The NASCOE convention convened with the call to order by President Wes Daniels. There were 6 attendees from Pennsylvania.
Kansas was the only state that made a bid for the 2019 convention.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota will host 2018 convention.
There were 16 attendees from WDC. Each one had a few words for the convention and then there was a Q & A. If you have never attended an Area Rally or a Convention, this is a tremendous honor to NASCOE, to have the leaders from WDC attend the convention and take the time to answer questions (Q&A’s to be distributed at a later date and program questions will be found there).
Chris Breyehelm – Acting Administrator, shared a few items. The biggest part of his message is that all the agencies are vying for their budgets. FSA needs more money in our budget so get our story out there. FSA makes a difference in people’s lives with clean water, air and healthy food to eat. With the hiring freeze, USDA was able to cut 22% of the budget. Recently, the Secretary has approved about 200 people to be hired and 200 more external people will be hired. Congress has marked up the budget from the President’s proposal. They are looking to add more training for leadership and PT counter skill training. He reminded everyone to take the employee survey when it is offered. They are committed to updating the handbooks. He spoke about ARS and how extremely important it is to make sure your activities are accurate. No one should ever be working past scheduled hours unless you are getting comp time or credit hours. Supervisors should be keeping an eye on this. If the time is not recorded there is no way to have accurate workload reports. Length of service will now be receiving a coin with years of service instead of the employees picking a gift. There will be a movement on reaching out to non-operating landowners to see about working with beginning farmers.
John Chott – Acting Deputy Administrator of Field Operations- focus is on customer service. It appears that the money for temps will go into the end of FY; possibly move into the new FY. He spoke about the counter skills training for PT’s. This is an idea from NASCOE. PT’s developed the training. There are approximately 6,000 PT’s that will take the course. It will be up to each State to determine how the training will be delivered to the PT’s. John attended our Area break out session. When he was asked about the workload model, he refused to give any details. It was stated that they are close to having a useable workload report. It was again stated how VERY IMPORTANT, it is that everyone is coding their T&A’s correctly. Common Programs is over used.
Emblems, Awards & Scholarship report –
Money for awards and scholarships does not come out of membership dues. All money is earned through the sales of emblems and the auctions. Emblem sales form August 1, 2016 – July 31, 2017 totaled $ 48,027.00. There are 3 award categories and 6 scholarship categories.
For the awards members need to nominate their co-workers. They would like to see at least one nomination from every state. So, if one of your co-workers fits into one of these categories you should be nominating them. These awards are different from FSA. So nominate those you feel are deserving.
The Scholarship winners were as follows:
Traditional – Claire Eggerman IL
Open Continuing – Ryan Stratton, PA
Member Continuing – Jessica Brough, OH
Grandchildren – Lane Wolfe, MO
Adult Continuing – Monica Coleman, VA
Associate Member – Andi McMillin, TX
The award winners were as follows:
Service to community – John Mark Kinnibrugh, TX
Service to FSA/Agriculture – Steve Abbas, IA
Service to NASCOE – Kay Lumsden, MI
The scholarship auction was held during the convention for Scholarship. An estimated total of $13,000 dollars was raised.
Dillard Financial was present and they did a presentation about retirement. They are available to talk with members about their TSP and retirement options (consultation is free). The newest member to Dillard is Val Dolcini. Please contact them if you thinking about retirement.
Since the election resulted in both houses of Congress and the Presidency being the same party, there will likely be a great deal of issues brought up that will adversely affect FSA employees. Among the proposals are: raising the amount employees contribute toward their FERS retirement system, changing the retirement calculation to use the highest 5 years average salary from the current 3 year average, decreasing the contribution amount that the government pays toward your health insurance, replacing only one employee for every three that leave government service, reducing the number of government employees and many more. The President has publicly stated he wants to cut $54 billion from domestic spending and use the money to increase spending on defense. The administration stated we will need to “do more with less”, and so we should expect our FSA budget to be under pressure. Right now, there are no specifics, but as the President’s 2018 budget is delivered to Congress, we will start to see what the direction will be as the budget process continues.
All NASCOE members will need to be ready to contact their Congressman about proposals that will adversely affect our future employment, benefits, retirement and working conditions. We should all be establishing a relationship with the local aide in the Congressman’s office and when specific proposals emerge, our relation-ship will help us address the issues with the Congressman. We all have a voice in what happens and we need to use it!
In addition, we can begin contributing to the NASCOE PAC. The Political Action Committee (PAC) continues to be an important part of our legislative process. The PAC is a resource to help get our Representative’s attention. It is also a resource in which we can help Legislators, who are friends of Agriculture and FSA, to get re-elected.
Hunter Moorehead and NASCOE Leadership carefully choose which members of Congress to support in their efforts to get re-elected. These are the people that will fight for us when we get into the important issues of employee benefits, restructuring offices, etc. We need that assistance from these Representatives when times get tough and the PAC helps us accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, money talks… and many other groups are lobbying for the same budget money we are in order to keep our jobs, so the PAC is very important to all of us.
The number of PAC donators improved last year nationwide. However, we can do much better and need to discuss this with our members. Donating to the PAC is done through a deduction from each paycheck automatically and it only takes a minute to set up. If you have not signed up to donate to the NASCOE PAC, please consider doing so…it is a vital part of our NASCOE mission.
So what has NASCOE done? Well in the past few years, NASCOE has:
- The most recent win for NASCOE was the buyback time. This affected many employees who are still working that were hired on before 1989. This was due to NASCOE.
- Are you in an office with an employee who was hired in the past 4 years? NASCOE has saved 815 FTE’s. We have 593 offices here in the Midwest Area. NASCOE was also scheduled to take a $61 MILLION dollar hit. This was saved. FSA operated like normal with no staffing reduction. This was due to NASCOE.
- How about 5-7 years ago, when NASCOE got us credit for our sick leave towards retirement. This helped many offices where employees were struggling with “FERS FLU”.
- Employee’s with 30+ years of service may remember the days of taking Leave Without Pay (LWOP) since County Office employees were not recognized like GS employees were. We are not entitled to anything in life, let alone at FSA. Our leave is a benefit. Many people do not know that our leave is negotiated on a yearly basis. However, NASCOE negotiates it since we are not GS employees we are CO employees.
Since NASCOE can’t control the lack of cost of living increases, or our insurance premiums going up, NASCOE is always looking out for our members. NASCOE said if we can’t control it let’s look at other avenues. Did you know:
- There are 40-50 NASCOE members working on multiple task forces. One task forces includes the PT reclassification task force. Yes, that’s right, NASCOE realizes our programs are much more complex and to retain good talent, working on upgrading to PT’s to Grade 8. This is difficult due to budgetary, but at least NASCOE and WDC management are working on this together. Grade 7’s didn’t happen overnight. Many of you may remember being a CO-3. Look where we have come, thanks to NASCOE.
- KEY PT’s – here’s that first step to item a, and also upward mobility for PT’s who are not mobile. Key PT’s are Grade 8’s.
- Grade 9 Acting In Charge PT’s, now have the ability to potentially apply for a CED vacancy, another item NASCOE has gotten for us, depending on how the COC wants to open the CED vacancy.
The list goes on. As we enter into a time of restructuring, encourage everyone to join NASCOE. The more members we have, the stronger our voice is.
NAFEC Leadership met in St. Charles Missouri along with NASCOE which is our county office employee’s organization and RASCOE which is the retirees group of ASCS/FSA. Every year this is an opportunity for employees in our local County Offices and Elected County Committees to meet together and discuss ways to strengthen our FSA delivery system. NAFEC’s primary goal is to protect local control and authorities for our Farmer Elected Committees.
NAFEC had the opportunity to meet with Leadership from USDA’s FSA office in Washington D.C. to discuss issues of importance. NAFEC is always available to advise and help local committees if they have problems or questions they need help with.
The 2018 Farm Bill currently being discussed by both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees appears to be moving forward. Recently Chairman Roberts of the Senate Agriculture Committee asked Majority Leader McConnell about moving the 2018 Farm Bill. Majority Leader McConnell said the sooner the better which is a good sign from Leadership that floor time will be made available in the Senate when the Agriculture Committee has a bill ready for Senate action.
Also in the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway has indicated that his committee is also ready to begin the writing of the 2018 Farm Bill. If the process moves forward we could see early next year the new farm bill taking shape. I don’t believe there will be major changes in the farm bill but because of the current low prices and economic stress on our farms and ranches there may be an effort to raise prices. The result will be that FSA will still play a major role in delivering farm programs to our producers.
Also word is that the Agriculture Appropriations Bill will be ready for the House Floor in September as a part of 8 bill combination. Chairman Sessions of the House Rules Committee has said that the House Rule will not allow any amendments that would take money from the agriculture bill and move it to another agency. That is good news that will help keep USDA funding in place as the new budget year nears. Provisions in both the House and Senate bills has full funding for county office employees as well as protects funding for COC’s to meet when needed to conduct business. So with understaffing in many of our offices, there should not be any further downsizing.
NAFEC is told that as many as 30% of our CED’s will be eligible for retirement in the next two years. State offices need to have the people trained necessary to have qualified COT lists for County Committees to interview to hire for vacant CED positions. Remember County Committees hire the CED’s, you don’t have to accept who the State Office sends if you don’t think they will be a fit for your local office.
USDA appointments have been moving very slow and NAFEC will keep an eye on them and update you as positions are filled.
2017-2018 Executive Officers Elected:
President- Dennis Ray
Vice-president- Brandon Wilson
Treasurer- Curt Houck
Secretary- Marcinda Kester
Respectfully submitted by your Pennsylvania Delegates,