NEA February Bulletin

Good Evening NEA Presidents and State Chairs,

Purpose
:   To share the latest NEA Bulletin to membership.

Background:   In order to communicate important information and upcoming deadlines, NASCOE intends to keep communication with it’s membership a top priority.  In addition to routine emails, committee reports, website updates, etc. we plan to release local newsletters or bulletins unique to each area several times throughout the year.

Action:  The goal is to get the bulletin distributed as widely as possible.  Some of the information may be time sensitive.

Thank you!
Rick Csutoras
NASCOE NE Area Exec

Perdue Announces Farm Service Agency State Directors

(Washington, D.C. November 3, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a slate of Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Rural Development (RD) State Directors, all serving as appointees of President Donald J. Trump.  FSA State Directors help implement U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policies in planning, organizing, and administering FSA programs in their respective states. They are also responsible for running the day-to-day activities of the state FSA office.  Similarly, RD State Directors work to help improve the economy and quality of life in rural America.

“These state directors will help ensure that USDA is offering the best customer service to our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agricultural producers across the country,” Secretary Perdue said. “FSA and RD both play a critical role in helping the people of agriculture, and are able to connect with people in their home states.  They are the initial points of contact for millions of our USDA customers.  Our goal is to help rural America prosper, and these state leaders will be of great assistance in that task.”

You can read the full release and list of state directors here.  The appointments for Pennsylvania are listed below:

FSA State Directors:

Pennsylvania: Gary Groves

Gary Groves returns to the USDA having previously served as the State Director for Rural Development in Pennsylvania.  He is a graduate of Purdue University School of Agriculture, lives on a farm in Wyoming County and raises Belgian Draft Horses.

Rural Development State Directors:

Pennsylvania: Curt Coccodrilli

Curt Coccodrilli has been integrally involved in numerous efforts to address the needs of rural Pennsylvania, promoting rural economic development and leading campaigns to ensure state and federal regulations recognize the need for such development.

NEA Executive: 2017 Pre-Negotiaion Meeting Report

NEA Executive Report
2017 Pre-Negotiations Meeting
January 13-16, 2017

However you might feel about the recent election, it was awe-inspiring to be in the nation’s capital this close to inauguration. You could almost feel the weight of history as one president prepared to leave and another steps up to replace him. You knew important events were about to happen. And then they did, in our Pre-Negotiation Meeting! (I resisted the urge to make a joke about the Dallas Cowboys losing while we were there.)

Negotiation Business

First and foremost, we were there to review the negotiation items submitted by our members. Our President briefed us on some of the remaining issues outstanding since the last negotiation session. We were in discussion to get some of these addressed right up until the moment DAFO/DAFP left office and beyond. With regard to new submissions, the NEA prepared four of them, so thanks to all who worked on those! The negotiation consultants researched and reviewed roughly thirty submissions. Despite the leadership changes, we are still anticipating that the negotiation session with management will continue as planned, sometime in April. We’ll keep everyone up to date as we move forward.

Other Business

In addition to the negotiation items, we took the opportunity to conduct some other NASCOE business while we were all together. These included:

  • Hunter provided a legislative briefing. At the time we didn’t know who the new Secretary of Agriculture was, although we have since learned that Sonny Perdue has been nominated.
  • Dillards also provided a briefing, reminding us that they are available to provide retirement training (and donations) to our Rally’s and State Conventions.
  • We had some farewell messages from Val Dolcini and Greg Diephouse. We’ve developed good relationships with them over the last few years and I genuinely wish them well.
  • We heard about many of the exciting ideas that our National Committee chairs are working on. You should be able to read about those in their individual reports.
  • We met with representative of Salesforce, who developed the Bridges software, to have a demonstration of how flexible the software can be and get an idea of its future potential.
  • Most importantly, we discussed the issues and concerns that we all in the field share. There are no magic answers, but every time I see how committed the folks in this association are to the betterment of our employees and producers, I can’t help but feel optimistic.

Conference Call & Issues

Recall that an area conference call with the states was held on January 4th. The following were issues of note:

  • WebTA 4.2. The new software is cumbersome and feels like a step back. I’ve heard complaints that it is difficult to follow the lines across and the activities are not in any order. The requirement to have premium time approved by the DD prior to validating is causing some delays. Employees have had issues getting paid, with some receiving LWOP instead of regular time. Reportedly the WebTA software will allow a user to validate with over 30 lines but NFC will reject it, also causing payment issues. One state (PA) has initiated “district timekeepers” and is requiring all timekeepers to delegate to them. There are some privacy concerns here, as this allows a non-supervisory employee to have the ability to see sick time, awards, etc. for all employees in a district.
  • IT performance issues continue to be a sore spot. One office (again in PA, those troublemakers) has a routine start-up time of 30minutes to 1 hour at the welcome screen. Remedy tickets have been submitted with no solution.
  • Key PTs are still being implemented. PA recently hired three (FSFL, NAP, CREP). MD noted that they have one DD and two Key PTs. One of the Key PT’s is a “District Key PT” who spends 30% of their time assisting the district manager.
  • Uncertainty in future. The area membership has the typical questions of who will be the Sec of Ag, SED, etc. and when. How will funding affect us? Hiring Freeze?

2017 NEA Rally- West Wareham, Massachusetts

The MASCOE folks are hard at work putting the finishing touches on the NEA Rally which is scheduled for May 4-6 in the Cape Cod region. Plans right now include a taste of Massachusetts (known for seafood, baked beans, etc.), tours of a local shellfish producer and a cranberry bog, buffet, and scholarship auction. The preliminary agenda has been forwarded up for review for possible admin time. Details, including registration and hotel information, are expected to be available by the end of the month.

Membership- RI & NJ

Increasing membership continues to be a big priority. Of particular concern is re-establishing Rhode Island and New Jersey associations. Short of that, we want to ensure that any employees interested in NASCOE know their options for joining a neighbor association. We have begun preparing a membership drive mailing for those states which may be augmented with some visits to or from the Rally. However, our NEA Membership chair (and NY President) was recently promoted to the STO, so we’re transitioning at the moment. Our new chair, Tina Williams from VT, will do a great job! Additionally, PA is preparing the paperwork to request a jump team as their membership has dipped down to the mid-50% range.

Other Items of Note:

Communication is another priority. Polling of states indicates that membership is currently pleased with the level of communication. Routine emails are going out. The quarterly NEA Newsletter was sent in November and received positive responses. Membership seemed to respond well to the shorter, concise format. We will begin preparing for the next newsletter, tentatively scheduled for February/March.

Respectfully submitted,

Rick Csutoras
NEA Exec.

NASCOE: Secretary of Agriculture Nomination

This information was released by NASOCE
January 24, 2017

Sonny Perdue Nominated to Serve as Next Secretary of Agriculture

Donald Trump wrapped up his initial Cabinet nominations Thursday, nominating former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to be secretary of Agriculture.

In a statement issued Thursday, Trump said “From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land.”

Perdue served on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee during his presidential campaign and has vowed to champion the concerns of American agriculture and work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families in this new role.

A longtime rural agribusinessman dealing in the grain and fertilizer buinsess, Perdue earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine and served in the Air Force until 1974. He served two terms as governor from 2003 to 2011. Before his election as governor, Perdue spent 11 years in the state senate. He comes with vast trade and export experience. He has served on the board of the National Grain and Feed Association and is a former president of two regional groups, Georgia Feed and Grain and Southeastern Feed and Grain.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said Perdue is a strong administrator whose “roots go back to the farm and always has an open door to farmers.”

There is a lot of optimism that Perdue will be able to build bipartisan coalitions necessary to move forward on a new farm bill.

Cabinet officers are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a simple majority vote. Each official receives the title Secretary, except the Attorney General who leads the Department of Justice. Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President and may be dismissed at any time. Tradition holds that Cabinet Secretaries resign when a new President takes office. Senate confirmations hearings are expected to be completed by January 27.

NASCOE President’s December Report to Memebers

NASCOE
President’s Report
December 18, 2016

I hope everybody is getting ready for the holiday season and has big plans to enjoy your family and friends during this time. Even as busy as it has been all across the country, we all have a lot to be thankful for. I wanted to address some concerns and thoughts that have been shared with NASCOE lately.

Many of you are anxious about the transition to a new President of the United States of America, his administration, and how it will impact FSA and the membership of NASCOE. We have read about the proposed hiring freeze and the uncertainty this creates for membership. First of all, we will probably learn more about this proposal and other changes as we get closer to the Inauguration and our new President takes office. We have all heard there will be a hiring freeze but we don’t know if that will allow us to continue to fill from within or not. For example if we have CED openings and COTs on board, can we fill those vacancies? We also don’t know if we will actually have a hiring freeze – we just know what we have read. Most of the information we can obtain doesn’t seem to indicate a hiring freeze would be long term. NASCOE’s legislative Consultant, Hunter Moorhead, has been working hard and will continue to keep us informed.  His “Legislative Update” was sent out recently, and I encourage you to read through that on the NASCOE website’s homepage if you have not already.

Membership has also inquired about changes to our retirement system and TSP. NASCOE will continue, as we always have, to monitor these benefits and will keep you updated. Most of these types of things would take congressional action and have been discussed previously without a lot of traction. Some of the conversations have addressed changes for new hires and we will stay on top of all these things. Again, having Hunter is a great advantage. He is watching, and will keep us updated on any proposed changes that will affect our membership and FSA employees in general.  

Over the past two years, NASCOE’s leadership has worked aggressively to build relationships with both the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees. With the election behind us, these relationships will be important as we collectively monitor the new Administration’s legislative and regulatory proposals. Following January 20, we will start to learn more about the pathway forward. Our team can guarantee membership that we are prepared for all proposals and view the new Administration as an opportunity to improve our working environment. We feel strongly about the importance of our customer service function, and believe Members of the House and Senate are prepared to assist us throughout the process.

Most of the concerns we are hearing will become clearer in the next few months. I want to reassure you that your NASCOE Executive Committee is doing all we can to stay on top of these and many other issues. As we learn more, we will do all we can to share the information we gain with all of NASCOE. Please let us hear from you! All of your issues and concerns are important to us and our membership. You can send your issues directly to us, or go through your State Association Presidents and they will forward it to your National Leadership Team through the Area Executive Committee Persons. 

At this point, as we move into the transition and New Year, let’s remain positive and continue to accomplish our main goals and mission, which is to serve the greatest farmers and ranchers in the world. One thing I know that we can be sure of, is that there has never been a more important time to be a member of NASCOE.  I hope every one of you has a Merry Christmas and the best New Year ever!!!

Respectfully Submitted by,
Wes Daniels
NASCOE President

NAPA report

In 2015 Congress directed FSA to do a workload analysis and mandated that the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) conduct an independent assessment of this analysis.  NAPA took a year to complete the study; conducting research, interviewing customers and stakeholders, and performing in-person visits.  Their full report, which outlines their assessment of FSA and their recommendations, is now available to the public.
SED Bill Wehry has been mentioning this report on the state conference calls.  You can read the report online.

WDC Commitment to Update Handbooks

Greetings!

I’m sure most of you saw the below email as it was sent to our work emails.  However, as this initiative was partly at the request of NASCOE, WDC has asked that we send it out to our membership as well.

While there is no doubt some skepticism, I think updating our handbooks is a worthy goal and am glad to see them taking such clear ownership of the issue.  Hopefully this is the first step in getting our directives more timely.

Thanks,
Rick
PACOE President

***On Behalf of Chris Beyerhelm, Associate Administrator for Operations and Management***

As Val and I have traveled around to employee association meetings and county offices we consistently hear about the need for the FSA handbooks to be up to date. We agree and consequently have directed our team in DC to get all handbooks current. Attached is a spreadsheet with most of the FSA handbooks and the expected time when they will be brought current.

Until all the updates are finished  we will be providing this report monthly.  Please distribute this report within your organizations.  If there are any questions, the contacts are:

  • Farm Programs:  Jane Ray
  • Finance and Budget:  Bob McGrath and Michelle Furchak
  • Management:  John Blanchard

We appreciate your patience and look forward to our continued collaboration to make FSA the best place to work!

FSA Leadership Pledge
I pledge to act as a role model who treats you with honesty  and respect, to create an environment that promotes diversity, empowers you, and fosters fair and equitable treatment. I will solicit your ideas and views, and recognize your important contributions. I will listen. I will have regular and open communication with you, and aim to give you the  resources you need.

Chris Beyerhelm,
Associate Administrator for Operations and Management

Collection of Links on the Farm Bill

Hey Everyone,

We know that FSA wants to be cautious with the information that it is releasing on the Farm Bill.  And obviously there are a lot of details that have yet to be decided, regulations that have yet to be written.

However, that doesn’t mean ag groups, universities, and other agencies haven’t been releasing information.  In an effort to keep everyone informed, I’m going to try and compile some links to this information as I come across it.  This is for your information only and should not be considered official.

http://www.agmanager.info/crops/insurance/risk_mgt/rm_pdf14/AB_AgAct14.pdf
http://www.ers.usda.gov/farm-bill-resources.aspx#.UwJ0wIU9T94
http://www.hoards.com/webinararchives_14-feb
http://www.ers.usda.gov/agricultural-act-of-2014-highlights-and-implications/crop-commodity-programs.aspx

If you have any other links you think the group would be interested in seeing.  Please email them to me at contactus@pacoeweb.com.

Thanks!

 

Farm Bill Info

Dear PACOE Associate Members,
This is information was provided by NASCOE’s NEA Exec., Bo Epting.
Bill was passed which included Commodity, Disaster and Conservation Programs.  Until recently, USDA has made no announcements except that Livestock Disaster Program sign-up will begin April 15, 2014. This past week at the Commodity Classic, the bin.  Mr. Vilsack’s announcement was covered by Chairs Clayton with DTN Progressive Farmer Ag Policy Editor.  The article is attached and can be found online at:  http://www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com/dtnag/common/link.do?symbolicName=%2Ffree%2Fnews%2Ftemplate1&vendorReference=b88006fa-b53c-4980-88e5-e3a4e3a4d33e&pagination_num=1.
Thank you,
Kelly Sundy
PACOE Publicity Chair

Legislative Briefing 1/30

Hey Everyone,

The NASCOE Legislative Committee received a briefing from Hunter, our consultant in WDC.  Please take a few minutes to read the notes here:  Leg Call 1-30-14

Also, I’m sure many of you have heard that it appears an agreement has been reached on the Farm Bill.  See this article from the Agri-pulse below:

Greetings,
House and Senate agriculture leaders today announced a final agreement on a five-year farm bill that will – among other things – eliminate direct payments, revise commodity supports, enhance crop insurance, and streamline conservation programs.
We’ve posted a short story along with a link to the 949-page conference report, called the “agreement” in the story below:
Farm bill agreement has finally arrived in Congress
Or to link directly to the conference report, click here:
Look for a shorter section-by-section summary of each title and more react from various interest groups on www.Agri-Pulse.com over the next 24 hours. Some livestock groups have already weighed in with their plans to oppose the bill over COOL and GIPSA issues:
Livestock groups vow to oppose final farm bill on COOL, GIPSA issues
Best regards,
Sara Wyant
Editor

Agri-Pulse