Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant June 5, 2019
Below are the highlights of the disaster aid package previously passed by the Senate, passed by the House earlier this week, and is now awaiting the President’s signature:
Title I – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Agricultural Programs — $3.005 billion. Payments for crop and livestock losses due to hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities, tornadoes, floods, snowstorms, or wildfires during 2018 and 2019.
Emergency Forest Restoration Program — $480 million. Assistance to owners of private forests to restore disaster-damaged forests.
Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations — $435 million. Financial and technical assistance to states and local sponsors to protect and restore watersheds.
Emergency Conservation Program — $558 million. Provides emergency funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.
Rural Community Facilities Program — $150 million. Grants for facilities to provide health care, education, public safety, and public services to rural communities.
Nutrition Assistance Program for Puerto Rico — $600 million. Additional funding to continue disaster nutrition benefits in Puerto Rico during its recovery from Hurricane Maria.
Nutrition Assistance Program for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — $25.2 million. Additional funding for nutrition benefits in CNMI following typhoons in September and October.
Nutrition Assistance for America Samoa — $18 million for disaster nutrition assistance for American Samoa.
Study of Puerto Rico disaster nutrition assistance — $5 million for a study of the disaster nutrition assistance provided to the Commonwealth in 2017.
The Bill also includes:
Provides trade mitigation assistance through the Market Facilitation Program to producers who derive at least 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.
Establishes crop insurance for hemp products.
Allows certain California communities affected by 2018 wildfires to be eligible for USDA Rural Development programs until 2020 Census data is available.
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.
NASCOE knows membership has many questions regarding reorganization of the department and FPAC realignment and we are working to secure answers to those questions. NASCOE is monitoring activities as they occur and engaging in the process when possible. Many of you have seen the FPAC Friday Roundup that indicated all employees would be receiving an update on the FPAC realignment. The leaders of the FPAC agencies (FSA, NRCS & RMA) have been charged with the task of sharing this information at the local level but were not given a specific delivery strategy to do so. Some State Offices have decided to provide the information jointly with sister agencies and others have not. Some are hosting webinars at the state level and others are doing it by district. There isn’t any one way or one agency that is dictating how this information is being shared. The FPAC Friday Roundup also mentioned they are planning a virtual town hall meeting in mid-March and continuing on a periodic basis after that. NASCOE encourages the membership to participate in the town hall meetings as they become available.
Convention and rally season is getting here quickly. Attending a state convention or area rally is an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with senior members of management from the national office, co-workers from across the state or area and NASCOE area executives and officers. The National Office has committed to having two members of senior management at the area rallies and I encourage everyone who can to make reservations and attend. With the many changes and challenges we are currently facing, being able to communicate face to face with National Office management leaders is a unique opportunity to ask questions directly to those involved in the decision-making process.
NASCOE is always seeking opportunities to participate on work groups and task forces established by management and have been provided that chance several times the past few years. For example, NASCOE has had a representative on the Managerial Cost Analysis work group for nearly two years. This group has been working on a workload tool. In addition to the cost analysis part of the tool, a smaller group has been established to start the process of developing a staffing tool. This work group has been holding multiple conference calls weekly and is scheduled to travel to Washington, DC the week of March 12th to continue the work in a face to face setting. Past NASCOE President Wes Daniels is NASCOE’s representative on the work group.
NASCOE was asked to provide names to participate in a Competency Assessment focus group, which is tasked with looking at and establishing the necessary competencies for various grades and positions. Their focus will be to identify the necessary competencies needed to move from a current level of responsibility to a level requiring a higher level of responsibility. Donny Green, a CED from Tennessee and Brenda Moore, a PT from Oklahoma are NASCOE’s representatives on this group.
We have also been asked to provide names to represent field employees on a task force to help write the policies and procedures for the new ad hoc disaster bill announced in the Bipartisan Budget Deal recently passed. The new program will focus on providing relief for producers who grow crops, vines, bushes and trees. NASCOE has provided several names to be considered for final selection on the task force. NASCOE will share those names as they become known.
NASCOE is making every effort to monitor activities as we transition into the new mission area. We will continue to provide as much information as possible going forward. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to your area executive or NASCOE officers.