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.
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant December 13, 2019
The Legislative Committee is cautiously optimistic as we announce that the leaders in spending talks announced Thursday afternoon that they have reached a “deal in principle” to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2020, according to House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). A vote in the House will be scheduled for Tuesday.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said staff members are working out “a few details.” He and Lowey announced the agreement with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking member of Senate Appropriations, and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), ranking on House Appropriations.
Although this is very positive news and we are hopeful that Congress will be able to accomplish this task, we also acknowledge there are lot of hot topic partisan politics issues swirling in Washington that could derail these plans. Your Legislative team will keep a close eye on the appropriations process in the coming days and let you know of any major changes.
By vote of 74-20, The U.S. Senate
today passed a short-term measure to fund the government until December 20th,
buying Washington four more weeks before the threat of another shutdown. The White House has indicated that President
Trump will sign the continuing resolution.
Since the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have both passed their versions of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, we are hopeful the two draft measures will be finalized in conference prior to the December 20th deadline.
The NASCOE Legislative Team will continue to monitor the appropriations bill and keep the membership informed of any progress.
Continuing Resolution Vote and NASCOE Preparations Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant November 19, 2019
By a vote of 231 to 192, the House of Representatives today passed the continuing resolution to keep the government open through December 20, 2019.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor statement today that the Senate will pass the continuing resolution and President Trump will sign it.
The Leader also mentioned that talks continue regarding completion of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills. As a reminder, the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have both passed the Agriculture Appropriations bill. We are hopeful the two draft measures will be finalized before the December 20 deadline.
Although we have no indication a government shutdown is anticipated, Chris Lary, National Benefits/Emblems Chair, has been taking a proactive role to prepare in case there were to be a furlough. Many employees have been contacted regarding what worked well last time and what didn’t work so well. She has complied information in order to help mitigate the impact of a furlough.
The employee checklist for furlough has been reviewed, web links have been viewed and verified and NASCOE is prepared should the need arise to get membership information to assist them.
Please make sure your State President has your current home email address so that you will receive this information timely.
The House of Representatives and U.S. Senate approved legislation funding the government at current levels through November 21. This allows our employees to continue working without any lapse of federal appropriations.
The bill includes language allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to continue disbursing Commodity Credit Corporation funds for the Market Facilitation Program. This will ensure farmers continue to receive financial assistance.
Our legislative committee is working to educate legislators about the need for additional salaries and expenses funding for the next fiscal year. In addition, Members of Congress continue to highlight FSA’s field office staffing needs and the inability to adequately deliver farm programs.
The agency has completed the new workload analysis and our farmers deserve better customer service. We believe field office staff numbers are short over 2,000 FTEs. The time has come for the USDA to give us the tools necessary to deliver farm programs.
2020 Appropriations Update September 11, 2019
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
On June 25th, the full House voted 227-194 to approve the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture appropriations bill which included an increase in FSA salaries and expenses of 3.8 % or $ 41 million. The Senate has yet to act on any 2020 appropriation measures. Due to this lack of progress, the House is planning to move a continuing resolution next week that will run through November 21st or 22nd, or through December 6th. It appears November 21st or 22nd will the most likely choice, but we are told the decision has not been made yet. At this time, we do not expect that the government will face another shutdown. With an election year coming up, we do not feel that anyone in Congress will have the stomach to add this as an issue for voters to take sides on.
The Senate planned on moving 4 bills this week through subcommittee and full committee appropriations. Democrats met Monday night, and decided they wanted to push back on anticipated allocations in domestic discretionary as well as on some issues important to their base (border wall restrictions, abortion/title X, etc.). There is a divide between members who want to work with the majority and address their concerns through the process (in conference) and those who want to begin fighting on every appropriations bill immediately.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell reiterated on the Sunday news programs his intention is to only pass appropriations bills in the Senate acceptable to the President.
The plan had been to mark up four bills this week (DoD, E&W, LHHS, SFO), four next (Ag, FS, MilCon/VA, THUD), and four the following week (CJS, DHS, Interior, Leg Branch). Chairman Shelby and Senate Republican Leadership hoped to have the first four bills on the Senate floor next week (9/16-9/20). Absent some agreement between Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Leahy and Senate Leadership, the FY 2020 appropriations schedule appears to be moving further down the calendar.
NASCOE fully understands that our members will have concerns, especially considering the events last year. We will continue to closely monitor the appropriations process and will keep membership apprised as new developments arise.
Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant May 17, 2019
The current work period has
proven active for agricultural policy proposals and related oversight hearings.
The below provides an update of certain activities that impact FSA programs and
Disaster Assistance — The House of Representatives, on May 10, passed legislation providing assistance for 2018 and 2019 hurricanes, wildfires floods and related disasters. The Senate is currently negotiating with the House to finalize what will become the final legislation. The Senate is expected to debate disaster assistance next week. The House details are summarized below for your review.
House Passed Bill:
$3.005 billion for crop and livestock losses for 2018 and 2019
$480 million for Emergency Forest Restoration Program
$125 million for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations
$500 million for Emergency Conservation Program
$600 million for Puerto Rico nutrition assistance
$25 million for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands nutrition assistance
$5 million for American Samoa nutrition assistance
$5 million to study Puerto Rico nutrition assistance provided during 2017
Market Facilitation Program payment limitation language:
$900,000 and 75% from agriculture AGI payment limitation
$125,000 payment cap
Market Facilitation Program — The Secretary of Agriculture recently commented that USDA will provide another round of trade assistance. Our contacts believe the total assistance will range between $15 and 20 billion. It is likely that payment rates for specific commodities will be adjusted compared to 2018. Once available, we will provide additional details.
Federal Appropriations — The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to consider the fiscal year 2020 bill on Thursday, May 23. Our meetings with Members and staff have been productive but didn’t provide any details about funding levels. Currently, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 11.
H.R. 2478 Federal Retirement Fairness Act — Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) has introduced legislation allowing former temporary employees, in a temporary position after December 31, 1988, to be credited for service under FERS. Unlike previous legislation, this proposal is more favorable by not requiring significant investment by individual employees while giving workers additional credit toward retirement. We will continue to monitor this legislation that could potentially impact many of our members.