Government Funding Update – February 14, 2019

FY19 Appropriations Bill Update

February 14, 2019

Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

The Homeland Security Conference Report (including all the other appropriations bills outstanding for FY 2019) passed the Senate 83-16, and passed the House 300-128 (with 4 not voting) late this evening.

President Trump has signaled that he will sign the bill before the February 15 deadline which will prevent another government shutdown.

NASCOE’s Legislative Team will continue to track the President’s action on the bill and will provide additional updates.

NASCOE Legislative Update – – December 17, 2018

Appropriations Update

NASCOE Legislative Consultant Hunter Moorhead

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue to negotiate the final spending package before the December 21 deadline. We expect the Senate will soon release a new draft bill for full Senate consideration. In addition, Senator Schumer and President Trump will meet again tomorrow to discuss funding for the immigration/border wall. We hope the two will agree to a pathway forward for funding the government.

Do we know if the government will shut down? We currently believe the government will not shutdown. However, the President is the only person who will decide to sign or veto any agreement. We are hopeful he will signal support following introduction of the Senate omnibus appropriations bill.

NASCOE is constantly monitoring developments with this funding bill and we are committed to providing timely updates when new information becomes available.

FY19 Appropriations Bill Update–v.121718

Legislative News Flash–2018 Farm Bill & FY19 Appropriations Updates

NASCOE Legislative Update for November 26

With the elections nearly complete, we are actively working to finalize both the 2018 Farm Bill and the 2019 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Let us know if you need additional information about the topics listed below.

Elections – Today’s Mississippi Senate race between Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy will be the final federal election.  If Hyde-Smith wins, the Senate Republicans will continue their control by a margin of 53 – 47.  As previously noted, the House of Representatives will shift to Democratic control allowing Congressman Collin Peterson to chair the Agriculture Committee.

Farm Bill Reauthorization – The House and Senate Ag Committee leadership are working tirelessly to finalize Farm Bill negotiations.  As of noon today, an agreement had not been reach regarding the conservation title and forestry related provisions. However, we still believe the process is wrapping up and the final details should be available soon.  We have been able to address most all of our concerns and believe the final agreement will be an improvement for both FSA and production agriculture.

Appropriations – Five appropriations bills representing 75% of the Federal budget have been enacted and signed into law (DoD, LHHS, Energy & Water, Milcon/VA, Legislative Branch).  Of the remaining seven bills, four (Agriculture, Financial Services/General Government, Interior, Transportation/HUD) are in a minibus which has largely been conferenced, and substantial work has been done between the House and the Senate on the other three bills (Commerce/Justice/Science, Homeland, and State/Foreign Operations).

The agencies covered by the seven outstanding bills are currently being funded by a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on December 7th.

Reportedly, there is agreement between the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs and Ranking Members on a schedule to move the remaining seven bills in one package. The White House agrees with that approach.  To complete action on a seven bill appropriations package and move it through both the House and the Senate before the CR runs out on December 7th, decisions on outstanding issues and funding levels should be made by Sunday, December 2nd.  The most difficult remaining issue is the funding level and conditions on funding for the Border Wall/Border Security — the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill contains $1.6b and the House version contains $5b.

Over 100 House members who are retiring or who lost their seats are currently working out of cubicles (they’ve been kicked out of their offices so those spaces can be available for incoming members).  Predictably, those 100 members are less than enthusiastic about dragging this Congress out any longer than necessary.  There is likely to be some emergency funding included for recovery from this year’s hurricanes and wildfires in the final appropriations vehicle moving through this congress, as well as some extraneous legislative items (Farm Bill, Flood Program extension, etc.).

Since the President can veto any spending bill that doesn’t satisfy his desires on funding for the Border Wall/Border Security, the confrontation/negotiation on the issue could easily result in an impasse that precludes completion of a seven bill wrap-up appropriations package.

Should an agreement be unattainable by the 7th of December, another continuing resolution could be passed to prevent any government shutdown.

Everyone wants to complete action on the FY 2019 appropriations bills. Everyone wants to go home as early as possible. Everyone understands that everyone else wants to finish and go home and accordingly, the party who is willing to hold out the longest and inflict the most pain on themselves and everyone else may believe a willingness to stay and precipitate a partial government shutdown would give them leverage in the negotiations.  

An orderly completion of the FY 2019 Appropriations process and timely passage of a seven-bill wrap-up package is possible but unlikely given the rhetoric, staked out positions, and likely posturing to both parties’ bases on the Border Wall/Border Security Issue. 

If an agreement is reached before or on December 7th, a two or three day continuing resolution could be passed to avoid any government shutdown while the final agreement moves through the Congress. 

A number of Members of Congress met with President Trump this afternoon to continue budget negotiations. We will provide another update later this week regarding the chances of any government shutdown.  

Hunter Moorhead
NASCOE Legislative Consultant

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Question and Answer Session at 59th NASCOE Convention

A printable version of this post is available on the Forms and Downloads page, or at the following link:  Sioux Falls WDC Q&A

2018 National Convention
Sioux Falls, SD
August 2, 2018

Present:
Bill Northey, Under Secretary
Richard Fordyce, Administrator
Steve Peterson, Acting Associate Administrator
Brad Karmen, Acting Deputy Director Farm Programs
Terri Meighan, FPAC Business Center
Peggy Browne, Director of Field Operations
Linda Treese, Deputy Director Field Operations
Steve Stark, PECD
Darren Ash, OCIO FPAC
Ameer Ali, FPAC Contractor
Rebecca Dudley, FPAC Contractor

1.  Background: We know some STO’s have been proactive in sharing workload data with COF’s.  Other STO’s have been far less forthcoming. NASCOE is concerned about consistency and transparency in sharing of data.

Q:  Can you tell us when this data will be available down to the field level?

A:  Mr. Fordyce responded stated that moving to the workload model is a new way to distribute staff.  It is a tool for SED’s, AO’s and EO’s to determine where staffing should be placed.  The ability to distribute the information is left up to each STO.  There is nothing secret or hidden about the data.  The staffing model looks at metrics such as contracts and farm loan products and then time coded to those activities runs through a formula to determine where the staffing should go.  Once those are established the optimal office to place those positions.  OPO 2.0 is coming with improvements.  It is up the SED discretion on how they want to share that information. This tool is going to continue to evolve and improve.

2. Q: With the low number of staff we have on board for 2018 can you explain how the FY18 ceilings were established since there should have been funds left over from the last year when not hiring?

A:  Linda Treese responded that going from 17 into 18 the funding that was provided for 18 was less staffing and funding for FSA.  Yes, we saved money by not putting people on and it would not have been smart to hire and change the staffing levels this late in the season not knowing what the 2019 levels will be. There were ways that we utilized the extra money and put it back out to the field.

3. Q: There are numerous CED’s at retirement age. Is it possible to bring on COT’s above the ceiling anticipating these retirements?

A:  Mr. Fordyce responded that the agency recognizes that we have several CED’s about to retire. He stated that there are a lot of folks ready to retire and we have hopes to tackle this issue and respond by placing some COT’s across the country. We are hoping to get very inventive to start planning for attrition. 

A:  Linda Treese responded stating that we use to have the non-ceiling number of FLOT’s and COT’s and not lose out on ceiling numbers.  We did that for several years based on a lack of funding.  There have been discussions to utilize this again. Until the budget is known for 19 it might be hard to put that out now.

A:  Peggy Browne stated that it is key to succession planning.  Those discussions will be happening, and we are on board to find a solution.

4. There is a lot of printers and equipment that is not working in the field?

A:  Darren Ash responded that OCIO is aware of the issues. There is a workgroup established for a long-term solution to these problems. There is a work around that should help with some of those issues therefore offices should contact their IT person.

5. We have new ARCPLC regulations for Seed cotton if a producer had grass on it from 08-12 will it always be unassigned, or will they allow you to go back and claim?

A: Brad Karmen stated that seed cotton only looks at 12 however the next farm bill may address this issue.

6. Recently I was shown the staffing model for my office. I have a farm in my county that has 20 plus tenants on a farm.  When I am doing acreage reports and other contracts I am touching that form several times. Can you tell me how acreage reports are being counted?

A: Acreage reports are looked by field type. 

7. Has the issue of a physical county verses the admin county has been addressed for ARCPLC? I can service other counties for several other programs but not ARCPLC.

A: Fordyce responded we are making adjustments in the workload model for situations like this.  Therefore, it is important that there is state control because they are aware of these situations. That is where there is flexibility for exceptions.

A: Steve Peterson responded stating that they do know that is a discussion on the   Farm Bill. It should address the issue to allow farmers to be serviced in the office of their choice without forcing them.

8. With the extension of the DEC 7 sign up date for the cotton seed program will this affect the current roll over date?

A: Brad Karmen, the grand plan was to get everything done before rolling over.  The decision was made last week by the Sec. to extend and now that will be effect farm records. They are working to get a fix in the system to be able to take and application regardless of which year

9. What is the time frame for the PT excellence program? Is it being considered as an alternate to the COT program?

A:  Linda Treese stated we will be starting FY19 it is more of a leadership program with mentoring and virtual.  It will not be set up as a replacement for the COT training. It is a leadership and skills training.

10. Seed cotton election ends Dec 7 farms that is for generic and non-generic farms will have to come in twice is there any way we can help them, so they won’t have to come in twice?

A:  Brad Karmen, I do not have an answer today but will get back with us with an answer. The December 7th deadline only pertains to cotton seed.

11. Workload data is up to the discretion of the SED to share the information. Can we get your support to share that data with the field by the SED’s? This is causing a great deal of consternation among employees because they don’t see the number and get worried.

A:  Peggy Browne workload model is a tool. We are a proponent of transparency. The bottom line with that tool is that when we get request from your state for different situations.  The state management needs to be impowered to make these decisions.  Of the waivers we have been asked to grant we have approved approximately 90% of them.

12. Budget concerns drive staffing. How does this work with the other workload model?

A:  Fordyce the staffing model is one thing the optimal office is a separate thing. The staffing model is  distributive and  predictive.  What the right number of staff FSA needs to do their job.  There is also a part that is based on funding. Equally distributes them based on funding

A:  Northey in general we will see that we don’t have enough people to get the workload done manage the money we have by filling the deepest holes we have.  What is the size of the optimal office. There is no one optimal size.  Each office and county are different.

A:  Ameer Ali for what is good for county A may not be good for county B. One office may have the resources, but the other office may not. As our model evolves we may progress depending on the Farm Bill.

13. CRP once a cost has been paid the application continues to show up on the ULO report which causes the county office to enter zero data to clear it off the ULO report. Is there an option to resolve the ULO issues? The rental rates are a problem and discrepancies are showing across county lines.  Is there any initiative to resolve this issue?

A: Karmen stated we are working on the ULO issues  bringing in teams from the field and we are expecting to have a fix.  Rental rates use the NASS data. Previously people thought  our rates were too high. The SEC wanted us to use the NASS data. The producers are reporting data to NASS so that may be were the discrepancies. Resolving all our ULO’s is very important to our auditors.  98% of the last report was resolved but the auditor wants us to resolve 100%.

A:  Northey CRP is tough to balance the line to have a rate that is competitive and take land out of production verses lowering the rate and keeping it in production. There is some land in some counties where it is justified to spend a higher rental rate than the rental rates because of the type of land.  Congress is looking as NASS as the driver in the next farm bill.  If you increase acres the only way to control that is by lower rental rates.

A:  Fordyce stated that the timing of the ULO issue is more about fiscal year and trying to get the audit cleaned up.  We have asked for departments to be more considerate of the timing of the request to the field on cleaning up the ULO.  The rental rates in the mid-west we had some rates that were competing with cash rents. When the Federal government is paying the highest rate in the county that is not a position that we need to be in. Out bidding young farmers is not a way for FSA to help beginning farmers. NASS data is bad because we have low participation by the farmers and we should promote to our farmers for them to complete the surveys.

14. MPP – The program was a retroactive program going back to January and producers who had sold their dairy before the sign up are not allowed to sign up because they are commercially producing milk at the time of sign.

A:  Brad Karmen stated we will have discussions and get a good answer back.  When the language was written it was not intended for a retroactive sign up.

15. Workload and optimal performance tool- I have been told that offices that earn comp or credit time its make that office look less efficient than those offices that chose not to work late and earn comp or credit time?

A:  When you earn comp and credit time does not show until you use comp or credit time.  Unfortunately, at the mercy of the data.  Working on the issue to resolve.

16. The shortage of staffing is causing county office burnout and people to retire. What is management doing to encourage people to utilize things such as EAP?

A:  Fordyce the assets of this organization is people and if we are going to continue we must figure out ways to encourage our staff.  Encouragement, support we want to do more than that.  We are going to have to get innovative and think out of the box to invest in our assets.

A:  Northey- especially when we were not hiring positions has caused such a burden.  We would love to have ideas from the field of what we can do to show the field that we appreciate them. We know there are some that field under appreciated.  There are some of there pieces that we are working on some processing agreements to make our office more efficient and improving service.  What do we need to do that will give encouragement to the field?

17. Suggestion for FPAC NRCS is good with technical and we are good with paperwork is there any way that NRCS can do the field work for FSA for CRP?

A:  Fordyce stated that all possibilities must be explored.

A: Northey that is a question I don’t have the answer to but those are the type of things that we are looking at.

18. Thank you for trusting us with MFP but when this rolls out we won’t be able to measure all the bins since we don’t have a field reporter can we use RMA data?

A:  Northey the premise is we are going to make it as simple as possible and keep the shoe boxes out of the office.  RMA records will not be able to be populated by tract, but it still should be easy to use acres and other data for the program. It needs to be done by self- certification without doing field visits.  We have an issue with hogs and how they will certify. Utilize the COC with the local knowledge to make some of those determinations on the self-certifications.

A:  Browne stated we are very aware of the workload this program will bring and we will be reaching out to STO’s to determine the number of temps that will be needed.

19. We have a county office that was approved for a position that required a waiver. You said 90 percent have been approved where are we with the other 10 percent?

A:  Browne stated for the justification we need very specific data provided. Depending on the justification will determine whether it will be approved. We are going to continue to work super hard to make sure that comp and credit time is not used against us.

20. MSP installations what is the plan for the new installations where there is no plan to put one there before the Lexmark is pulled out?

A:  Ash stated we know we have old Lexmark systems out there and we must get off them.   We have ordered several and we recognize the issue and we will address the problem.

21. If the national office looks at the workload for efficiencies why do we have to load so many components in ARS?

A: Rebecca Dudley stated the way I understand is FSA request funding based on activities and ARS is built around activities.

A: Trina Brake we are looking at alternatives to make things better

22. We have multi county and centralized work these will only show up if the county keeps track of this. We need a generic code in the system for work completed for other offices?

A: Rebecca Dudley that is one of the points of conversation we are discussing right now.

23. What is the ceiling how does it work, what does it mean to DC and what should it mean to the CO?

A:  Fordyce the ceiling is when the time coded and metric generated are ran through the model and it generates a number which is the number we need to conduct our business.  Staffing ceiling which is based on funding. The model can do both of those.  The number needed and the number available based on budget.

A:  Treese it split CO and GS there is a flex between ceilings

24. Is there any consideration in revamping the county office training programs?

A:  Fordyce that is a really good question. We find ourselves in a position where we have several vacancies.  I am very well aware of PT” s that are long employees of the agency and the PT in charge becomes the defacto CED.  The PT in Charge is doing pretty much the same work as a CED. What can we do from program policy stand point to allow for these PT’s to become CED’s? There should be able to have a shorter path to becoming a CED. We need to be innovative to get these PT’s into CED’s.

25. Do you have any idea what kind of language will or will not be in the Farm Bill?

A:  Northey not a forecast but a constant conversation about how to be more efficient.  Are we in the right places and right counties?  The plan taken to congress to close offices needs to be bullet proof and not be of convenience.   We need to justify to Congress that this will provide better service.

26. Recently procedure came out regarding 2-CP that if an office made an error we could not fix those errors causing producers to have to come back into the office instead of us making those corrections?

A:  Karmen stated we will have to look into this a little bit more.

27. Are we going to have any training on farmers.gov or is the only training AgLearn?

A:  Ash sated the only type of training that will be giving will be within the program as they are rolled out.

28. If going forward and the staffing model is our only gauge for hiring is there a way in WebTa to document things better rather than having such broad categories?

A:  Brake stated yes, we are looking into developing more categories.

29. Linc Pass card get wiped out during the sign up and had to get passwords every day to sign and they had to wait for the new cards? Can we look at the one finger reset?

A:  Ash although Linc Pass is not part of our responsibility it is part of the business center and will pass the comments on to the people that are running that portion.

30. Has the experience levels of employees being taken into consideration when looking at staffing models?

A:  Ameer stated that the short answer is no State view and county view on the site. They have not been able to establish tenure of employee’s, but this is where the local management team would have input on.  

31. A CED is told that because they are fully staffed they will go help other counties is that a State decision or coming from the top? This could cause the workload tool to become a point of contention between offices.

A:  Browne- We need to think outside the box and we need to do whatever we can to help these folks however these are state leadership decisions.  We might get asked to do things we haven’t done in the past.

32. WebTa coding is absolutely necessary to document where work is getting done. Is there any way we can get WebTa codes in our handbooks by program?

A:  Treese stated there is a handbook for WebTa but that is a very good question. Good idea for us to do in the future. Regarding, the competition ideally in time there will be more availability of information down to the SED’s and DD’s.

A:  Fordyce stated that the staffing model was accelerated so that we could staffing out to the field.  Ideally it would have been nice to have it perfected before we rolled it out.  The staffing model is going to be pretty close of where it should be because we are using a three-year average.  The establishment of ceilings will go down to metric and time.

A:  Meighan stated it will take the WebTa coding issues back because they are having these conversations now.  This is where the business center can help.

33. November 15th for warm season grasses date is too early for certification is there any way we can change?

A:  Fordyce agrees and understands there is a lot of issues with changing that date however we are working on that and they will get back with us.

President’s Update – September 2018

Dennis Ray, NASCOE PresidentIt has been a busy past few weeks since our last update. We had a very successful National Convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The South Dakota Association worked very hard to provide a great experience for the several hundred attendees. I would like to take this time to thank a few of the folks that made the convention such a success. Becky Zirpel, Joel Foster and Larry Olson, along with the entire South Dakota Association, went above and beyond to host the 59th National Convention and we thank them for their efforts. I would like to thank Randy Tillman and Jamie Garriott for their many hours of hard work and their usual tremendous job in providing the audio and visual support.

The convention was very well attended by National Office leadership, including Undersecretary Bill Northey, Administrator Richard Fordyce, Associate Administrator Steve Peterson, Deputy Administrator of Field Operations Peggy Browne and Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs Brad Karmen. Also attending for FSA were Linda Treese, Trina Brake and Kathy Sayers. FPAC business center was represented by Terri Meighan and Darren Ash. Rebecca Dudley and Ameer Ali, from the Managerial Cost Accounting Team presented information on the workload tool and Optimally Productive Office dashboard. Steve Stark was also present and demonstrated the farmers.gov portal. Members were provided a 2-hour question and answer session where they could ask the panel questions that were on their minds. The notes from the Q & A are currently in WDC being reviewed and vetted for accuracy by those who answered the questions. Q & A notes will be posted to the NASCOE website as soon as they are received back from WDC. We thank the national office for being generous in approving travel for so many people to attend our convention. It is very beneficial for our membership to have that opportunity to network with our national leaders.

NASCOE leadership recently held our organizational meeting in Manhattan, Kansas site of the 2019 national convention. KASCOE is preparing for a great convention next year. It will be a great site for the convention and I hope folks begin planning now to attend. At the meeting, we reviewed the challenges for the upcoming year and discus sed our plans for addressing those concerns. We also spent one day working with national committee chairs and setting goals and action plans for meeting those goals. We also discussed the status of the Farm Bill and funding for FY-2019.

Based on information provided by our legislative consultant, it doesn’t appear that the Farm Bill will be passed before the current bill expires on September 30th. There are several items that have been agreed upon, but the nutrition title remains an issue. Committee conferees have been named and NASCOE is watching a couple items that are important to our membership and will need to be resolved in the committee before the bill goes to the full congress for approval. The results of the midterm elections could determine if the current bill is considered as is when Congress returns after the election or if the bill is revised.

Funding for the FY-19 has not been passed as of the date of this article. It appears likely that the ag approps bill will be included in a minibus scheduled to be voted on Friday, September 28th, which would provide a continuing resolution funding us until December 7, 2018. While the exact funding level is not known, indications have been positive regarding the amount provided FSA. We will continue to monitor the farm bill and funding issues and will provides updates through our legislative committee as they occur.

NASCOE is following up on a few items raised at the national convention such as the acreage reporting dates for perennial forages, increasing the number of activation sites for resetting lincpass cards and the late filed deadlines for acreage reports. We are currently trying to schedule a meeting with management to work on these and other pressing issues. We will provide updates to these efforts as we can. In the meantime, please feel free to contact any of your NASCOE leaders if you have any issues or concerns.

NASCOE Legislative Update: Federal Appropriations for FY18 & Congressional Meetings

NASCOE_LogoTo:                     NASCOE Membership
From:               Hunter Moorhead
Subject:          Federal Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018 and Congressional Meetings


This memorandum outlines the recent budget agreement for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The two-year budget agreement allowed for finalization of the 2018 bill which runs through September 2018.  The higher spending limits also allowed Congress to end sequestration cuts and add funding to certain programs.  In addition, the second portion of this document details recent Congressional meetings.

The final budget agreement included specific funding for the below policies.

Budget agreement:

FY17 FY18 FY19
Current law defense cap 551 549 562
Cancel defense sequester 54 54
Security priorities 26 31
New defense cap 551 629 647
OCO/emergency 83 71 69
Defense discretionary total 634 700 716
——————————————————– ————- ————- ————-
Current law nondefense cap 519 516 529
Cancel nondefense sequester 37 37
Domestic priorities 26 31
New nondefense cap 519 579 579
OCO 21 12 8
Nondefense discretionary total 539 591 605

Agreement includes:

  • National Institutes of Health – $1B for 2018 and $1B for 2019;
  • Opioids and Mental Health – $3B for 2018 and $3B for 2019;
  • Veterans Administration healthcare backlog – $2B for 2018 and $2B for 2019;
  • Infrastructure – $10B for 2018 and $10B for 2019;
  • Child Care Development Block Grant – $2.9B for 2018 and $2.9B for 2019; and
  • Higher Education – $2B for 2018 and $2B for 2019.

Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations:
On March 23, the Congress approved and President signed the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill.  The agreement was positive for NASCOE and we believe will lead to additional employees.

The bill includes $23.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $2.1 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. In total, the bill allows for $146 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding – $7.6 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The legislation provides $1.70 billion for farm programs, which is $2 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding will continue support for various farm, conservation, and emergency loan programs, and will help American farmers and ranchers. It will also ensure customer service through full staffing of local county Farm Service Agency offices, including additional funding for farm loan officers, and meet estimates of demand for farm loan programs.

FSA Salaries and Expenses:

2017 Enacted 2018 Request Final Bill Final Bill vs 2017 Final Bill vs Request
1,515,720,000 1,428,051,000 1,519,756,000 +  4,036,000 +  91,705,000

The final agreement provides an increase of 22,216,000.  Based on the FPAC reorganization, the Committee transferred $4,944,000 for the Warehouse Act and $13,236,000 for international food procurement to the Agricultural Marketing Service.

  • Please know that certain NASCOE members have requested details about FSA’s salaries and expenses spending levels. The information will be provided soon.

Public Law / Bill Language:

FARM SERVICE AGENCY SALARIES AND EXPENSES
(INCLUDING TRANSFERS OF FUNDS)

For necessary expenses of the Farm Service Agency, $1,202,146,000: Provided, That not more than 50 percent of the $78,013,000 made available under this heading for information technology related to farm program delivery, including the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems and other farm program delivery systems, may be obligated until the Secretary submits to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, and receives written or electronic notification of receipt from such Committees of, a plan for expenditure that (1) identifies for each project/investment over $25,000 (a) the functional and performance capabilities to be delivered and the mission benefits to be realized, (b) the estimated lifecycle cost, including estimates for development as well as maintenance and operations, and (c) key milestones to be met; (2) demonstrates that each project/investment is, (a) consistent with the Farm Service Agency Information Technology Roadmap, (b) being managed in accordance with applicable lifecycle management policies and guidance, and (c) subject to the applicable Department’s capital planning and investment control requirements; and (3) has been reviewed by the Government Accountability Office and approved by the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress: Provided further, That the agency shall submit a report by the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 to the Committees on Appropriations and the Government Accountability Office, that identifies for each project/ investment that is operational (a) current performance against key

H.R.1625—14 indicators of customer satisfaction, (b) current performance of service level agreements or other technical metrics, (c) current performance against a pre-established cost baseline, (d) a detailed breakdown of current and planned spending on operational enhancements or upgrades, and (e) an assessment of whether the investment continues to meet business needs as intended as well as alternatives to the investment: Provided further, That the Secretary is authorized to use the services, facilities, and authorities (but not the funds) of the Commodity Credit Corporation to make program payments for all programs administered by the Agency: Provided further, That other funds made available to the Agency for authorized activities may be advanced to and merged with this account: Provided further, That funds made available to county committees shall remain available until expended: Provided further, That none of the funds available to the Farm Service Agency shall be used to close Farm Service Agency county offices: Provided further, That none of the funds available to the Farm Service Agency shall be used to permanently relocate county based employees that would result in an office with two or fewer employees without prior notification and approval of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

House Report language:
The Committee does not: 1) provide the one-time FY 2017 increases of $6,000,000 (this language was included in the House language but was not part of the final budget agreement); 2) accept reductions in non-federal full time employees (FTE); 3) accept savings from farm program modernization; and 4) accept any reduction in FTE for international commodity operations and food aid programs including Food for Peace Title II and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program.

The Committee does: (1) accept savings from FTE attrition; (2) provide funding for CCC audit readiness; (3) accept savings from federal and non-federal operating expenses; (4) direct farm program modernization savings to be used for other IT purposes proposed and as determined by the Secretary; and (5) accept IT operation maintenance and imaging savings.

CLEAR Initiative.—The Committee is encouraged by FSA’s announcement of the new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) initiative, which creates a funding mechanism for the installation of saturated buffers and denitrifying bioreactors (NRCS Standard Codes 604 and 605, respectively) into CRP buffers (CP 21 & CP 22). The CLEAR announcement established policy to incentivize and allow the installation of bioreactors into new, existing, and re-enrolled CRP buffers. However, saturated buffers were only allowed in new and re-enrolled CRP buffers. The Committee understands this has limited the ability of stakeholders to install saturated buffers into CRP without penalty. The Committee recommends FSA look into changing the CLEAR guidelines to allow the installation of saturated buffers in new, re-enrolled and existing CRP contracts to allow FSA cost-shared installation of saturated buffers, and to examine allowing for installation of saturated buffers through non- federal programs and initiatives without penalty to landowners.

Emergency Conservation Program (ECP).—The Committee encourages USDA to continue providing updates of funding needs for ECP, especially in the aftermath of drought, wildfires, and other natural disasters. The Committee encourages FSA to be flexible in meeting new challenges as it was during recent wildfire outbreaks when it allowed grazing on CRP lands.

Senate Report language:
Deputy Under Secretary for Conservation.—The Committee recognizes that NRCS, FSA, and RMA each play an important role in helping farmers, ranchers, and foresters manage risk and build the resilience of their operations. Additionally, better coordination and data sharing between the three agencies can limit inefficiencies, improve conservation outcomes, and enhance USDA’s ability to serve its customers. The Committee therefore encourages the Secretary to establish a Deputy Under Secretary for Conservation under the Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area to facilitate such coordination and ensure that each of the three agencies is supporting the conservation objectives of the producers that they serve.

Emergency Response.—The Committee directs USDA to produce a report outlining the average and longest length of time it takes USDA to provide reimbursement under the following emergency assistance programs: crop insurance; Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program [NAP]; Livestock Indemnity Program [LIP]; Livestock Forage Disaster Program [LFP]; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program [ELAP]; Tree Assistance Program [TAP]; Emergency Conservation Program; and Emergency Forest Restoration Program [EFRP]. USDA is also directed to include in the report any barriers to implementing a more efficient reimbursement process and recommendations to the Committee on potential improvements.

Continuous Conservation Reserve Program.—The Secretary is strongly encouraged to, within the total acreage made available for enrollment in the conservation reserve program and without reducing the periodic availability of general signup, enroll, to the maximum extent practicable, acreage for activities included in the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practice or other similar administratively established wetland and habitat practices that benefit priority fish and wildlife species identified in State, regional, and national conservation initiatives with a priority for initiatives that provide large blocks of cover ideal for wildlife nesting.

Information Technology.—The Committee remains dedicated to ensuring FSA has reliable and functioning IT systems because it is critical that farmers and ranchers have access to the tools they need to succeed. The Committee has invested significant taxpayer dollars to modernize outdated systems and continues to provide resources above the budget request. The Committee continues statutory language that allows funds for IT to be obligated only after the Secretary meets certain reporting requirements. The Committee has reviewed the third-party IT analysis and expects the agency to follow the recommendations where applicable.

National Agriculture Imagery Program.—The Committee recommends that funding shall be allocated to purchase imagery products to meet programmatic requirements.

Congressional advocacy efforts:
Donny Green, NASCOE Legislative Chairperson, and Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant, recently spent two days on Capitol Hill raising the importance of additional county office staff and rebuilding our footprint.  According to FSA’s Leadership, the agency lost over 150 employees between October 1 and December 23, 2017.  The current county office staffing level is unacceptable and hiring new employees is our top priority.

We met with the following offices;

Senator Thune – R-SD                Senator Gillibrand – D-NY            Senator Daines – R-MT
Senator Klobuchar – D-MN    Senator Heitkamp – D-ND            Senator Donnelly – D-ID
Senator Fischer – R-NE             Senator Smith – D-MN                     Senator Perdue – R-GA
Senator Hoeven – R-ND            Senator Casey – D-PA                     Senator Grassley – R-IA
Senator Boozman – R-AR         Senator Bennet – D-CO
Senate Ag Committee Staff – Majority         Senate Ag Committee Staff – Minority

Donny spoke about the below staffing numbers and the agency’s inability to service customers.

Years Total CO Total GS Total
17-18 Totals 6785 1745 8530
16-17 Totals 7104 1838 8942
15-16 totals 7180 1639 8819
14-15 totals 7145 1586 8731
13-14 totals 6944 1724 8668
12-13 totals 7484 1625 9109
11-12 totals 7678 1621 9299
10-11 totals 8636 1863 8636
09-10 totals 8661.5 1934 10595.5
08-09 totals 8651 1908 10559
07-08 totals 8637 1866 10503
06-07 totals 8647 1820 10467
05-06 totals 8823 1854 10677
04-05 totals 9209 1860 11069
03-04 totals 9329 2110 11439

Passed and Signed! Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 was passed by the House Thursday and by the Senate on Friday. The President signed the Bill this afternoon (3/23/18).

We are happy to report that passage of this Bill funds government operations through Sept. 30, 2018.

The entire Bill is 2,232 pages and we are currently reviewing it. As we learn more, we will be providing further updates.

Have a good weekend!

Donny Green & Jackson Jones
NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairpersons

NASCOE News Flash: Shutdown Update from President Dennis Ray

NASCOE President Dennis RayAs you are all aware by now, Congress has failed to pass a budget or continuing resolution and federal funding has lapsed. While we are hopeful that this can be resolved sooner rather than later, at this point we are not certain how long the shutdown may last. The NASCOE political consultant has been closely monitoring the situation and providing updates as they became available. Congress is expected to resume negotiations today in an attempt to reach agreement.

If the funding lapse continues we know that we will go into work Monday morning to begin the shutdown process. Employees will also have to finish loading time and attendance if they couldn’t complete it prior to Web-TA crashing. Employees can also load their time and attendance from home using their eAuth login and personal computer. According to the FAQ’s provided in the OSEC email received late yesterday afternoon, PP 1 direct deposits are scheduled to be processed as normal.

Secretary Perdue tweeted the following information earlier today.

As new information becomes available, NASCOE will be using various communications methods to inform membership. These include the NASCOE national database, updates to the NASCOE webpage and normal email distribution through the NASCOE Area Execs to State Association Presidents.

NASCOE established its database several year ago to be able communicate with membership in times such as these. If you provided your email address at that time and it has not changed you should be receiving database updates already and do not need to sign up now. If you did not enroll in the database at that time you can go to this link and enroll now. Please share this link with our co- workers.

Members can also receive email updates any time the NASCOE webpage is updated by subscribing to the follow button. It is located on the home page at https://nascoe.org/ and only requires providing your email address and clicking on the follow button. Additionally, we will use our normal email distribution lists. If you are not currently receiving information by one of these various methods, I would encourage you to begin now.

Hopefully the Congress will find a way to agree on funding the government before it drags out too long. In the mean time we will keep monitoring the situation and provide any information we can.

Sincerely,

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

CR Update: January 16, 2018

Below is an update from Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant.

Donny Green & Jackson Jones
NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs


The House has introduced the attached continuing resolution funding the government through February 16. The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3:00 p.m. 

Lifted from House Appropriations Committee:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen today introduced legislation (H.J.Res 125) to maintain current funding for federal operations and prevent a government shutdown. The Continuing Resolution (CR) is a stop-gap measure that will extend government funding through February 16, 2018. In absence of this legislation, existing funding would run out on January 19, 2018.
 
In addition to continuing government funding, the bill includes language to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, a provision that allows the Department of Defense to provide funding for “Missile Defeat and Defense Enhancements” activities, and extensions of several health care related tax provisions.

HR195

Update on Continuing Resolution and Budget Process

Budget handwritten with blue lettering and underlined. Hand shown underlining the word
Good morning – With the current continuing resolution (CR) expiring on December 8, we want to share some information about federal spending bills and how Congress may fund the government. At this point, we don’t expect any government shutdown.
Hunter Moorhead
NASCOE Legislative Consultant


APPROPRIATIONS:
After the reconciliation process on tax reform is concluded, the Congress will turn to completing legislative action on funding the government for FY 2018 and other must pass items. The Senate Appropriations Committee has reported 8 of the FY 2018 appropriations bills from full committee and “posted” the remaining four unreported bills and reports (DoD, Financial Services, Homeland Security, and Interior). Those bills and reports can be viewed at:

DoD:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-defense-appropriations-bill-released ;

Financial Services:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-financial-services-and-general-government-appropriations-bill-released ;

Homeland Security:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-homeland-security-appropriations-bill-released

Interior:
https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/fy2018-interior-environment-appropriations-bill-released .

This release of the Senate Appropriations Committee recommendations for the remaining FY 2018 bills sets the stage for conference activities between the House and the Senate on an omnibus appropriations spending measure once a “top line” spending level is agreed to between House and Senate leadership. Observers expect the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will need about three weeks to work out the differences between the 12 appropriations bills and assemble them into an omnibus appropriations bill.

Currently, under the existing continuing resolution, the government is funded through December 8, and an additional CR is expected to be necessary to fund the government beyond December 8 while the appropriations bills and other must pass legislation is finalized. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has suggested a CR until the end of the year may be necessary to complete the Congress’s legislative agenda and others have suggested CRs through December 22nd and through January 15 (2018). The longer the tax reform/relief process takes, the more likely continuing resolutions extending into 2018 become.

Spending levels for Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary continue to be the topic of speculation, with a two year spending adjustment to the Budget Control Act (BCA) of between $182b ($57b DoD, $34b NDD) and $224b ($70b DoD, $42b NDD). Expect the Budget Control Act adjustment to be on the lower side of the range being discussed. After the top line levels are agreed upon by leadership, the Appropriations committees will provide subcommittee allocations for the 12 individual bills to be negoatiated between the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairs and professional staff.

3rd EMERGENCY DISASTER RELIEF SUPPLEMENTAL:
On the 18th of November, the White House submitted the third emergency supplemental request for hurricane (Harvey, Irma, Maria) disaster recovery efforts. That request can be viewed at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/Letters/fy_2018_hurricanes_supp_111717.pdf

While the request included $44b for FEMA ($23.5b), the Small Business Administration ($1.6b), agricultural assistance ($1b), Education Recovery fund ($1.2b), and miscellany Federal agency recovery costs ($4.6b), the request was notable for what it did not include: any funding for California wildfires relief efforts, incomplete funding for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands hurricane recovery efforts, etc. The Administration acknowledged that further supplemental requests would result from continuing efforts with Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands “to identify, refine and articulate additional emergency funding requirements.” The supplemental is expected to move first through the Senate (on an existing and available appropriations vehicle), grow in size and scope, and move to the House in December. Both House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected, time permitting, to hold oversight hearings on the administration’s request. The 3rd Supplemental may also carry other must pass legislative measures as it moves through the Senate and the House.

Possible other legislative measures rumored to be under consideration for inclusion in a Disaster Relief Supplemental, CR, or Omnibus measure that moves in December:

  1. Budget Control Act cap adjustments;
  2. Extenders (CHIP, Medicare, other);
  3. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fix;
  4. FISA Section 702 Extension;
  5. Debt Limit Increase;
  6. National Flood Insurance Program Authorization (NFIP); and
  7. Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) Stabilization legislation.