2018-2019 Officers

The Executive Committee Convened on a teleconference on Monday, August 13 and elected officers for the 2018-2019 year.

President: Jason Pontillo *
Vice President: Mike Kerr
Treasurer: Jill Sajeski
Secretary: Dodie Yohn

District 1
Mary Jo Frazer
Ed Houston
Rebecca Ferraro
Melanie Housler

District 2
Kelly Sundy
Jessica Gerhart
Deanna Adamson
John Stinavage

District 3
Richard Csutoras
Johanna Mutti
Lori Cogley
Robin Foor

*Note:  Douglas Kilgore resigned as president effective October 2018.  The PACOE executive committee met via teleconference and appointed Jason Pontillo to serve as president for the remainder of the year. 

NASCOE News Flash 2/27/2018

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.

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

Doug Kilgore new PACOE President

If you haven’t heard the rumor yet, my name seems to have landed as the PACOE President, so I plan to try my best to move this organization forward.  And I’m grateful for the folks who have agreed to serve as officers and as PACOE Executive Board members because their help is important in assisting me and representing our membership across Pennsylvania.   The preceding email from NASCOE NE Area Exec Rick Csutoras elaborates on the 2018 PACOE officer elections.

First and foremost here are some goals I think we need to be working on in 2018.

  1. Communications-  With everything that’s going on in DC which includes our FSA budget and Farm Bill discussions, it’s absolutely important we are regularly communicating to all of you what NASCOE is doing for us in DC.  Additionally, we as PACOE members have responsibilities to use our organization as a way to let our feelings be known about the needs in our FSA offices and improvements to our FSA programs.  Communications need to go both ways for our PACOE members to benefit and for that reason this is a priority.  As NASCOE communications come to me as President, I will forward them to all of you.  Feel free to contact me or any of the officers or executive committee on areas of concern you have within our FSA organization.
  2. Establish Relationships-  We have a new State Executive Director (SED) on board and I think it’s very important that we have a positive, working relationship with him. A letter will be going out asap welcoming him to the SED position and offering him the opportunity to meet with the PACOE leadership at a time convenient for him.  If we assist in helping to get to know FSA and our staff,  I think only good things can come from that.  Additionally, I think there should be a discussion on what membership activities we could do for our membership recognizing the limitations of a large statewide  membership.
  3. Membership-  Over the last few years, many new staff members have joined our FSA offices and they should be appropriately informed of the PACOE organization.  The leadership will be looking at this opportunity and discuss the best ways to market PACOE to our county FSA offices.

At this time, the one request I have for all of you is to send me an email using your personal email provider, so we can have the most current data of personal email addresses.

That’s all for now and expect some additional communications to follow regarding NASCO activity.

Thank you for your support of PACOE and I look forward to working with all of you in 2018!

Doug Kilgore

PACOE President

PACOE News: Upcoming Election of Officers and Seeking Delegates to Convention

Hello to all!!

I hope the crop reporting season is going well for everyone!! As crop reporting ramps up that means that its time for the New PACOE year!! That means 2 things. First off, we will need to have an election of officers. Typically the president serves a two year term which means my time is up! So if anyone would like to step up and be willing to serve it would be very much appreciated! There is no better time than now to get involved. Its really not that bad and can be very rewarding!

The second thing is we need 2 volunteers to be PACOE delegates to the the NASCOE National Convention. This year the Convention will be held in St. Charles, Missouri. The convention will be held from August 2-5, 2017. The delegates are reimbursed for all expenses and serve as serves as the voting attendee on PACOES behalf. If you’ve never been to one of the Conventions you need to consider it!! Its a great opportunity to meet new people from one side of the Country to the other. There will also be FSA representatives from Washington DC and you very well may get inside look at all of the changes that may be coming our way in FY18. If you would be interested in serving as a delegate please let me know very soon!! We will need to have the delegates confirmed by the PACOE board.

Thank you for your time !
Dan Smeal
PACOE President

NASCOE Legislative Outreach

PACOE President Dan Smeal encourages you to follow updates on the proposed 2018 federal budget as things develop in the next several weeks and months. NASCOE has been sending out updates to members who have signed up for emails.  This information is not going to be posted to the websites.  If you are a member and you are not getting such emails, please contact your PACOE representative to see about getting added to the email list.

NEA Executive Rick Csutoras has shared a legislative outreach packet with state presidents.  The information in the packet is shared here:

Good Evening NEA Presidents,
Many of you have heard that the President released his blueprint for the 2018 budget this morning.  Among many other things, this plan called for the reduction of staffing in USDA Service Centers.  There are two important things I want you to be aware of:
First, Don’t Panic.  This is very early in the budget process.  President’s budget proposals rarely resemble the final budgets that get passed.  We’ve already seen responses from the heads of the agricultural committees indicating they will be making adjustments.  If you haven’t already done so, take a few minutes to review the statement from Hunter that was sent to all membership this morning.  I included it below in case you didn’t haven’t seen it.
Second, this is a great reminder of how important it is to reach out to our legislators and explain who we are and what we do.  Budget cuts are a very real possibility, but we need to continue to share how agriculture in general and FSA in specific has already shouldered reductions.  
NASCOE has put together a package to help you and your membership outreach to local legislators.  I urge you to use these tools and work with your state legislative chairs and our NEA Legislative Chair, Larry Parker, to share our mission and the vital work we do here at FSA for our farmers and ranchers.  Education is the key, because I firmly believe that anybody who understands how much we do with the limited resources we have will want to support us.
Time is of the essence.  If possible, please start this immediately with a goal of having made significant progress by April 4th.  This is when NASCOE will be in Washington DC and be in a position to follow up on the groundwork that you began to lay.
Unfortunately I will be out of the country for the next couple of weeks and unavailable to reply to any concerns or questions you may have.  However, I’m confident that Larry will be a great resource for you in my stead.
Thank you in advance!
Rick Csutoras
NASCOE NE Area Executive
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At the 2016 NASCOE Leadership/Legislative Conference in Washington DC, nearly every state sent members who received training on the importance of congressional outreach and information that can be used to conduct stakeholder outreach. In addition, attendees put their training into practice with congressional visits on the Hill. Following the 2016 elections, there have been many congressional changes which create new opportunities to build relationships on the local level and build our grassroots coalitions in preparation of transitioning to the new agenda of our current administration. Our legislative initiatives will be designed to be proactive, rather than reactive, and will be designed with a futuristic vision.

In the Midwest Area, Area Executive Chris Hare began a program to put that exact process into action. The NASCOE President has directed the Legislative Co-Chairs to expand this program nationwide through the Executive Committee.

Below is an action plan that each area executive should implement and share within his/her respective area. The only way this plan will be successful is if each area takes ownership of responsibility and follows through. We must inform and engage our members at the grassroots level. This initiative will take every level of leadership, with state presidents and state legislative chairpersons being key players at the local level of accountability. The National Legislative Co-Chairs will be monitoring this process and giving regular and frequent updates to the NASCOE President and Vice-President. This is a very important initiative and we are committed to seeing it through. We simply cannot wait until we are facing a legislative crisis to start building our coalitions. Again, our focus is to be proactive; not reactive.

Plan of Action

Phase 1
(action required by national legislative chairs, area executives, state presidents and state legislative chairs):

Step 1:             The Legislative Co-Chairpersons will send a legislative coalition project package to all area executives. This package will contain: 1) cover letter, 2) data collection spreadsheet for each state (completion instructions provided on each spreadsheet), 3) NASCOE introduction white paper, and 4) business card template.

Step 2:             The area executive will then forward the packages to each of the states in his/her respective areas. Each area executive will follow up with the state president and state legislative chairperson to make sure the packages were received.

Step 3:             State presidents and state legislative chairpersons will review and verify the congressional office holder listing and update if necessary. After verifying the state listing, the state president and state legislative chairperson will make assignments to complete the contact information on the spreadsheet, identify any key agriculture/appropriations committee assignments, determine office contact (staffer) for agriculture-related issues, and identify (provide name and contact information) any NASCOE or County Committee person who has a direct relationship with the congressional member or staffer.

Step 4:             The persons assigned these tasks will complete the spreadsheet, make a personal contact with the congressional office (personal visit is preferred, but telephone call at the minimum) to gather further contact information, deliver the cover letter, NASCOE introduction white paper, and a business card from the NASCOE member.

Step 5:             The assigned member will then report to the state president and state legislative chairperson who will be responsible for completing the state’s spreadsheet information and submitting the state’s response to the area executive.

Phase 2:

(action required by area executives, national legislative chairperson(s), and area legislative chairpersons)

When the area database is complete, the states have made personal contacts (either by personal visit or telephone call), and delivered the printed materials (either in person, by mail, or by email), the area executive will submit the completed area spreadsheet to his/her area legislative chairperson and the national legislative chairperson(s). Area executives should not submit individual state spreadsheets. Rather, the area executive should compile all the state responses into the area spreadsheet and send only the completed area spreadsheet.

The national and area legislative committee chairpersons will file this information so that it is readily accessible when needed. On an annual basis, or as requested, the area legislative chairpersons will distribute this database to state presidents and state legislative chairpersons to review and update any congressional changes, local office changes, and NASCOE member contact changes. To ensure maintenance accountability, the legislative committee will routinely discuss each areas participation in maintaining the database on the committee’s monthly conference call.

Phase 3:

(action required by area executives, area legislative chairpersons, NASCOE President, and national legislative chairperson(s))

Each area executive and area legislative chairperson should report the results to the NASCOE President and legislative co-chairpersons who will forward any outstanding issues or pertinent information to NASCOE’s legislative consultant, as necessary. Additionally, the area executive shall identify any problems with obtaining information necessary to complete and maintain the spreadsheet. This process should be repeated on an annual basis, or as-needed when specific legislative activities require such.

Responsibilities

NASCOE Legislative Chairperson(s):

Provide an official and uniform spreadsheet template to collect the database information.
Provide the white paper and template for a personal letter that can be sent along with the white paper.
During monthly legislative team conference calls, discuss database progress, maintenance and accountability.
Follow up with NASCOE president, vice-President, and area executives on the progress.
Forward outstanding issues or pertinent information to NASCOE legislative consultant.

Area Executive:

Ensure each state submits the requested information timely.
Follow up as necessary.
Ensure area legislative chairpersons are keeping the spreadsheet updated.
Hold states accountable for following through with their responsibilities.
Delegate none, part of, or all of this process to alternate area executive to allow them to build relationships with state leaders and gain experience delegating and following up on issues. Even if delegated, the area executive will maintain accountability for this process.
Lead by example. If you are not getting support within a state, find a past leader of the state willing to assist with the process. Take ownership and require accountability from states within your area.
Follow up when you are not getting results. This process utilizes area executives rather than area legislative chairpersons to ensure accountability.

State President and State Legislative Chairperson:

Assign members, directors, or officers within congressional districts to gather information for database template and make it a priority to build grassroots personal relationships with members of congress and key staffers that deal with agricultural and/or appropriations issues.
Ensure all contact information is collected and forwarded to the area executive as quickly as possible.
Ensure all local congressional offices are visited by a NASCOE member. If this is not possible, the next option is to contact the office by personal telephone call and ask to speak with the member, or staffer assigned agricultural issues, and provide the contact with a general and brief overview of NASCOE. It will be important to follow up office visits and telephone calls by mailing a copy of the white paper along with a personalized letter of appreciation for visit or telephone conversation. During the visit or telephone call, the member’s or staffer’s contact information should be collected.
Follow up when changes occur within your state.
Complete this process on an annual basis.
Lead by example! If you are not getting support within your state, take charge of the process and train your state legislative chairperson to own this process. Find past state leaders who are willing to assist with in your state. Be determined to make this initiative work.

Legislative Area Chairperson:

Update and maintain the database.
Follow up with states as needed.
Ensure that your area executive and national legislative co-chairpersons are cc’d on all communications.
If area executives are not holding their states accountable for completing, updating, and maintaining the database, or building local coalitions, report deficiencies to the national legislative co-chairpersons who will direct these issues to the NASCOE President.

PACOE: Membership input sought

As many of you recall, last fall we decided that we would explore the possibility of a State Meeting in the spring. Some folks would like to have a retirement session in the spring as well.   So what I would like to do is have a retirement session/PACOE exec meeting in the early part of March. I was hoping to have this in the western part of the State. So if anyone has an idea as far as a meeting locations please let me know ASAP!! Dillard financial solutions would be providing the information session.  The execs could meet during or after the Retirement Session. 
As many of you are aware. The Rally is right around the corner and we will need to send two delegates. We are still waiting for details to emerge from the Massachusetts association.  As soon as we have those we will be certain to pass them along.   What we do know that the NEA Rally will be in West Wareham, MA onMay 4-6. There will likely be some admin time granted for attendees.  We will need to send two delegates to the rally.  These are the individuals who vote on behalf of our State Association. They are typically reimbursed for all expenses for the trip.  Let me know if you are interested in being a delegate, or even if you would like to attend just to hear the latest NASCOE news and to see the sights of Historical West Wareham. I would strongly encourage you to attend!! You will not be disappointed!!
Lastly, I would like some fresh ideas for a place to hold a state wide meeting. This can be anywhere in the State!! I would like to have the meeting sometime in early part of May. The weekend of May 6 will be out because of the Rally. Any other weekend would work great though!   I was thinking we would have a two hour business meeting then have a tour of some sort.  So if you have an idea as to where a good meeting location might be please send me an email we will see if we can make it happen. Any and all locations would be a welcome recommendation so please send them up to me. I would appreciate having the suggestions by February 15, 201 so I can get the exec committees concurrence on the meeting location. (Hoping this takes place at the March Meeting)  If we need to have a call to get some details or for any other reason I will be sure to let you know.
Thank you,
Dan Smeal
PACOE President

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

December PACOE call with STC and SED

Greetings!

I wanted to give everyone some brief notes regarding the conference call that was held December 13, 2016 between PACOE and the STC/SED.   The SED started by saying that congress had passed legislation that keeps the current funding levels through April 28, 2017. This will allow FSA to keep staffing levels where they are now. Bill informed that he has filled the Key PT positions. Bill plans to have a call with the Key PT and their Supervisors to discuss their plan moving forward.   They hope to have Key PTs on board by the 12/25 pay period or the 1/8 pay period at the latest.

STC also stated that they have requested a shortening of the COT training for one individual. That employee will be allowed to apply for some of the currently advertised COT positions.  Bill also stated that he and the STC are trying their best to ensure all vacancies are filled before the State committees term ends.  They are trying to bring on one more COT. There are also several CO PT positions that they are trying to fill.  They will be utilizing temporary employee staffing to ensure that some of the offices are filled.  This is a combination of intermittent employee staffing as well as some left over funding for farm bill employees.

State Committee also provided some interesting statistics regarding the hiring they have done during their tenure.  They have brought on 15 COTS,  57 CO PT’s, 25 Temporary employees, 3 Farm Program Specialist, 1 Administrative Officer, 1 Administrative Specialist, 2 District Directors, 4 key PT’s. Depending on how you look at it they have replaced nearly half of the employees in the agency. Bill also stated that there are still roughly 20 percent of the current employees that are eligible to retire or will become eligible soon.

The SED also said that the 2016 performance awards is pretty much wrapped up. If you were eligible to receive a FY 2016 performance award and do not receive one by 12/29 to please let David Bradbury know.  Bill also said that he was given to opportunity to provide 1 CO QSI this year. He has already made a decision and notified that individual.   He also said he had a limited number of Harvest Pins to present to some staff. He presented these to the prospective offices/employees on his farewell tour these past couple weeks.

Bill also stated that he and the STC had sent in a request to stay on board for another year while the incoming administration makes all of their appointments.  At this point, Bill has indicated he will stay on until January 20th.   He was not sure if the STC reappointment request will be successful.  He also was quite honest in that he was not sure what the incoming administration might mean for USDA employees.  There seems to be little movement on Ag with the new transition team. Bill also said that there is only 1 member from the transition team working with USDA.

STC expressed their appreciation to PACOE for the relationship they have had over the past 7 ½ years.  The relationship the association has had with STC and the recommendations that were presented have made PA FSA a more efficient agency to work for.  They also wanted to thank each and every one of our members for all of their hard work. There has been billions of dollars, yes billions with a “B” that have been disbursed to the farmers and ranchers across Pennsylvania.  As farmers themselves they cannot express their gratitude enough to the employees of FSA.

Thank you!
Dan Smeal
PACOE PRESIDENT

September update from the President

It doesn’t feel like we’ve slowed down a bit since crop reporting and convention.  I’m still sorting through ARCPLC relief reports and scrambling to get CRP contracts done.  But time waits for no-one and the NASCOE Organizational Meeting is just a week or so away.

I’d like to hear from you all on any hot topic issues you feel that NASCOE needs to keep abreast of as well as any goals that you feel we should have for this upcoming year.  If there is something specific you’d like forward to Rick Csutoras NEA Exec.,  we’d love to hear from you.  If you have hot topic issues, please contact Dan Smeal.

This should be a really exciting year.  We’ve got a Legislative/Leadership meeting coming up which should be super exciting.

Additionally, we’ll see an election this year that will result in an administration change and that will no doubt result in some sort of changes for FSA leadership.  While change can be scary, it’s also likely a great opportunity for us to share the value that NASCOE brings to new sets of ears.

Thanks!!

Dan Smeal
PACOE President
dansmeal@gmail.com