 $1,437,038,000
FY 2022 $1,469,784,000 +$32,746,000
FY 2022 $1,472,438,000 +$35,400,000
FY 2022 To be determined
In addition, NASCOE secured language related to our legislative priorities. The below items can be found within the draft Committee bills.
Prohibiting FSA County Office closures
Funding for County Committee meetings
Prohibiting permanent relocation of staff without Congressional notification
The Committee remains concerned about staffing shortages at FSA offices and continues to direct the Secretary to submit a report to Congress with an administrative breakdown of allotment levels by State, current full-time equivalents, current on-board permanent employees by State, and funded ceiling levels by State.
While it is nice to see appropriations that are considerably higher than the previous year, we are not yet at the end of the road. The Legislative Team along with NASCOE’s Legislative Consultant will continue to monitor progress of the Senate Bill as it makes its way to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed, the bills will then go to an appointed conference committee before again coming to a vote in both chambers. A more detailed report regarding the House committee report language and Senate Disaster language can be found on the NASCOE Website.
We hope this legislative update finds you all well. With COVID-19 continuing to impact our work environment, we are doing our best to serve NASCOE members and production agriculture. Recently, the Department of Agriculture announced our offices would be operating under limited capacity. We continue to urge our leadership to make decisions regarding office status based on data in the local area as opposed to government wide mandates. It is our belief that the new team leading USDA understands the importance of allowing our county offices to operate and service our customers.
In addition to COVID office concerns, we have heard about various states lowering annual employee ceilings. Despite FSA receiving a budget increase this year, some state offices have cited “budget cuts” as the reason for lowering the total number of county office employees NASCOE leadership is working to better understand the budget challenges our agency faces for the current fiscal year. FSA employees continually respond to every challenge as they do their part to support American farmers. Over the past two years, county office employees have worked tirelessly implementing trade adjustment and COVID relief payments.
The chart below provides details about recent FSA spending levels. These funding levels can be found in the annual Agriculture Appropriations report. The funding chart appears as the Comparative Statement of Budget Authority (CSBA).
FPAC Business Center (including transfers)
FSA Salaries and Expenses (including transfers)
FY 2021 = $291,960,000
FY 2021 = $1,437,038,000
FY 2020 = $280,186,000
FY 2020 = $1, 414,214,000
FY 2019 = $292,659,000
FY 2019 = $1,375,177,000
NASCOE has been diligent showing members of Congress the need to provide funding increases year after year. To assist Congress with preparing this year’s budget, NASCOE visited with the House Agriculture Chairman and spoke about staffing concerns before the House Agriculture Sub-Committee on Nutrition and Forestry.
Please keep us updated should you hear about employee ceilings in your state being lowered based on funding reductions. NASCOE leadership shares the frustration and concerns of those states that had a reduction in staffing. We will continue to work with the new administration and use every avenue available to seek resolution to these issues.
Last night, President Trump signed the annual appropriations and COVID relief stimulus package. The signing of this measure provides a full year spending allocation for government agencies and averts any further shutdown concerns. We highlighted key aspects of the USDA budget in our December 22nd News Flash.
The COVID Relief Bill also makes available significant additional funding for farmers as referenced in our December 21st News Flash. Farm Bureau has recently released their assessment of forthcoming programs. If you wish to read their analysis please click here. Note: while some groups are offering their interpretation of provisions, FSA will release final rules and regulations for the programs in the near future.
The House of Representatives and US Senate announced agreement to provide additional COVID-19 assistance and the fiscal year 2021 appropriations measures. We expect one additional continuing resolution providing the time needed to send these bills to the President’s desk. We do not expect a government shutdown.
The COVID-19 assistance details are posted below for your review. We will send a second update outlining the annual funding levels provided through the appropriations bill.
Covid-19 Agriculture Assistance – $13 billion total
$11.1875 billion for agriculture producers, growers, and processors
Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments for the 2020 crop year – option for 2018 and 2019 sales – (cattle included)
Up to $1 billion for livestock and poultry contract growers
$20 million to improve and maintain animal disease prevention and response capacity
May extend the term of a marketing assistance loan
No less than $1.5 billion to purchase food and agricultural products, including seafood
Up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and hauling businesses
May make payments to producers of advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, conventional biofuel, or renewable fuels with market losses due to COVID-19
May make recourse loans available to dairy product processors, packagers, or merchandisers
$100 million to support the Farm Bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
$100 million for the Farm Bill’s Local Agriculture Market Program
$75 million for the Farm Bill’s Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program
$400 million to pay for milk to be processed into dairy products and donated to non-profit entities (food banks, feeding programs, etc.)
Establishes a Federal livestock dealer trust to ensure that livestock producers are paid for their animals
$60 million to make facility upgrade and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to Federal inspection
$28 million to be distributed as block grants to state departments of agriculture for use to support existing farm stress programs
*Additional funds were provided to domestic nutrition programs.