The below information details NASCOE’s legislative accomplishments included in the final Agriculture Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2023. The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives cleared the bill for the President’s signature. Our advocacy activities have again reminded decision makers that FSA’s County Offices are important for production agriculture and should receive adequate funding. We are thankful for continued support from various U.S. Senators and Members of Congress. We have received questions regarding the President’s proposed pay increase. If the President’s increase is enacted as expected, the additional cost will come from the appropriation under FSA Salaries and Expenses.
||Final vs 2022 Enacted
Fiscal Year 2023 Bill Language:
FARM SERVICE AGENCY – SALARIES AND EXPENSES
- For necessary expenses of the Farm Service Agency, $1,215,307,000, of which not less than $15,000,000 shall be for the hiring of new employees to fill vacancies and anticipated vacancies at FSA County offices and farm loan officers and shall be available until September 30, 2024:
- In addition, for administrative expenses necessary to carry out the direct and guaranteed loan programs, $326,461,000: Provided, that of this amount, $305,803,000 shall be transferred to and merged with the appropriation for ‘‘Farm Service Agency, Salaries and Expenses’’ This portion will be added to come up with the $1.521B for FSA Salaries and Expenses.
- Provided, that not more than 50 percent of the funding made available under this heading for information technology related to farm program delivery may be obligated until the Secretary submits to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, and receives written or electronic notification of receipt from such Committees of, a plan for expenditure that (1) identifies for each project/investment over $25,000 (a) the functional and performance capabilities to be delivered and the mission benefits to be realized, (b) the estimated lifecycle cost for the entirety of the project/investment, including estimates for development as well as maintenance and operations, and (c) key milestones to be met; (2) demonstrates that each project/investment is, (a) consistent with the Farm Service Agency Information Technology Roadmap, (b) being managed in accordance with applicable lifecycle management policies and guidance, and (c) subject to the applicable Department’s capital planning and investment control requirements; and (3) has been reviewed by the Government Accountability Office and approved by the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress:
- Provided further, that the agency shall submit a report by the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023 to the Committees on Appropriations and the Government Accountability Office, that identifies for each project/investment that is operational (a) current performance against key indicators of customer satisfaction, (b) current performance of service level agreements or other technical metrics, (c) current performance against a pre-established cost baseline, (d) a detailed breakdown of current and planned spending on operational enhancements or upgrades, and (e) an assessment of whether the investment continues to meet business needs as intended as well as alternatives to the investment:
- Provided further, that the Secretary is authorized to use the services, facilities, and authorities (but not the funds) of the Commodity Credit Corporation to make program payments for all programs administered by the Agency: Provided further, that other funds made available to the Agency for authorized activities may be advanced to and merged with this account:
- Provided further, That of the amount appropriated under this heading, $696,594,000 shall be made available to county committees, to remain available until expended: Provided further, That, notwithstanding the preceding proviso, any funds made available to county committees in the current fiscal year that the Administrator of the Farm Service Agency deems to exceed or not meet the amount needed for the county committees may be transferred to or from the Farm Service Agency for necessary expenses:
- Provided further, that none of the funds available to the Farm Service Agency shall be used to close Farm Service Agency County offices: Provided further, that none of the funds available to the Farm Service Agency shall be used to permanently relocate county-based employees that would result in an office with two or fewer employees without prior notification and approval of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.
EMERGENCY FOREST RESTORATION PROGRAM
For an additional amount for ‘‘Emergency Forest Restoration Program’’, $27,000,000, to remain available until expended.
Additional Bill Language – Disaster Assistance:
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAMS, PROCESSING, RESEARCH AND MARKETING OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
For an additional amount for ‘‘Office of the Secretary’’, $3,741,715,000, to remain available until expended, for necessary expenses related to losses of revenue, quality or production losses of crops (including milk, on-farm stored commodities, crops prevented from planting in 2022, and harvested adulterated wine grapes), trees, bushes, and vines, as a consequence of droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, derechos, excessive heat, tornadoes, winter storms, freeze, including a polar vortex, smoke exposure, and excessive moisture occurring in calendar year 2022 under such terms and conditions as determined by the Secretary: Provided, That of the amounts provided under this heading in this Act, the Secretary shall use up to $494,500,000 to provide assistance to producers of livestock, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture, for losses incurred during calendar year 2022 due to drought or wildfires: Provided further, That the amount provided under this heading in this Act shall be subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the first, second, and fourth through twelfth provisos under this heading in title I of the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (division B of Public Law 117– 43), except that each reference to 2020 or 2021 in such provisos in such Act shall be deemed to be a reference instead to 2022
- Staffing—The Committee is concerned about FSA’s ability to attract and retain field staff to do FSA’s critical work in rural communities. The Committee is also concerned that local FSA offices are often tasked with implementing new programs with little notice. The Committee directs the Secretary to report on a plan to address retention and communication between FSA offices and the national office. Additionally, the committee encourages FSA to factor in administration of disaster assistance programming when contemplating additional staffing resources needed to successfully carry out its mission.
- Pay Costs—The Committee provides the full pay and FERS costs for all offices and agencies of USDA funded in this bill and FDA. Similar in prior years, the Committee does not include direct funding for USDA activities currently funded through other resources such as the Working Capital Fund or have historically been funded through other means.
- Conditions of Employment—The Committee recognizes that harassment, including sexual harassment and assault, continues to be pervasive in the workplace, and that the use of pre-dispute nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses as conditions of employment can perpetuate illegal conduct by silencing survivors and shielding perpetrators. The Committee directs USDA, FDA and CFTC to assess the number of pre-dispute nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses in employment contracts used by contractors receiving Federal funds from those agencies, the estimated dollar value of those contracts, and to include a report with their findings in their fiscal year 2024 budget request.
- FSA State Directors —The Committee directs the Secretary to prioritize the appointment of State Executive Directors of the Farm Service Agency and work expeditiously with the White House to confirm each State Executive Director in an appropriate timeframe consistent with the duties and activities this leadership role provides. The Committee recognizes that State Executive Directors play an integral role in employee training, the delivery of critical farm support programs, and is essential in the overall operations of the state and local Farm Service Agency offices who serve at the forefront of the Department’s customer-based services.
- Extreme weather events—The Committee remains concerned about the impacts extreme weather events are having on farmers and producers in 2022, such as freeze losses for blueberry producers, and will continue to monitor these events, damage estimates, and other relevant information and take additional action as necessary.
- Livestock Indemnity Payments for Adverse Weather—The Committee is aware that millions of farmed animals die each year due to the effects of adverse weather. Extreme weather events are occurring at increased frequency, putting additional livestock at risk. The Committee recognizes the importance of disaster planning and directs the Department to work with producers that want to voluntarily develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
- Farmers.gov—The Committee directs USDA to continue to drive implementation and expansion of the Farmers.gov application, a single portal built around the needs of farmers, to enable USDA employees and USDA customers and producers to view their information, complete transactions and quickly review the status, submit applications for FPAC programs, and receive program payments for all USDA farm programs including, but not limited to, loans, conservation, disaster, dairy, or other programs. All farm programs which require direct application from the farmer, rancher, or producer should be considered for expansion of the Farmers.gov application and functions.
- PFAS-contaminated farmland—The Committee encourages FSA and NRCS to explore using the Conservation Reserve Program to enroll PFAS-contaminated farmland that may not be suitable for further agricultural production. Additionally, the Committee is aware that PFAS contamination can cause significant financial distress for farmers and encourages FSA to explore flexibilities for impacted borrowers to defer, restructure, or forgive their debt as appropriate. The Committee requests that FSA work to avoid PFAS indemnity payments being diverted to repay FSA liens instead of helping to replace a farmer’s lost income.
- Small Farmer Specialists—The Committee recognizes COVID– 19, climate change, and trade wars/agreements have impeded small farmer growth. The Committee remains concerned that a majority of financial and technical assistance goes to larger farmers and encourages USDA to hire dedicated regionally focused small farmer specialists that can enhance outreach and assistance to small farmers on federal programs, conservation practices, contract opportunities, and other valuable issues to help our small farmers regain their economic footing.
- Pandemic Cover Crop Program—The Committee recognizes the Pandemic Cover Crop Program helps producers maintain their cover crop systems amid a financially challenging time because of the COVID–19 pandemic, and that it encourages an important conservation practice. The Committee directs the Department to continue supporting producers through the Pandemic Cover Crop Program, in conjunction with other pandemic assistance programs, using available resources as producers continue to manage pandemic and supply chain disruptions.
- Farming Opportunities and Training Outreach Program —Creating and expanding new farming opportunities and supporting farmer training and technical assistance are critical to the future of American agriculture and our food system. The Committee notes that significant funding was included in the fiscal year 2022 Omnibus and COVID Relief and Response Act for the Farming Opportunities and Training Outreach Program [FOTO]. The Secretary is urged to support new and established training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives that address the needs of the next generation of farmers and ensure they have access to USDA credit, commodity, conservation, and other programs and services.
- Farmers.gov—The Committee directs USDA to continue implementation and expansion of the Farmers.gov application. The expansion should consider all farm programs which require direct application from farmers, ranchers, and producers and provide a comprehensive application system within USDA.
- Business Center Report—The FPAC Business Center was created by the Secretary in 2018 with the goal of consolidating administrative functions within the newly created FPAC mission area, with assurances given that this would lead to reduced inefficiencies and increased customer service. However, the Committee is aware of reports of prolonged delays in filling critical that has led to delays in the deployment of important disaster assistance, conservation, and commodity programs. The Committee once again reminds FPAC that the detailed report required by S. Rpt. 116–110, which was due February 2022, regarding the FPAC Business Center’s efficiencies gained, metrics, hiring plan, and potential reorganization, is now long overdue.
- Acequia Irrigated Land—The Committee recognizes that acequias serve as the primary method of irrigation in many rural and underserved communities in New Mexico and that acequias re- 64 main an integral aspect of New Mexican cultural identity. Recent changes administered by FSA changed eligibility of drought on farms and ranches irrigated by acequias for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program [NAP]. Given the Farm Service Agency has historically considered drought on acequia-irrigated land eligible for Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance and the ongoing severe drought conditions in New Mexico and throughout the west, the Committee urges the Department to maintain their position that drought on acequia-irrigated land is an eligible cause of loss for NAP.
- Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative [ACRSI]—The Committee has long recognized the potential of ACRSI to reduce the time and burden of Federal crop reporting requirements on farmers by allowing farmers to report electronically and securely to both the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency. The Committee again reminds USDA that the joint explanatory statement accompanying Public Law 116–220 directed FSA to allocate all necessary resources to identify the software options necessary to ensure that ACRSI technology would be adopted and deployed within 120 days of enactment of the act. The USDA failed to respond to this directive; therefore, the Committee directs USDA to brief the Committee on the status of ACRSI implementation within 60 days of enactment of this Act.
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program [CREP]—The Committee recognizes that drought is now the single largest cause of U.S. farm production losses and strongly supports the development of creative solutions to conserve water while maintaining the productive use of farmland. The Committee is concerned that the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment [PEA] for CRP published in the Federal Register on October 3, 2019 (84 FR 52868) ignores the intent of Congress and the urgent threat of drought by immediately dismissing without meaningful consideration the new authorization for CREP drought and water conservation agreements to permit dryland agricultural uses with the adoption of best management practices. The Committee directs the Secretary to revise the PEA to allow dryland agriculture uses on land enrolled in CREP in accordance with section 1231A(e)(2) of the Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3831a(e)(2)). The Committee reminds USDA that the joint explanatory statement accompanying Public Law 116–260 directed the Secretary to submit a report to the Committee detailing a full analysis of the new CREP dryland agricultural uses authority and what dryland farming best management practices could make advancements to protect ground water and surface water quality and control soil erosion while enhancing wildlife habitat.
- Disaster Preparedness—The Committee recognizes that millions of farm animals die each year due to effects of adverse weather. The Committee is also aware that veterinary and agricultural trade associations recognize the importance of disaster planning in preventing the extent of livestock deaths. Therefore, the Committee encourages USDA to educate producers on the benefits of written disaster preparedness plans.
- Honey Bee Loses—For purposes of administering the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program for honeybees, the Secretary is directed to expand eligibility under the program to include climate change and drought related losses, including additional transportation and feed costs, among other things, as determined by the Secretary. Additionally, or in lieu of ELAP expansion, the Secretary may choose to include managed honeybees under other appropriate disaster assistance programs. Disaster assistance is essential to protecting a fragile beekeeping industry that is responsible for pollinating billions of dollars in U.S. agricultural input.
- Inaccurate Estimates—The Committee directs the Farm Service Agency to brief the Committee within 90 days of enactment of this act on actions taken to correct the accounting error that caused National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program [OCCSP] and other Farm Bill program reimbursements to be cut below mandated levels.
- Information Technology—The Committee remains dedicated to ensuring FSA has reliable and functioning IT systems because it is critical that farmers and ranchers have access to the tools they need to succeed. The Committee has invested significant taxpayer dollars to modernize outdated systems and continues to provide resources above the budget request. The Committee continues statutory language that allows funds for IT to be obligated only after the Secretary meets certain reporting requirements. The Committee has reviewed the third-party IT analysis and expects the agency to follow the recommendations where applicable. FSA is directed to provide timely updates for future IT needs.
- Panther Depredation—The Committee is aware that livestock producers in Florida have suffered from panther depredation. To support the ongoing conservation and recovery of endangered Florida panthers while minimizing conflicts with ranchers, the Committee encourages FSA to work with ranchers to tailor the Livestock Indemnity Program to address unique circumstances currently preventing producers from receiving compensation for losses stemming from Florida panther depredation events.
- The agreement encourages FSA to work with ranchers to tailor the Livestock Indemnity Program to address unique circumstances currently preventing producers from receiving compensation for losses stemming from panther and bald eagle depredation events.
- The agreement urges USDA to maintain its position that drought on acequia-irrigated land is an eligible cause of loss for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
- The agreement again directs USDA to brief the Committees on the implementation status of the Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative.
- The agreement recognizes that drought is the largest cause of U.S. farm production losses and reminds the Secretary of the report directed in the joint explanatory statement accompanying Public Law 116-260 detailing a full analysis of the new CREP dry land agricultural uses authority and which dry land farming best practices could make advancements to protect ground water and surface water quality and control soil erosion while enhancing wildlife habitat.
- The agreement directs the Secretary to restore normal mortality rates under the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program for honeybees to fifteen percent and to restore fair market values for colonies and hives to at least the levels utilized in the 2019 program year. The agreement encourages the Secretary to expand eligibility under the program to include climate change and drought-related losses, or to include managed honeybees under other appropriate disaster assistance programs.