Northeast Area Rally May 17 – 19th 2018 Bolton, VT
Deadline to register is April 30th
Northeast Area Rally May 17 – 19th 2018 Bolton, VT
Deadline to register is April 30th
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.
It is not news to anyone that we have a lot going on in the agency and federal government in general. Members have been asking questions and sharing concerns about everything from the USDA Reorg efforts to FSA logos. Your Exec Committee has been having routine conference calls to ensure that your comments are passed up and that NASCOE is in the best possible position.
We also think it’s important to have routine updates for membership on these issues so that you know that we’re hearing your suggestions and that we’re continuing to work hard on your behalf. So please see a summary (below) that our President, Dennis Ray, has prepared regarding a few of the biggest issues. We’ll continue to keep you informed as we go forward.
As usual, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
NACOE NE Area Exec
The executive committee held a conference call this week to discuss workload, reorg and to act on a couple of business matters. Below is a summary of a few of topics discussed.
The current reorg of the Department has naturally generated questions, both about how it might affect us going forward and about what NASCOE is doing to monitor the situation. Currently, NASCOE supports Secretary Perdue’s efforts to reorganize the Department of Agriculture and believes that any reorganization should focus on FSA’s footprint and providing better customer service. The county office footprint is critical to the effective administration of our programs. We believe that the greatest service model in government is the County Committee System and protecting strengthening their local authority remains a high priority. NASCOE continues to work closely with our legislative consultant to monitor activities and to promote our legislative and reorg priorities. These include CRP, acreage reporting, dairy and all commodity programs.
NASCOE membership has expressed the need for a tool to accurately report and assess workload ever since FSA discontinued work measurement and workload reporting. We believe that a valid workload tool is critical to ensure that staffing levels are consistently applied across the country. The Managerial Cost Analysis Working Group (MCA) is currently working to develop and deploy a workload tool. NASCOE has had a representative on the MCA for the past 18 months. Past president Wes Daniels has assumed the duties of representing NASCOE of this working group. A NASCOE priority of the workload tool is that the data is calculated and shared down to the county level. Earlier indications were that it was close to being to a point that data could be shared but that appears to have slowed a little. Wes is participating on routine conference calls that are designed to fine tune and advance the deployment of the workload tool.
NASCOE has spent considerable effort in the past to build strong relationships with the senior management of FSA and that continues to be a focus. With the turnover of the administration and the retirement of several experienced employees in the national office, there is much work to be done in this area. We are fortunate however, that many of the program specialists and career employees that we have dealt with in the past remain and we are able to visit with them as concerns and issues arise. Many have assumed additional duties which has placed a premium on their time, but they try to be as accommodating to our requests as they can.
It is fully expected there will be travel required in the very near future to meet with our legislative consultant, meet with management and key congressional members. This travel will primarily be by the President and Vice President as we negotiate with management on issues and concerns. If needed, there may also be times that NASCOE members might be asked to fly in to meet with key congressional members. This travel has been expected and planned for as we work to maintain NASCOE’s position through the reorg process, build relationships as new appointees come on board, maintain relationships with career employees and continue to participate in the development of the workload tool.
NEA RALLY NOTES
The Northeast Regional Rally was held in Wareham, MA on May 4th to 6, 2017.
The Rally began Friday, May 5th, with a welcome from Julie Viveiros, MASCOE President. There was a presentation of colors by the Plymouth Post 40 American Legion. The Pledge of Allegiance was next followed by the Invocation from Nancy Miller, MASCOE Vice President and then the Roll Call of States. Pennsylvania had a total of 8 people in attendance.
The Acting SED from MA, Dan Smiarowski, also a District Director addressed the rally and gave some interesting facts on Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Ag Commissioner, John Lebeaux, was able to stop by and give some statistics about the agriculture in MA and the programs utilized and their importance to MA agriculture.
Darren Ash, Chief Information Officer, stated he has been with FSA for 14 months now and addressed the following items that his department is working on: 1) Bandwidth to increase for connectivity. 2) Replacing the MPS 1 leased devices by end of 2018 with Xerox as the new contract. 3) Five states were missed in the last refresh of computers. They are looking to refresh regularly. On some feedback and concerns his response was stuff happens. They are expanding on early awareness of problems. Working on getting notification before offices send Remedy’s. Currently they have in place a notification for CARS that lets them know immediately if the system is down anywhere in the US. The Remedy template for reporting issues has been restructured as of the meeting. The survey was completed by 50% of the employees and received by him with over 2300 pages and 1900 pages were comments. 110 were on Bridges. Thursday they plan to share with the Leadership Team and then to IT and then to everyone else. The Top four programs that need looked at are WebTA, NRRS, OTIS, Bridges. He is looking at the structure of the IT Department and how to improve. He stated that one time there was a problem and the Secretary of Agriculture asked him if he knew there was a problem and he did not. He doesn’t want that to happen again.
Brad Carmen, Acting Deputy Administrator, gave a few updates. FSA’s role plays biggest part in DC and is on the mind of the new Secretary, Sonny Perdue. The Farm Bill should be completed this year. Congress and House are currently holding hearings now. FSA is Title 1 and preliminary discussions are now going on with Secretary. They want to fix MPP. There were 3 FSA employees awarded the Unsung Hero Awards. For the Fellows program DAFP selected approximately a dozen employees to go to Washington and see what it is all about.
Also in attendance were David Matthews, Assistant to Administrator, just hired and Brent Orr.
Wes Daniels –NASCOE President’s Legislative Update
At this point in time we are all concerned about how this proposed 21% budget cut might affect us and our jobs. We are concerned if there will be cuts in staff, where will these budget cuts be? Wes reminded us that in 2015 Obama’s proposed budget cut $60 million out of staff and expenses. The final budget actually gave us an increase in funding. This difference between a proposed budget and the final budget is just a reminder that we are only in the beginning stages of budget decisions. Hunter Moorehead, our legislative consultant, believes Congress understands that we have a job to do-administer the programs of the Farm Bill.
During the confirmation hearings of the proposed Secretary of Agriculture we heard that he doesn’t agree with all of the proposed budget. This tells us that there will be discussion during the budget process.
An Executive Order gives the Under-Secretary the ability to reduce duplicate services. We do not know what duplicate services would be targeted.
Question & Answer:
Brad Carmen was asked where the money collected from the MPP program went. He stated it went to the treasury. It was suggested to him that the new program they come out with in the new farm bill be named something other than MPP.
Darren: Could IT minimize the different ways you get into different programs. Like adding information manually in each program to just enter in one and it goes to the other.
Darren stated that OCFO manages WebTA and these are vendor problems.
Darren: Did they look at broad band before switching phones? Yes, and they had to look at where local providers go and their strengths.
Darren noted that FSAFarm+ works and that if they have someone who cannot get will need to contact them personally to find the problem.
Level 2 should now be able to be done online and they do not have to visit the office.
ARS training on data load to be explored.
Brent was asked if they have considered adding base acres to farms that do not currently have any. He stated that was up to Congress when the do the new farm bill.
Wes Daniels, gave the following remarks: NASCOE went to DC for negotiations. Notice CP-736 Late filed acreage reports were discussed how it affects us and the producers. They received some waivers by working with DAFP. Helped rewrite the PT Classifications. COC Managed offices = job security. CED’s should be aware that the COC is their boss not the DD. There are 32 negotiating items in DC right now for this year.
Mickey Crider from the Emblem/Scholarship committees discussed:
Changed emblem providers, please visit NASCOE website to view and order Emblems (portion of the proceeds go to the scholarship fund)
Changed scholarships – now 6 categories, reminded us about the Distinguished Service to NASCOE award.
The 2017 NASCOE Scholarships are: Traditional Scholarship; Open Continuing Education Scholarship; Member Continuing Education; Continuing Education for Adult Children of Members; Grandchildren Scholarship; and Associate Member Scholarship. NASCOE would give out $15,750 if all are awarded every year. (Please Find attached Document on Scholarship Categories)
The 2018 NEA Rally will be hosted by Vermont. More information to follow.
Dillard Financial Solutions Inc. representative, John Lohr, gave an update on being able to help you understand the Government Retirement system and your financial plans.
Friday evening we had a banquet, Award/Special Recognition, the nominees for the NASCOE board, and the Scholarship Auction which brought in close to $2,000 for the scholarships at NASCOE and MA.
Dodie Yohn and John Stinavage
Please read the reports that were presented at the May 2017 NEA Rally. The Rally was held in Wareham, MA.
NEA Executive Rick Csutoras wants to send a big thank you to everyone who attended the NEA Rally this weekend:
I really appreciated your patience with our “fluid” agenda 😉 I also want to appreciate and congratulate all the Massachusetts folks who worked so hard to pull this off. I have already received several compliments on the amazing job you did!!
I also want to thank all of our area chairs who put these reports together and who work so hard all year round. NASCOE couldn’t be as successful as we are without folks like you.
Good Afternoon !!
NEA Executive Report
2017 Negotiations Meeting
April 2-5, 2017
Many of you know that I was traveling abroad last month and that I came home from Europe just to turn around and head to DC. I was exhausted. However, watching our NASCOE team work so hard for the betterment of our fellow employees and our producers was rejuvenating. I am very proud of the work that our area consultant, (Thanks Jamie!) and the whole NASCOE negotiation team did this week. The team had previously reviewed dozens of submissions and any from our area that were not officially negotiated received personal letters explaining NASCOE’s reasoning. We spent Monday finalizing the issues that we were taking to management and discussing how to present them in order to best communicate the needs. This team was passionate and excited to meet with management!
NASCOE met with the Acting Administrator as well as representatives from DAFO, DAFP, DAM, OBF, and CIO. We had the opportunity to thoroughly discuss many issues on your behalf. Management listened to all of our concerns and was receptive to many of them. We’ll be sharing the complete list as well as WDC’s responses as soon as they are finalized. NASCOE works hard on your behalf all year long, but the Negotiation session is special. Every employee can’t sit down at the table with the administrator and share their concerns and suggestions. But this is literally what NASCOE does. And we share actual submissions that come directly from membership. This is a powerful benefit that each and every member has and I am humbled that you all allow me to represent you.
In addition to the negotiation items, we took the opportunity to conduct some other NASCOE business while we were all together. These included:
2017 NEA Rally- West Wareham, Massachusetts
The MASCOE folks have put together an amazing agenda for the NEA Rally which is scheduled for May 4-6 in the Cape Cod region. Come and join us for a great meeting and the chance to tour a cranberry bog and oyster farm! Don’t forget to bring an item for the scholarship auction. WDC has granted us 4.75 admin hours also! Details, including registration and hotel information, were emailed out but just let me know if you need them. Register Now!
Other Items of Note:
Communication continues to be a priority. The second quarterly NEA Newsletter was sent in March and hopefully everyone found something useful in it. Keep your eyes peeled for a printed NASCOE newsletter coming soon!
Richard Csutoras, NASCOE NEA Exec
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:
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
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.