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 News Flash: Meetings with FSA Management July 8-11, 2018

Dennis Ray, NASCOE PresidentNASCOE Vice President Brandon Wilson and I traveled to Washington, DC July 8-11, 2018 to meet with management. The purpose of the trip was to complete a holdover negotiation item from our April meeting, consult on several items that had been submitted by members during the negotiation process and to get an update on the workload tool and staffing model. We had three full days of meetings and want to thank Administrator Fordyce and his leadership team for their open doors and the willingness to meet and discuss items of concern. I will not have enough space in this article to fully discuss every topic we worked on during the trip. I will however, try to highlight as much as we can.

We were able to meet with Administrator Fordyce on a couple of occasions. The first meeting was with DAFO staff members, Acting Associate Administrator Peterson and contractors who were working on the staffing model and workload tool. This meeting was designed to give NASCOE leadership a deeper look into the Staffing Model, Optimally Productive Office (OPO) Model and the workload analytics which are used to fuel both models. We were also shown how the SED’s can use the various resources contained in the tool to analyze their state as they and their leadership teams determine where staffing in most needed. NASCOE membership will have an opportunity during the general session on Thursday of the National Convention to see a presentation provided by DAFO on the Staffing Model and Optimally Productive Office.

The second meeting with Administrator Fordyce and his team focused more on the concerns that NASCOE has heard from membership. These concerns include the lack of workload/staffing information shared by some states, an update on hiring and staffing, clarification on backfilling internal hires and the upcoming farm bill. When asked about the Staffing Model and OPO being available for all employees to see, Mr. Fordyce explained there are future enhancement planned and until that is completed, the SED’s have been asked to not share the tool itself. However, it should be noted that SED’s are not restricted in discussing and sharing FY18 ceilings and the workload analytics with all employees. State associations are encouraged to work with their SED about the availability of the data.

While we were in town, the Administrator and his senior staff were meeting in preparation of the next release of hiring, which will include backfilling vacancies created by an internal hire. We also discussed the money that was designated in the omnibus appropriation for hiring up to 200 FLOTS. That money was earmarked for FY18 and FY19 and any money not spent by the end of FY-19 will be forfeited by the agency. We also discussed the upcoming farm bill and comparisons between the house and senate versions.

There were many consultation items including revising data collection forms, revising and creating reports, requesting training and updating software. NASCOE met with several people representing several divisions on these consultation items. We also met with the Office of External Affairs to negotiate the remaining item from the 2018 negotiation session. These were productive meetings and we will try to give updates in future communications as these items progress to resolution.

I would like to close this update with some final comments about the 2018 National Convention coming up in Sioux Falls, SD. We have a tremendous agenda planned for you with attendance by Undersecretary Northey, Administrator Fordyce, Acting Associate Administrator Peterson, Acting DAFP Brad Karmen, Acting DAFO Linda Treese, FPAC CIO Darren Ash, FPAC Business Center Chief of Staff Terri Meighan and DAFO nominee Peggy Browne. I know that the time until the convention is short, so I hope you have already made your plans. The South Dakota Association has worked tirelessly to make this an experience not to miss. Hope to see you there.

Respectfully submitted,
Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

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NASCOE News Flash – Hiring Update

NASCOE President Dennis RayI hope this note finds you well as can be during these challenging times. Many of you have been working hard for your farmers and ranchers with limited staffing which has challenged your ability to get the job done. I would like to share some promising news that should help relieve some of those challenges and improve service to our producers.

First, we are aware that FSA has approved the hiring of 400 FTE’s in May-June and states should know soon how those FTE’s will be distributed and their FY18 ceilings. These are in addition to the 175 temporary FTE’s that were recently allocated to the states. Furthermore, the FSA hiring plan that has been approved includes adding another 400 FTE’s in July-August and 239 FTE’s to be added in September and rolling into the next fiscal year. These new hires come after many meetings by the NASCOE officers and the Legislative Team with members of Congress, Secretary Perdue, Undersecretary Northey and Acting Administrator Peterson.

Second, the Secretary appointed Richard Fordyce as the FSA Administrator. Mr. Fordyce is a fourth-generation farmer who served as Missouri’s Director of Agriculture and Missouri’s FSA State Executive Director. I have had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Fordyce about NASCOE and look forward to working with him in his new position.

NASCOE welcomes and appreciates the hiring plan announced and recognizes the positive impact it will provide our producers and members. Going forward, NASCOE will continue to tell our story and use our resources as we work to improve the working environment for our members.