2017 NASCOE Convention Question and Answer Session

Thursday, August 3, 2017
Saint Charles, Missouri

Panel members included:
Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator     Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP
John Chott – Acting DAFO                                  Darren Ash – FSA Chief Information Officer
Radha Sekar – CFO                                                 Thomas Mulhern – HRD
Mark Rucker – DAM                                               Glenn Schafer – Bridges to Opportunity
Doug Nash – OCIO-CIO                                        Francisco Salguero – OCIO
Jim Radintz – DAFLP                                               Brenda Carlson – Regional Public Affairs
Bob McGrath- OBF BPMS                                  Catherine Kuhlmeier – OBF BPMS

Q:     AGI, 941 Form: Are there any plans to simplify this process with IRS?

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: AGI is required as a condition of eligibility under statute and congress and FSA work closely with IRS on this matter.  The largest problem has been the name difference in the different agencies.  They have been talking to IRS to determine just what the problem is with keying in the names.

Q:     When working on the budgets, there is a projected 8% cut, so what is the starting point for this?

A:      Radha Sekar – CFO: the original cut was 10.5% and they looked at the ceiling for 2016 and that was used for 2018 projections.  Currently they are looking at keeping the 2016 level with the senate version and the House version is less, but nothing is complete at this point.

Q:     Wetland determinations can take up to 3 years to get back.  Is there any way to get these done faster?

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator: the reorganization will help with this problem because NRCS will be organized under the same Under Secretary with FSA and that should help with logistics.  Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP:  With only one mission area, this should help with some of these local problems.

Q:     What is the timeline for release of the workload numbers?

A:      Radha Sekar – CFO: these reports should be released to the field soon.  Chris Beyerhelm: If and when we decide to look at ARS data for staffing decisions we will engage the associations for input.

Q:     Hiring Freeze: what criteria is being used for critical positions and do you expect the hiring freeze to be lifted soon?

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator: OMB lifted the freeze and the Secretary put it back on.  In the meantime the Secretary is allowing agencies to submit critical hiring requests. DAFO reaches out to the states who compile their requests which are bundled and submitted to the Secretary for consideration  The Secretary has already approved approx. 160 internal hires, 30 external hires , and 30 additional temps.  Since the NASCOE convention the Secretary has approved an additional 200 external and 98 internal positions to be advertised. This should get us close to the 98% level.  John Chott – Acting DAFO: Internal hires should be good.

Q:     Temporary employees hired after 1989 cannot buy back their retirement time.  Is this going to be changed?

A:      John Chott – Acting DAFO: DAFO has confirmed with HRD that temporary time, GS or CO, cannot be bought back for time after 1989.  This affects a good number of FERS field, state and national employees.  As noted, CO employees were being denied service credit for temporary time before 1989 because it was not considered Federal service.  FSA worked closely with OGC, who, in turn, worked with USDA and the OPM General Counsel to reverse this decision.  There are some exceptions for the post-1989 situation but none affects USDA and most apply to Foreign Service positions.

Q:     BTO pilot counties received full training and will the rest of the counties receive full training?

A:      Glenn Schafer – BTO: right now they are in a holding pattern for training due to budget, but there are plans to do such training in the future, budget allowing.

Q:     What were the results of the survey pertaining to BTO?

A:      Glenn Schafer – BTO: Receipt for Service is the main use of BTO at this time.  The receipt for service of BTO is separate from RFS and those that did not like RFS reflected that in their comments and blamed all of BTO.  The software is powerful and they were able to develop it quickly but it is not as user friendly as they hoped and they want to improve many of the components in BTO.  They will be using the comments in the survey as a guide.

Q:     Where is the President’s picture?

A:      Mark Rucker – DAM: they have not received it yet.

Q:     If there are any changes to a position description, it will delay the announcement, so how does that really work?

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator: As part of the strategy to reduce the time to hire HRD has established “express lane” positons most of which are in the county offices. These positions are already classified which makes the process much quicker. If the hiring official changes the positon description it requires a new classification which slows the process down.

Q:     Skills for Success training is not mandated and allows the states to hold the training based on budget.  The PT’s are the ones on the front lines with the producers and are one of our greatest assets and this training would be beneficial to them.  Can this training be mandated rather than dependent on state budgets?

A:      John Chott – Acting DAFO: Chris Beyerhelm: they had a meeting with a list of items they wanted based on budget and they chose to have more staff as a greater priority but it will be put back on top of the list. DAFO will put in requests for FY 18 an amount which will cover most of the state training for 6000 GS and CO PTs. We hope that this will be approved.

Q:     From a state affected by drought, the emergency haying and grazing is appreciated.  The 150 mile radius that was added later, was there any discussion to keep the hay in the drought stricken areas? 

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – Acting FSA Administrator: they did not add that restriction because it would be more burdensome for the county offices to track this.

Q:     We have not gone far enough in guidance regarding extra time worked in ARS and there needs to be some training.  The county offices will get the jobs done and that is not always reflective in ARS, so how do we navigate this?  Do we just let the work sit?  We need guidance on this subject.

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator: Recognize that the employees are dedicated but we need to be more judicious about how we are documenting our time.  We need to plan to be done by the end of the day if at all possible while looking for ways to do our work more efficiently.  The concern is that if we get our work done by working after core, overtime, and comp time allowances it gives Congress and others the impression that the job got done in the reported hours. This gives a false impression because it actually took longer to get the work done. When we tell congress that we need more people they see we are getting the job done with what we have.  Acting Administrator Beyerhelm also advised to use the new Web Access availability only when needed so as not to further skew the reported time.

Q:     Importance of coding WEBTA correctly, and can there be a line item for processing AGI’s?

A:      Bob McGrath- OBF: they hear that we need less programs and then some ask for more.  If this is sent in, they will run it through the MCA team.

Q:     Late filed crop reports cannot be accepted and with the November 15 deadline, it makes it impossible with large workloads.  Can they still be accepted as long as evidence of the crop exists?

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: there was no deadline to accept late-filed crop reports until into the next year and in many cases, there was no evidence, so they felt that 12 months would be adequate for accepting late filed reports.  Trying to create data that is very old in order to participate in a program is the problem.   Additionally, if you are referring to the deadline for late-filed acreage reports which is 12 months after the ARD, anything filed more than 12 months after the previous year’s ARD would be well into the next or subsequent crop reporting year.  So any physical evidence would be contemporaneous and not necessarily illustrative of what was present on crop acreage more than a year before.  (NASCOE will continue this conversation with DAFP)

Q:     Some offices have tried to stick to the regular time schedule, but there will be pressure from the state offices to get the job done.

A:      Radha Sekar – CFO: What programs that are impacted by things that cannot be done must be identified.  Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator: They have had discussions with state offices regarding expectations in program delivery and will continue to do so.

Q:     The crop report comes in timely and reports hay, but then in the spring, reports the hay plowed up and planted to corn, then he is required to pay the $46 fee.  This is wrong since he timely filed.

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: There is simply not enough information to frame a response on this.  Offices need to follow 2-CP and submit specific questions relative to the procedure that is causing concern.  But in the question above, the corn would be viewed as subsequent crop acreage.  If reported by the corn’s ARD, not sure why there is reference to a fee.

Q:     Some offices are doing work for other offices that is not credited correctly.

A:      Catherine Kuhlmeier – OBF: they are looking into reporting for work done in specific counties.  There are many parts in this problem.  They don’t want to make it more difficult to document the time.  Daniels: this was a negotiation item to show that the work is done where it should be but we must be careful that the office where the work is actually done does not hurt the home office that shared employees, in regard to workload.  They are trying to figure out how to adjust this.

Q:     MIDAS, BTO are both systems we work with, but BTO seems to have a lot of capabilities.  Can BTO take over MIDAS functions?

A:      Darren Ash – Chief Information Officer: This concept has been discussed internally previously.   MIDAS is used by other agencies, such as NRCS, but BTO is not.  NRCS does use the same underlying software (Salesforce) as Bridges.   Any changes going forward must be able to support FSA and NRCS.  In addition, there are license complications that would need to be resolved.  The current licensing approach enabled nationwide rollout of BTO, but constrains expansion for other purposes.  BTO has potential to unite the two systems, but there is a lot more involved in the process to determine the right course of action.

Q:     There was Geo spatial pilot and it was ended when CARS came out and many producers have the capability of using geo special maps.  Can FSA use this type of software for our producers?

A:      Darren Ash – Chief Information Officer: Yes, eventually. Our overall objectives is to allow producers to submit their data to us by different means, including the use of electronic, geospatial maps.  This is one of the proposed system changes, but will depend on additional resources. Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: They have heard that the producer makes the report with FSA and then takes the information to RMA.  Less than 10% of crop reports taken are done with RMA first.

Q:     In donating leave, it would be nice if it were determined in dollars because a grade 12 donating to a grade 5, gets hour for hour right now and not the true value based on leave.

A:      Thomas Mulhern – HRD: He believes this issue has been raised in the past, and OPM does not appear to be flexible on this and USDA does not have the ability to change that statute.  Chris Beyerhelm – FSA Acting Administrator: This is a budgetary issue when passing leave between grades.

Q:     They have an acting CED and is now in a shared management situation, and there is no extra pay for the extra work for the CED.

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – FSA Acting Administrator: there is no room to do this at this time, the positions are capped out at certain grades.  There is spot cash award money that could be available in this case.

Q:     There is an initiative coming for beginning farmers and in many of our current programs, many beginning farmers come in, and many times a late filed crop report was necessary.  The fee could be waived in the past and now the fee cannot be waived unless there was a catastrophic event.  The answer was that a notice was issued and the farmers should be aware of the crop report requirement.  If we are to charge all producers that come in, they will not participate.  Can 4-CP be considered common reading?  Why are the late filed provisions different for LFP?

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: the beginning farmer can have some fees waived so give them a break.  Late-file acreage reporting fees, however, are not penalties and should not be viewed as such.  They are charged to reimburse FSA for the costs incurred in verifying the accuracy of the acreage report.  In the new farm bill, this could be discussed.  Memos are not official policy but they are working on getting this into the handbook.  There are continuous crop reports available and this could help in some cases.

Q:     What are the thoughts behind the new FSA/NRCS/RMA together on a long range basis?

A:      Bob Stephenson – Acting Chief of Staff of the Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area: the reorganization will not affect field level work, but more on a national basis.  The IT perspective can be integrated for the agencies to improve customer service to farmers.

Q:     In many cases, NRCS is not in the office very much, but in reality this will increase our workload more to cover NRCS issues.  Where does the conservation district fit in the reorganizational concept?

A:      Bob Stephenson: Conservation districts (CD’s) are part of State government and we are aware there is some bartering done with CD and NRCS for space and share work; however, CD is not federal.  They will probably be a player in this situation, but it is not clear how this will be done in the future. Chris Beyerhelm: it is expected that there will be joint staff meetings done on the local level between FSA and NRCS and there will be program sharing between the agencies.  Sharing facilities will also be part of this.  The Secretary wants an open concept between agencies.  There should be conversational knowledge of programs between agencies.

Q:     The postcard that will be coming out to the non-resident land owners regarding the mentoring/sale of land to a beginning farmer will have an impact on current rental situations and what are we supposed to tell them?

A:      Chris Beyerhelm: This was discussed when we decided to roll this program out—there is a very close analogy to this policy as there is to CRP –both have the consequence of displacing an existing renter if the landlord decides to put their land in CRP or rent to a beginning farmer –While it is understandable that an existing farmer or rancher would be concerned about the loss of land, in both cases USDA has decided it is equally important to practice conservation practices and/or provide opportunities for beginners.

Q:     Some offices have staffing shortages due to illness, etc, so the COF looked for a volunteer and was able to find a very qualified candidate, but they have very limited access to the computer even though they have to clear the background check, so is there a way to get volunteers more access?

A:      Thomas Mulhern – HRD: This is a challenge when looking a federal employment.  There is a lack of flexibility involved and there are limitations put on volunteers vs a federal employee.  Darren Ash – CIO: After researching this question (post NASCOE convention), from a security perspective, there are no security policies explicitly preventing a volunteer access.

Q:     ARS: what type of quality control is being done to ensure items are entered correctly? 

A:      Catherine Kuhlmeier – OBF: there will be more AgLearn training on validity and consistently for item entries.  They are working on this type of improvements in ARS.

Q:     Why can’t there be a code for doing things on a “national” level, so that it can be recorded for work done outside of the normal county operations in ARS?

A:      Catherine Kuhlmeier – OBF: they are working ways to capture the work without adding more of a burden on the office. Radha Sekar – CFO: this is a good option to use the national code to document how the time is being spent without taking away from the county doing the work.

Q:     MPP: there are proposed changes to help the dairy farmers and some extension agents have commented that the changes will do no good.  Without a floor on the MPP program, it does not good for the farmer.

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: everyone acknowledges that the program is ineffective and improvements cost money and the question is always: where is the money going to come from.

Q:     They have been in shared management since 1999, and now shared management is pretty standard.  There is no way to document the work done in the sub office.  Is there a way to account for that time?

A:      Chris Beyerhelm: there is a task force on shared management and they are trying to establish uniform ways of handling shared management.    Should it be treated as one big area or should it be separate?  Let Chris Hare know and he will relate that information through the task force. Catherine Kuhlmeier – OBF: there are options that are being worked on in this case.

Q:     Can we develop a method to freeze information so it doesn’t change information done prior to the date the information is loaded in MIDAS.

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: This will be looked into

Q:     Can it be discussed with the SED’s to become aware that the 10 hour spot awards can be approved by the direct supervisor, but in some cases, the SED’s are reviewing these and it is backing up the process

A:      Chris Beyerhelm – Acting Administrator: This will be looked into

Q:     Will supervision be allowed for CO to GS in this new reorganization?

A:      Chris Beyerhelm: This has not been discussed in the reorganization efforts so far, however, current regulations do not allow for CO employees to supervise GS employees.

Q:     NM restricted COC meetings to quarterly meetings and doing so by conference calls due to budget and do not let the producers know about such.  Did the national office approve this?

A:      John Chott – Acting DAFO: To the best of our knowledge, DAFO did not specifically approve this.  However, meetings should not be held if there is not business at hand.  However, DAFO does support monthly meetings when there are business items.

Q:     Gov Delivery is a good concept, but is there a way to make this more personal to the county offices?

A:      Brenda Carlson – Regional Public Affairs (Gov Delivery): texting: they are adding subscribers at 6,000/month.  In the cases of non-opening emails, they can monitor this and the engagement rate is about 58% and the federal government rate is about 38%.  For the $150,000 to $200,000/year investment in this process provides a good return on the investment for communication.  County offices are doing a good job in sending out bulletins and if there is an overload from COF and STO, then let her know, but keep in mind that not all producers subscribe to both.  She is open to suggestions and NASCOE was were the texting idea came from.  She is a communications specialists and supports the most effective means of communication.  Gov Delivery is very cost effective and effective means to get out information.  Texting is becoming a very effective means to communications.  Orth: they do use the information in Gov Delivery.

Q:     Will you take into consideration that a CRP takes more time than an ARC/PLC contract for workload purposes?

A:      Radha Sekar – CFO: There is enough data to show the difference in the signup times between contracts in different programs.  The analysis will reveal these types of difference in the metrics of working with programs.

Q:     We need someone to fix WebTA because there are many issues with data loading.

A:      Thomas Mulhern – HRD: there are lot of issues with 4.2 and there are changes in the system.  There is an ongoing work group that address different issues.  If there are issues we are not aware of, please send them in.  He cannot give a date on when the changes will be made and it is a continuous process.

Q:     Is there any way to lift the CAP on CRP acres?

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: no, this would require legislation.

Q:     Is there a way to change the crop reporting deadlines?

A:      Brad Karmen – Acting DAFP: there is big issue with this and it was determined to have common reporting dates with FSA and RMA.  Different dates are confusing for producers, so the dates were made the same regardless if producers had insurance or not.

Q:     There are many issues with district directors and their disregard to the role of the COC in the county office.  Will there be a reminder sent to the state offices regarding this?

A:      This was answered First, that DAFO acknowledges and supports the fact that COCs are the supervisor of the CED.  Second, it was answered that DD’s have 12 or 13 delegated supervisory and oversight responsibilities over the county office but we do not support DD’s being heavy handed; Third that DD”s are an integral part of our field operations and, finally, we need to know case where DD’s may be overstepping their bounds.

Programs Submission Response: COC Election Reports

ISSUE:
The list of available reports in Handbook 15-AO is not current and needs to be updated.

FACTS:
The table and descriptions are missing for the following reports:

  • Producers not Associated with and LAA
  • COC Election Results for Candidates
  • Current COC Ballots Returned Report

Descriptions should be listed so new employees can learn about reports and know what to expect when reviewing.

Reports need to be added so the COF can site this paragraph in the COC minutes to record that the reports have been reviewed.

SOLUTIONS:
Update Handbook 15-AO with missing reports and descriptions.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
The handbook is being worked on with the issues stated below and some additional issues not stated.

 

Programs Submission Response: Farm Reconstitutions and Transfers

ISSUE:
Difficulty in tracking reconstitution history and county transfers

FACTS:
It can be difficult to trace the history of a farm after multiple recons. MIDAS currently shows the “Combined from” and “Divided from” information in Farm Records. 

SOLUTIONS:
Would it be possible to include the Combined from and Divided from information print on the FSA-156EZ?

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Thank you for submitting the concerns with tracking reconstitutions and the suggestions for the FSA-156EZ. We recognize that the ability to track reconstitutions has been a pain point with the field staff since the expected reconstitution reports were not able to be implemented immediately in MIDAS CRM. I am hoping that the software update that occurred this last weekend with MIDAS Release 2.19 provides the tools and reconstitution reports the users are needing to assist with tracking the history of a farm or tract through the completed reconstitutions. Please see Web Transmittal No. 536 for additional information on the new reconstitution ID and reports that are now available. A notice will also be posted in the near future with additional information and instructions.

While the new reports in CRM Farm Records will not reference the reconstitutions completed in CRM prior to the software update, all reconstitutions completed from this time forward will be assigned a Reconstitution ID number and reports can be generated to identify the parent and/or child farms and tracts associated with the specific reconstitution. Concerning the FSA-156EZ, this initial release of the reconstitution reports did not include populating the FSA-156EZ with the reconstitution ID. This has been identified as a needed update. We will also look into adding the “combine from” and “divided from” on the form. Adding the reconstitution ID and the additional reconstitution data to the FSA-156EZ will be an enhancement to the existing functionality and will be subject to prioritization and funding.

There currently is not a plan to add a County Transfer report in CRM Farm Records, but there will be a County Transfer report in the new reporting application that is being developed. Hopefully this report will assist counties with tracking the farm transfers as needed.

Programs Submission Response: Subsidiary Reports Enhancements

ISSUE #1:
Subsidiary Business File Reports

FACTS:
There are several reports that need to be developed to assist County Offices in order to know what is within the Business File for a producer, or a specific “group” to target what is needed or may be incomplete. This can aid in preparation for sign up and preparing for payment cycles.

SOLUTIONS:.
Provide County Offices with the following reports:

  • Producers in Business File without “Determined” status
  • Producers in Business File with “Determined” status with “Last Update” listed
  • Active Estates in Business File
  • Non Family Joint Operations

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
A project is currently underway to provide a data warehouse with the ability to create reports from the business file system. When the functionality is provided, users should have the ability to filter information for:

  • Producers with a specific farm operating plan status
  • Estates with an active farm operating plan
  • Joint Operations that do not include all family members.

I do not have a timeline when the report will be available. 

In the meantime:

  • I already provide a report monthly for producers with a farm operating plan that does not have a “Determined” Status
  • I provide a yearly report for Estates older than 2 years with active farm operating plans that have received payments. This year’s report was provided in December 2016 for State and County Offices to review according to notice PL-273
  • I provided a report of joint operations that do not include all family members for county offices in November 2016 according to the training and 5-PL handbook amendment Jim Baxa provided for determining actively engaged in farming and foreign person for joint operations.

ISSUE #2:
County Eligibility Reports in Subsidiary

FACTS:
We can run reports for AGIs filed and not processed, but the report basically stops there. The capability to add information and more sorting field possibilities are needed in order to better track AGIs filed and not processed by the IRS.

SOLUTIONS:.
It would be easier for us to track and monitor producer AGI forms if “date filed by the producer” was added as a field to be printed in the report. This would allow the possibility of being able to sort by date when the report is downloaded in spreadsheet format. This would allow us to better monitor those approaching the 180 day deadline.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
The County Eligibility Report currently available in the Subsidiary system is not designed to include additional fields based on the criteria selected to run the report. The report will display customers that have been updated with a “Filed CCC-941” producer certification and the IRS determination has not been received. The “Date filed by producer” cannot be added to the report. 

A project is currently underway to provide a data warehouse with the ability to create reports from the Subsidiary/Eligibility file system. When the functionality is provided, users should have the ability to filter information for customers that have been updated with a producer certification and an IRS determination has not been received with additional information provided on the report.

I do not have a timeline when the report will be available.

In the meantime, I am providing a report approximately every 6 weeks for all producers with a “Filed CCC-941” and an IRS determination has not been received and am including the “Date filed by producer” on the report.

Programs Submission Response: NFC Annual Leave Status Reports

ISSUE:
NFC Annual Leave Status Report

FACTS:
This report is printed and mailed to County Offices with employees who may be in a use or lose annual leave situation. This information is available to supervisors electronically in WebTA.

SOLUTIONS:
Eliminate the printing and mailing of this report, which would provide a considerable savings in postage dollars. If necessary, supervisors could be notified/reminded by email to check employee leave balances accordingly in WebTA.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Until Web4.2 was implemented there was not a bi-directional feed between NFC mainframe into WebTA and the official leave balance is the balance on the NFC mainframe so the report would be necessary to ensure WebTA was accurate. Now that there is a bidirectional feed and WebTA will be syncing with the NFC mainframe data I  will have staff look into the possibility of making that change. I do think we need to wait a bit until we are confident that glitches with Web4.2 have all been resolved and timekeepers have had time to complete any leave audits and ensure the leave balances in WebTA4.2 are accurate.  

 

Programs Submission Response: CARS Reports Enhancement

ISSUE:
CARS report “Farms with ARCPLC Contract and Unreported Cropland” only lists farms for which an ARCPLC contract is enrolled, and the farm has an initiated but incomplete/uncertified FSA-578.

FACTS:
The report currently ignores farms for which an ARCPLC contract is enrolled but the FSA-578 is not created (not initiated). If COFs rely on this report to assist producers in identifying farms that aren’t fully reported, a farm that has been missed altogether will not be identified.

SOLUTIONS:
The report “Farms with ARCPLC Contract and Unreported Cropland” should compare enrolled ARCPLC contracts to CARS and return all results for which a crop report is any status other than fully reported/fully certified, including all of the following statuses: *Not Created (no acreage report created for the farm); *Not Certified/Not Reported (no reported field are certified and no cropland is reported and certified); *Partially Certified/Partially Reported (not all reported fields are certified and not all cropland is reported and certified); and *Partially Certified/Fully Reported (not all reported fields are certified and all cropland is reported and certified).

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
As indicated CARS report “Farms with ARCPLC Contract and Unreported Cropland” list farms with an active ARCPLC contract and the farm has a 578 initiated in CARS only.  This report will cover the following statuses:

  • *Not Certified/Not Reported (no reported field are certified and no cropland is reported and certified); and
  • *Partially Certified/Partially Reported (not all reported fields are certified and not all cropland is reported and certified)

The following status is not included because in this case all cropland is reported and certified:

  • *Partially Certified/Fully Reported (not all reported fields are certified and all cropland is reported and certified).

County Office may use CARS report “Farms with No FSA-578 in CARS” to determine the following status:

  • *Not Created (no acreage report created for the farm), including farms with an active ARCPLC contract but not initiated in CARS.

Programs Submission Response: ARC/PLC Payment Reports

ISSUE:
ARC/PLC Non Payment Reduction Report

FACTS:
This report can be very lengthy and consist of several pages due to listing all known errors. Many of these pages are often the result of “Less than 10 acre Bases”, which are not errors that need corrected.  While per 1-ARCPLC, paragraph 235, we do need to know these farms to ensure the SDA flag has been properly loaded if applicable, this is not necessarily a potential fixable error in all cases.

SOLUTIONS:
The report needs the ability to eliminate certain errors, specifically “Farm does not meet minimum requirement of more than 10 total base acres for all crops”. This would greatly reduce the number of resulting pages making the report more manageable and more applicable.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Thank you for providing a suggestion regarding the Nonpayment Report. The problem with “eliminating” certain nonpayment reasons is that the Nonpayment Report obtains its information from the Direct Attribution process where the reductions occur and there isn’t a way to determine if the nonpayment is something the county office can correct or if it’s always going to be a reduction. The Nonpayment Report is provided to identify where reductions have occurred to the producer’s payment and for the county office to verify that the system was updated correctly at the time of payment, and if not, then they take corrective action to resolve the reason listed on the Nonpayment Report. 

An example of the problem is as follows: Producer A and producer B both don’t meet the 10 base acre provision. Producer A should have had the SDA value updated in the Subsidiary Eligibility system prior to the payment process, but the county office forgot to update the system timely. After the payment process both producers are listed on the Nonpayment Report as not meeting the 10 base acre provision. The county office should be reviewing the SDA and Limited Resource values for both producers to ensure they are updated correctly. If the Nonpayment Report no longer displayed the producers for not meeting the 10 base acre provision then the county office has no way of knowing that the SDA value for producer A should be updated and as a result producer A won’t receive the ARC/PLC payment.

As I stated above, the Nonpayment Report can’t pick and choose what reductions to display because it has no way of knowing what reductions are permanent or what changes could be made in the system to resolve the reduction reason. A suggestion might be for the county office to print the Nonpayment Report and after verifying the reductions listed, then the next time they can compare the verified Nonpayment Report to the new Nonpayment Report to identify any new producers or reductions since the last time the report was accessed.

 

Programs Submission Response: CCMS Software Enhancement

ISSUE:
No current report to list contracts currently in revision status in CCMS.

FACTS:
We have many options for reports in CCMS.  One of the reports still needed is a report on contracts “In Revision” status. We can print reports for contracts that are “Active”, “Expired”, “Terminated”, “Revised”, “Divided”, and “Transferred”, but we do not have a report for the contracts that are in the process of a revision.

SOLUTIONS:
Please add to the available reports in CCMS a report for contracts in revision status.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
Thank you for the suggestion. I agree with your idea and will work to add it to a future enhancement. Until the time we can get a report added  users do have the ability to search by the revision status from the search contract screen. These searches will provide offices with all the contracts that fall under each revision status. I know this is not as nice as a full report but it does provide offices with the ability to identify contracts “In Revision”.

 

Programs Submission Response: COC Election Software

ISSUE:
COC Elections Applications for deceased producers

FACTS:
When the report of producers not associated with an LAA was generated it came to our attention that several of those producers were deceased. When you try to mark deceased in the Producer Election Data file it forces you to put them in an LAA. In the past this wasn’t a requirement.

SOLUTIONS:
There is no need to put them in an LAA if they are deceased. Please remove that requirement from the software if possible.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
COC software is old and has not had any outward facing work done due to budgetary constraints. It was hoped that enhancements would be worked into a MIDAS release in BP but this will not be happening. We have, however, completed some “backdoor” work to the software that was within the budget that we feel was beneficial to the field. With these enhancements hopefully COFs will have less phone calls from disgruntled producers and fewer returned ballots with the software taking out inactive producers and deceased producers. 

New Enhancements to COC Election Software

  1. The Election software will now check the deceased flag in SCIMS and the name will automatically be dropped from the Eligible voter list without employee action.
  2. A new extract option has been added to help with LAA mailings if needed since we no longer have queries from the System 36.
    NEW as of 7/11/16 we have added race, gender and ethnicity to this report.


    From COC Election home page select “County Election Reports”
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    Select Eligible Voter Mailing List and the COC and LAA you need the report for
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    Select “Extract Addresses to CSV”
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    A CSV file will open and a message will appear at the bottom of the screen. Select “Save As” and save it to a place to retrieve the file later
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    Open a blank Excel document and select the “Data” tab and then “From Text” and find the file you saved from the previous step
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    Select the following outlined boxes to complete the import to Excel
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    The report is now in a workable type format in Excel for mail merge, printing labels, etc.

    Note: Remember producer addresses, race, gender, and ethnicity are PII and this report should only be used internally.

 

 

 

Programs Submission Response: NAP Correspondence

ISSUE:
NAP correspondence is sent through automated email systems directly to producers. The following is an example:

“Thank you for signing up for 2016 NAP Coverage with the USDA Farm Service Agency. Attached is your 2016 Summary of Coverage, including applicable service fees, estimated premiums, and estimated remaining balances due. For more information about your NAP coverage, please contact your administrative county office.”

FACTS:
Many producers are highly receptive to this prompt, effective means of communication; however they may read the message and call the COF, and we aren’t up-to-speed on exactly what message they are reading that they say we have just sent to their email account.

COF employees currently don’t have the text of the email message or the same Summary of Coverage report that the producer is seeing in the email readily available through the NAP Application Software.

SOLUTIONS:
It would be helpful and beneficial to program NAP correspondence so that a copy is sent to the respective County Office (at least the CED), so that the County Office is aware of the exact communication at the same time the producer receives it.

NATIONAL OFFICE RESPONSE:
We have worked hard to become more transparent in our mailings and e-mail to producers participating in our NAP program. Since our national mailings come from a centralized location in Kansas City, it has been difficult for offices to identify what letters have been sent to producers. Luckily we now have a way to track the letters and e-mails that are sent to individuals that participate in the NAP program. National training was delivered to State Offices in June about the availability of these enhancements. The National Office will work to provide these options in the 3-NAP handbook in a future amendment. As they are available now, I will walk you through the availability for each enhanced option. Should you have any questions about the delivery of these enhancements, please feel free to contact me.

When you access the main NAP menu an option appears for the Notification Center, as listed below:

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By Selecting on this Notification Center “Reports” tab, county offices can now access what e-mails and physical letters are sent to the producers in each county. An example:

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County offices have the option to run a report that will provide all letters sent by physical mail or by e-mail for each producer in their county. They have the options to see the dates that each of these pieces of information have been sent to producers. For example:

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The great thing about this report is it gives the exact dates that each letter was either physically mailed to the producer or e-mailed, if the producer chooses to receive e-mail. Producers receive both a physical copy and an e-mailed copy if they select to receive e-mail.

Another example but with the same idea is the Continuous Coverage Mailing Report. This report identifies each year, based on the year selected, which producers received a Continuous Coverage mailing and the date that those letters were sent to the producer. For Example:

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Once County Offices identify which producers received each of these letters, they can identify which letters were sent to the producer and select that producer to see the individual information that was sent out of the producer. That selection is made by doing a “Search by Producer” as listed below: 

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After that selection of the producer is made in the SCIMS Search, the following options are available for each individual producer. For Example: 

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By viewing the listed information, County Offices can access exactly what the producer received, in both the e-mail or the physically mailed document.

I hope this helps in your delivery back to the county offices. We will continue to work to provide the offices with all the information that is sent to producers concerning the NAP program.