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NASCOE National Convention

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NASCOE National Convention Powered By Docstoc
					                            NASCOE National Convention
                              Friday, August 14, 2009
                                  Gatlinburg, TN

Call to Order: Myron Stroup, Vice President. $4811.50 was collected from the
scholarship auction. $1,000 was collected for the Morris O’Quinn Fund.

Officer Candidacy Announcements:
       President: Myron Stroup-KS
       Vice President: John Lohr
       Secretary: Darlene Schouten-MN
       Treasurer: Shelley Odenkirk-OH

Redding and Associates-Robert Redding: He discussed the following items.
             Things in Legislature: Many programs and items are going on in
              Washington and this has taken up a lot of time for Key congressionals
              that NASCOE needs.
             Key Areas: Need to focus on the narrow pieces of big-picture bills and
              how they affect us.
             Reorganization: The USDA modernization has been back-burned due to
              the amount of activity in Washington at this time. We need to keep
              talking about it and bringing it up with legislatures. He is concerned with
              what will happen this fall because he feels that health care issues will
              dominate the scene.
             Appropriations: For FY 2010, it looks good so far. There is language in
              the bill for keeping track of progress. There is also language to shift
              money to NRCS, but that has to be worked on yet. The House and
              Senate have their own versions of appropriations and the Senate bill is
              more conservative. The final product will probably mirror the Senate
              bill. The House cut the animal ID program in their version. Most likely
              that will stand in conference. If there is a disaster, this could change.
              We need to monitor this and be ready to act if there seems to be a
              change in things.
             CAP and TRADE Program: In the ag section in this bill, USDA has a
              stronger position than in the beginning. There may be some opportunity
              for FSA in this bill and it needs to be watched. We need to take a hard
              look at what our role might be in the climate bill. Production costs are
              estimated to rise dramatically in the future, so that makes the climate bill
              all the more important. We don’t know how aggressive this bill will be
              in comparison to transportation, etc. We are hopeful that FSA has an
              administrative role in any offset program. We need to monitor who will
              administer money in any future program. There will be some republican
              support, but it will be interesting to see how much support will be
              realized.
             Health Reform: There is a lot of debate on any health bill that have been
              proposed at this time. We need to watch this activity closely. Backus is
                trying to put together a non-partisan bill and wants to have this done by
                September. We will some type of bill coming out of this. The finance
                committee bill has a tax on health care benefits. This is very
                controversial. We will watch this closely. Before the bill comes to
                committee, NASCOE will need to react quickly. This will have a direct
                affect on NASCOE members.
               FERS Sick Leave: This has been stripped out of the bills so far and it has
                been in the Senate where this has happened.
               How we communicate with congress: Education-talking to senators,
                congressman, etc. We do written communications constantly and
                CAPWIZ is instrumental in this process. In the fall, CAPWIZ will be
                used more aggressively on issues that will come up. He encouraged
                everyone to sign up for CAPWIZ and use it.
               PAC: to date we have given over 40 contributions. Our issues are very
                narrow as far as health care and FERS sick leave issues. Most of our
                contributions go to Appropriations committees in both House and
                Senate. We send contributions to members of these committees who can
                act on our behalf. Members of congress and senate spend a lot of time
                raising money, so where the PAC money goes will have an impact.
                Most of the PAC participation is picked up at meetings and conventions.
                Please sign up for CAPWIZ and PAC.
               Farm Bill: in another 18 months, debate will begin on a new farm bill
                and we need to be back at the table for that.

Darin Slack: Coalition Partner of the Year Award: Coalition partnerships are important
to ensure success for the future. Any member can write a recommendation for a coalition
partner award. It is very difficult to narrow down the nominations to one winner due to
the many great nominations. Winner: Harvey Joe Sanner, Farm & Rural Advocate-AR.
He lives about 60 miles east of Little Rock, AR. He was nominated by the late Morris
O’Quinn. Darrin read the nomination that was written up for him.

Heidi Ware: Activity Reporting System Update: She has attended the last 10 NASCOE
conventions and she gave Dennis Taitano’s regards for missing this year. She stated that
she would also be discussing the Budget and Performance Management System (BPMS):
               Trends in Administrative Budget: She showed graphs on the trends
                which showed we have not been appropriated what was asked. This has
                impacted discretionary budget items and payroll. There was a 6.5%
                increase from 2003 to now and the only way to stay in budget is for
                staffing levels to decrease. Non-discretionary items (IT, rent, etc) have
                increased also, however, these areas have to be cut to stay within the
                allotted budget. The administrator is going to sit down with
                management to determine how to work within the budget.
               Staffing Trends: She showed the drops in staffing with graphs and
                statistics that were alarmingly negative. We cannot staff up to ceiling
                level. Non-federal staffing is running very close to ceiling at this time.
                 The ceiling was 650 staff years for non-federal, but there was a carry-
                 over that helped tremendously.
                2010 Budget: The funding expected for 2010 was outlined by graphs.
                 There is no money in the budget for COLA’s etc, making the outlook
                 difficult. Supplementals received in 2009 were mainly from stimulus
                 money that will not be available in 2010. We need to absorb COLA’s
                 which will present a challenge to find the money to cover this. New
                 leasing requirements are causing an increase in rental cost. Travel
                 requirements have increased, but FLP increased significantly. There
                 was also a postal increase that will need to be absorbed.
                2010 Plan: Budget analysts are completing detailed studies by BOC and
                 to document non-discretionary requirements. Management discussions
                 will determine the most critical items that need to be addressed.
                BPMS Update: There are many budget models that are being used to
                 formulate the entire project. Next steps will include providing access to
                 the cost model data to ARS pilot participants along with other future
                 users.
                Activity Reporting System Update: They believe that they will begin
                 training on this system in October 2009. Webinar training will be used
                 to get everyone using the system more quickly than using convention
                 training methods. She showed some slides on the screens that will be
                 used in the ARS system. Some of the frustrations the agency has is that
                 there is a lot of data and we don’t have the information all put together
                 to utilize that data properly. They have “dashboards” that will be
                 available for use very soon. This will list data that show where spending
                 is going and how the trends are developing. The front page would be
                 summary level and the transcending pages will detail such information.
                 This will be available soon.

Philip Short, Deputy Administrator Management: He has been with the agency 8
months and is learning about FSA quickly.
                Human capital: We need to line up the human capital issue with the
                 needs in the county office. They are reorganizing infrastructure to make
                 things work better. They have new employees with a tremendous
                 amount of ability that will aid in building a Washington team that will be
                 responsive to your needs. We need your help and feedback to ensure
                 success in this endeavor. We are getting our structure together and we
                 will deliver the things that you need.
                ARS: this is one of the tools that will be utilized and should role out in
                 November. This will provide the tools necessary for HRD.
                Emergency Preparedness: Last May a review was completed in the
                 department. There are 12,000 to 14,000 LinkPass cards rolling out.
                 They are also part of a panel that is reviewing the H1N1 situation. They
                 will be sending information out on this problem and want to ensure all
                 employees are updated timely. There are about 300 million vaccine
                 doses available for this fall.
                Leasing: They make sure that lease money from other agencies is being
                 collected and used properly. They will continue to develop realty
                 leasing property advisors who will assist states with their leasing issues
                 and be sure leases comply with GSA regulations. They rolled out video
                 conferencing constellations out to the states to help with
                 communications.
                Travel: there is a tight travel budget and constraints dictate what types of
                 training will be available.
                Contracting: they are trying to determine how much money can be
                 saved by using in-house resources. They need to be an inventive as they
                 can with such a constrained budget. They are hoping to generate real
                 savings that can be used in other areas.

Brandon Willis, Deputy Administrator Farm Programs: He has been on the job for 3
weeks, and he is impressed with the employees in FSA. He grew up in Northern Utah on
a sheep ranch. He attended law school and worked for a senator. He discussed the
following:
                Farm Storage Facility Loans: This will be available next Monday and
                 this includes many changes. Hay, renewable biomass and cold storage
                 are included. The maximum amount increased from $100.000 to
                 $500,000.
                Livestock Indemnity Program: the program has been simplified and the
                 maximum payment rate was increased to 75% of market rate.
                Livestock Forage Program and ELAP: The livestock program idea came
                 from USDA. They wanted it based on the drought monitor to ease
                 administration. This should be released in September.
                Supplement Revenue Assistance Program-SURE: This should roll out
                 this fall and Washington is doing its best to try and have all the tools the
                 COF’s need to administer this program.
                Tree Assistance Program: no major changes in this program.
                Payment Limitation: The comment period resulted in over 5,000
                 comments that need to be reviewed. We are working on a memorandum
                 of understanding with IRS at this time.
                Biomass Crop Assistance Program: This will be administered by FSA.
                 There are components for farmers and business. Rules to come out this
                 fall.
                CRP: There is a cap of 32 million acres and there are currently over 33
                 million acres in CRP with many due to expire. 1.5 million are eligible to
                 re-enroll.
                ACRE: There are thousands of acres enrolled at this time and many
                 states have a register.
                MILC: this program is very important to the Secretary and it is very
                 important to get payments out timely.
                Disaster: millions have been paid out for natural disasters over the
                 entire country.
NACS: Randy Milloy, President: This association was established to work with FSA
employees and provide outstanding service to this country’s farmers. We share a
common concern to protect the integrity of program and service. We also share common
problems such as IT issues. We as employees are dealing with many changes in our
agency.

NASE-Susan Long, President: National Association of Support Employees and open to
all FSA non-supervisory employees. She has been a member of NASCOE and now
NASE. They promote the betterment of FSA, improve support staff effectiveness,
improve moral and many other items. She encouraged Washington staff to come out to
the county offices and work alongside county office employees for a couple of days.
She is Marine Mom.

AOLG-Dennis Olson, President: Administrative Operations Leadership Group: He
was a CED in Iowa and then became the Administrative Officer in the Iowa State Office.
This was established in March, 2001, to improve communication with Washington. They
want to ensure consistency in program delivery throughout the states. They have subject
matter experts who work with specific items and work with Washington staff. They have
monthly meetings and scheduled meetings with Washington Staff.

NADD: Bob Erpenbach: Thanked Tennessee for hosting this event. We are all working
for our nation’s farmers. They passed a resolution regarding NASCOE and he read the
resolution.

Legislative Announcement: Mike Mayfield: There are computers available for signup in
PAC. The number one benefit we have is our job and the paycheck that goes with that
job. Think about it: is the cost of a couple of cups of coffee worth investing in your job?
Please ask if you have any questions.

Break:

Question and Answer Session: Myron Stroup reviewed basic rules regarding the Q&A
session. All questions must be handed in to the area Exec after it is answered.

Panel Members: Heidi Ware-Acting FSA Chief Financial Officer, Brandon Willis-
Deputy Administrator Farm Programs, Philip Short-Deputy Administrator
Management, Candy Thompson-Acting Director PECD, Jackie Whitaker-Human
Resources Division, Charles Benjamin-MIDAS, Vicki Larson-HRD, Brent Orr-Farm
programs

        Q: Comment for Brandon Willis: A producer lost 275 animals and were market
ready, the mortality rate is established at 5%. We need to establish different rates for
sizes because farmers are not getting fair payments based on the present rate.
        A: They recognize the problems with the equations and will work on correcting
this.
        Q: There are many calls due to natural disasters for NAP crops, but the programs
are very limited.
        A: Willis: NAP crops are calculated on a higher basis than many insured crops
and the stimulus package included extra funding for these crops.
        Q: How will ARS work as far as reporting activities?
        A: Larson: reporting will be done on a 15 minute increments and the program
areas are general. You will have to use the best judgment on their time and pick the most
important activity you are doing.
        Q: What fiscal year can we expect funding for the awards program?
        A: Ware: there will be funding in the 2010 allotment.
        Q: LP2123, the notice is in regards to warehouses and how will we know if
warehouses are in compliance?
        A: Thompson: The price support section will be providing a list to the state for
approved warehouses.
        Q: What are the benefits to the employees for using the ARS system and how will
we be able to see such benefits?
        A: Ware: it will take about a year to actually see the results of ARS data and
management will benefit the most from the data.
        Q: We do not have current workload data to draw from, we need to get TRUE
workload numbers before any offices or staff get cut.
        A: We understand your position and will take that into account.
        Q: The ACRE worksheet works very well and Washington was thanked for this.
        A: Orr: This was developed for help in ACRE decisions.
        Q: The DCP payments used to be eligible to be paid in groups, however, now all
farms are to be paid in one batch, but that hinders the ability of the COF’s to monitor that
payments are not paid to ineligible producers. How will this be addressed?
        A: Thompson: County offices are to ensure that subsidiary files are updated
correctly so that this does not happen.
        Q: How can we trace payments that issued via the web?
        A: This cannot be done at this time.
        Q: Can FSA management made a decision to donate sick leave since it cannot be
used for retirement?
        A: Wittaker: this is being looked at.
        Q: When will the PT classification be finished?
        A: Short: HRD conducted a review on PT responsibilities and the classification
was delayed due to the change in administration. The recommendations are being
finalized and management is working on the process. They want to get this resolved as
soon as possible. The data has been collected and the analysis has been done and needs
to be presented to the administrator for his approval. It is good to keep pushing the issue
with Washington to ensure that it gets addressed.
        Q: If a producer has multiple counties where do the payment limitations get
controlled?
        A: Payment limit will be prorated based on the number of farms in DCP/ACRE.
        Q: Many farming operations are beginning to be involved in organic farming and
the NAP rates and yields do not reflect the organic rates and yields that are in the current
market place.
        A: Willis: On the RMA side, they are to conduct a study on organic farming and
he will look into the difference in such rates and yields.
        Q: There is a great concern with the amount of time spent waiting for the
computer when it times out and software does not work. This is very frustrating when
the software does not work and appointments are tight. You need to know how this
impacts the COF. The timeout issue is very frustrating. The system 36 may be old, but it
did the job. Is it going to get better?
        A: Thompson: Washington does not know when there are problems unless they
are reported. At this time they are reacting to the symptoms, but Mr. Gwinn is working
hard to find out what the problem really is and fix it.
        Q: Is there any plans to provide queries that can be done from SCIMS to provide
needed reports?
        A: Thompson: there is no way to get this data at this time. They will try and
address this situation.
        Q: Will the DCP/ACRE payment limitation be prorated based on enrollment of
payment acres?
        A: Orr: The payment limitation will be reduced by the 20% of lost direct
payments based on the payment acres for the farm.
        Q: With shrinking budget dollars and we are required to purchase supplies from
more expensive vendors, will there be an opportunity to purchase from a less expensive
vendor?
        A: Short: They understand that this is a problem, but they don’t have an answer at
this time.
        Q: We have had to do duplicate work with payment limitations doing 502 and 902
forms, will there be some type of decision made on how to make this easier? They hope
to use information from the 902 to use for 502 information.
        A: The current payment limitation rules were determined based on current farm
bill policy. There are different rules that govern 902’s and 502’s.
        Q: Farm yields for ACRE, can the COF assist the farmer with this and how will
insured and uninsured information be blended?
        A: We can use RMA data for calculating farm yields. We are not requiring actual
production records to be submitted to the COF, this is a certification. If pulled for
spotcheck, then the producer will provide actual production data. We will not use the
APH data at that time, only actual yield info. The COC will make the determination if
production data is sufficient. There are instructions in the handbook that outline the
process for calculating farm yields.
        Q: Our administrator said his number one priority is people. We need
Washington to address the need for better forms, etc.
        A: no response
        Q: Who is to sign the CED timesheets, the COC or the DD?
        A: Larson: the COC signs the printed form but the DD approves the electronic
form.
        Q: Leasing: there are many month to month leases and if it so costly and
inefficient, why are we using it?
        A: Short: CCC ability for leasing was revoked by law and we must abide by GSA
leasing rules. LPLO’s are being trained to aid in the process to get things done in a
timely manner. They have to do things in the correct manner and move forward to
correct any past problems. The leasing handbook was issued to try and rectify the
problem. Unfortunately, it is more costly, but things must be done according to the law.

Announcements:

Adjourned for the afternoon. Area meetings and committee meetings to follow.
RASCOE, NAFEC, and NADD meetings will be held in the afternoon.

There will be a picnic later in the evening.

Respectfully submitted,
Deb Esselman-Baird

				
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