MWA Wrap Up – Mary Roberts, NASCOE’s MWA NAFEC Committee Chair
NASCOE’s NAFEC committee has been working hard to boost membership this this year. Membership packets were sent out to each State President and State NAFEC chair in December and again in January. In February, an associate packet was sent to all states that included a joint letter from NASCOE President Dennis Ray and NAFEC President Craig Turner. One thing to note is the revised NAFEC application. All applications are now being sent to Robert Braden, NAFEC Secretary/Treasurer. If you have the version that lists the Kansas City mailing address, you need to dispose of it and start using the current version that can be found at www.fsacountycommittees.org. Another area that NAFEC has been working on is the continued task of updating the membership listing. In the next few weeks, I will be sending a membership listing to the State Presidents as well as the State NAFEC chairs. We are asking all states to assist in reviewing these lists for accuracy. If you have any changes that need to be made or see omissions, please let me know and I will forward them on for correction.
Our committee has started holding monthly conference calls this year. We discuss what NAFEC has been working on and get updates from NASCOE as well as let everyone know what is going on in our area. There have been some great ideas shared on boosting membership from the area committee chairs. All areas were surveyed to find out when and if County Office Committee (COC) training is happening, if NAFEC membership packets were sent out within the state, and if states are limiting COC meetings. I found it interesting to know that not every state is handling the dissemination of NAFEC membership packets as well as NAFEC correspondence the same. There will be discussions with the new FSA Administer once he or she is appointed to help insure that information can be shared without restrictions. It was nice to hear that some states are making a priority to have COC training for new and existing members on an annual basis. Annual COC training is one of the topics that NAFEC will be discussing on the hill along with insuring that money is not being taken away from COC meetings to fund temporary employees. While there is a vital need for temporary employees, the concern is that the line item that funds both COC meetings and temporary employees does not get depleted to a point that COC meetings must be limited.
NAFEC President Craig Turner, 1st Vice President Tom Montgomery, and 2nd Vice President Tony DiGiusti are headed to Washington DC April 2-4 to meet with FSA Management and discuss issues that impact the COC, staffing, and program delivery in the county offices. With the creation of the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) and upcoming realignment, it is vital that NAFEC make contact with the departments within FSA management to ensure that they will have a seat at the table when decisions are being made. In addition to this visit to DC, NAFEC has also been working with COCs and FSA Management across the US on various issues. As changes are being made to our handbooks, procedures, and staffing there are times when the COC authority is being overlooked. When this happens, NAFEC is ready to assist in any way possible to make sure that the COC maintains accountability and integrity at the county level. Our county committee members understand the unique scenarios and needs of the producers. Without that local input we would not be able to serve the county as well as we do. NAFEC is the voice that can take concerns to the next level when issues arise. NAFEC members can pick up the phone and address concerns with President Turner at any time. How many organizations can you think of that you can call the President directly and bring up concerns? This is just another way NAFEC serves its members and shares concerns with FSA management both at the state level and the national level.
With the new FPAC realignment, I’d like to bring up a few items we need to consider showing how invaluable our COC system is. First, I strongly encourage each of you to hold a minimum of 10 COC meetings per year if your state is not limiting meetings. This will guarantee that your committees are fully informed of everything happening in the office and in the county as well as prove that the value of the COC system is seen at all levels. It is very easy for County Executive Directors (CEDs) to use the delegated authority to approve contracts as they come across our desks, but essentially if they approve everything it is the same as saying that we don’t need our COC as we can review and approve every situation. Another point I’d like to address is that CEDs need to educate our COC on exactly what their authority is. One example that has been brought up is the need for the COC to know that they are the supervisor to the CED and fully in charge of mid-year review and final performance rating. I have heard from a few members that the DD is leading the COC to a rating that they may or may not agree with, but they feel that the DD choses the final rating. Input from the DD is necessary as they do provide oversight to the CED and know more of the day to day operations, but at the end of the day the COC is the supervisor and has the final say. Another comment was that they had no idea that there was any rating other than fully successful. The better we educate our COC, the better they can serve our county office staff and producers when situations arise. As with any situation, knowledge is power. Let’s strengthen our COC through education.
In closing, as NASCOE’s MWA NAFEC Committee Chair, I will do anything I can to assist you and your COC when questions or issues arise. Please do not hesitate to call or email at any time and I will do my best to address your questions as timely as possible. If you would like me to talk to your COC during one of your meetings, please give me a call and we will get something set up.