After some much needed time away from the office, I am back and ready to go. Fall is a great time of year - harvest, college football, cooler weather. Plus, isn't just crazy how many things can suddenly become "pumpkin spice" scented???
Thank you to so many of the states that have submitted their quarterly dues. If you still need to send them, get it off in the mail to our NACS Treasurer, Ray Bartholomew. His address is:
4107 South Obee Road
Hutchinson, KS 67505
Many, many new FLOTs are coming into our offices to begin their careers with FSA. They can be great ambassadors to our programs. You can be a great ambassador for NACS-FSA. Get them involved. If you want, any one of our Board members would be happy to talk to them about joining.
Lots of planning is going on for the upcoming zone meetings. Watch the website for the registration information. Zone A already has their plans there. You can see it at the link below.
NACS recently had the chance to submit names for members to serve on National Office working groups. These are great opportunities to network and be a part of the bigger picture. If this is something you are interested in helping out with, please contact me. I would love to have a list of names to go to when we are called up.
It is truly my privilege to be a member of this organization. I am here to serve you. Get in touch with me at any time.
*The FSA fiscal year is quickly drawing to a close. Offices are busy completing farm visits, bank visits, and classifications. Even though we are all busier than we have ever been, please know that your hard work does not go unnoticed. Your customers, your lenders, your peers, and the Agency do appreciate your hard work. Reward yourself with some time off.
*Many of the newly hired FLOTs and PTs are now coming onboard or will be very soon. Remember to tell them your own "elevator story" about how and why you started working for FSA and shares your success stories with them. Also remember to tell them the benefits of joining NACS.
*It is also dues time! If your state has not sent in their quarterly dues, please get them in the mail. Like all of our customers, NACS has a cash flow too and we want to be able to continue to thrive and spread the great works of this organization. Your state treasurer should send the dues to Ray Bartholomew, NACS Treasurer, at the following address:
4107 South Obee Road
Hutchinson, KS 67505
*One last thought - remember to make sure you and fellow members in your state have current information - like email addresses - in the NACS system. Go to the website and update your information. Check out all of the other information while you are there.
Watch the roads as fall harvest gets under way - be safe. Reach out to me at any time!
It hardly seems like it has been nearly two months since convention and being elected president. The association, as a whole, has been busy.
Here are our highlights thus far.
~I attended and spoke at the NASCOE convention on August 2 in Sioux Falls, SD. They had a full slate of speakers from the National Office. NASE and NADD had representatives there as well. Thanks to Dennis Ray and the NASCOE organization for the invitation. After the convention, I was invited to the SDACS meeting and enjoyed spending time with those members.
~NACS-FSA members have provided comments and input on the following topics to the National Office. Thank you to everyone who provided their thoughts to the Board.
-2-FLP and 3-FLP inconsistencies
-Lender review requirements in 2-FLP
-Good faith determinations
-FSA-2040 and FSA-2045
-Proposed revisions to the FSA-2580 checklist
~The NACS-FSA committee positions have been filled! I continue to be humbled by and thankful for our members. Everyone asked was willing to help out. I received the following comments when I asked people to serve on a committee.
-"Being on a committee is like winning the lottery to me!
-"Thanks for your confidence in me."
-"I would be glad to serve on the committee. Thanks for the opportunity."
-"It would be my honor and pleasure!"
~Very soon Kim will be getting out her first newletter! I have seen a sneak peak and am excited to see everything she has included. Please be looking for it.
~At the national convention, NASE made a decision to split their annual convention attendance by going with NACS-FSA one year and NASCOE the following year. They plan to be with NACS-FSA in 2019 and then switch for 2020. We are sure their board will keep everyone informed on how this will all work itself out for their organization.
Reach out to me at any time! I am glad to help and lend an ear!
The 2018 NACS-FSA, NASE, and NADD national convention was held on June 24th - 28th in San Antonio, Texas. It was a great meeting. We had a large contingency of speakers from the National Office and the Finance Office. It was an honor to have Under Secretary, Bill Northey, and FSA Administrator, Richard Fordyce, join us and update us on the status of the Department and Agency.
Elections were held and the following people will make up the NACS-FSA Board for the 2018-2019 year.
President - Denise Lickteig, NE
Vice President - LeAnn Gibbs, NM
Secretary - Kimberly Eilerman, IL
Treasurer - Ray Bartholomew, KS
Past President - Theresa Windham, GA
Zone A Representative - Jessica Smith, NM
Zone B Representative - Kay McCoy, KS
Zone C Representative - Nathan Adams, IN
Zone D Representative - Matthew Christian, TN
We, as a Board, pledge to do our very best to keep you updated on the events and happenings within NACS-FSA and the Agency. If we can ever be of service, please never hesitate to get in touch with any of us.
Here are a few things that I would like each member to know.
~Please give consideration to serving on a committee for the association. It really does not take a large amount of your time. It will reward you well more than you can ever imagine. If you have an interest, please complete a committee survey on the website or call any of the Board members to discuss it. We hope to make committee assignments soon and we can use you!
~Spread the word about the good things that NACS-FSA is doing. One example is the work that the association did to get the additional funds to hire the new group of FLOTs currently being advertised. By telling our story and making sure Congress knows the good work we do in Farm Loan Programs, we were able to secure more loan approval official positions. Don't be shy about telling those new FLOTs that come on board about NACS-FSA and how instrumental the association was.
~NACS-FSA has many, many talented members. We want to use those talents. Maybe you have a knack for writing or other skills. Let me know if you have any desire to help and we will find a spot for you. As an example, Tiffany Grody, a member from Ohio, has designed a pretty cool NACS-FSA t-shirt. She is more than happy to talk to people about making them for you to use as a promotional item for the association in your state or zone. Get in touch with Tiffany (email@example.com) to talk to her if this is something you are interested in.
~Keep your eyes on the website. We plan to enlist the help of a couple of members to assist with the website. Good things will be coming!
I am truly honored to serve this organization. Reach out to me at any time!
The 2017 budget process was finalized Friday. Farm Loan Programs was given a substantial increase in loan funds which should more than carry us through the current fiscal year. This should ensure that we enter the FY 18 year with no funding backlog. This is extremely important with the current agriculture economy. No immediate assistance was provided to allow FSA to hire additional loan officers. This continues to be a concern. The theme that I continually here from our partner organizations is the push for a sizeable increase in our loan limits and ensure adequate funding. The concern that I hear from our members is that our resources are stretched further and further. We have legitimate concerns for the work that is not getting done. The NACS board and FSA management share this concern and discuss this regularly.
We have previously mentioned the start of the Farm Bill debate. NACS, with the help of our legislative consultant, keeps close tabs on the credit aspect of the discussions. Other farm groups and conventional lenders are aware of and share our concerns. They frequently cite our loan limits, adequate funding, AND the need for adequate FSA personnel to carry out our mission. The House recently held a hearing on our credit programs. I encourage you to see for yourself what the private sector says about the need for FSA involvement in the credit sector. To quote Sub-committee Chairman Austin Scott, " As we approach farm bill deliberations, we need to prioritize access to credit. Along with a strong farm safety net-including crop insurance-credit availability is a tool we cannot afford to lose. Modern farming requires modern financing ". You can access the video or the written testimony at: http://agriculture.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=3810
The NACS legislative committee will be in DC this coming week. Meetings have been scheduled with the Committees overseeing Agriculture authorizations, appropriations, and with specific members. Visits with our partner organization will also be held to ensure the proper message is being sent by all parties. NACS continues to tell our story and carry your message.
Thank you to those members that have reached out to me with specific concerns. It helps draft the conversations that will be held this week and beyond.
The NACS board recently held our spring board meeting. We normally complete this planning session while we are in DC meeting with the National Office, however, that trip has been postponed this year. We anticipate meeting with management once the new Administrator and other political appointments have been made. NACS concurred with this decision to wait, and we look forward to meeting with the new appointees. We all have read and heard the same information; the Secretary of Agriculture is scheduled to be confirmed on Monday, April 24th. The Agency appointments will then begin and we look forward to meeting with the new team soon.
Our board meeting was productive. We laid out specific goals and planned for convention. The committee structure will change somewhat after the upcoming convention. The new committee surveys will be posted to the web site prior to convention. We are currently looking for professional assistance with our web site. Our member rely heavily on the site to get information and we decided to direct more resources to modernizing and maintaining www.nacs-fsa.org. We expect to make progress in this area soon.
The NACS work on the funding mechanism that was placed into the continuing resolution proved very valuable as noted in the Agency's most recent newsletter. This was the first time that our loan funds were front loaded to allow us to process the amount of loans we have without a full budget. Without action and the help of our partner organizations, we would have run out of loan funds long ago. The fight is not over. We face the possibility of another lapse in funding the end of this week depending on when the next CR is approved. Much is unknown, but we certainly hope that any lapse in government and FSA loan funding is short lived.
The full legislative committee is preparing for a trip to DC in May. They will be providing a report to our members upon return. I get frequent questions regarding the human capital plan for the Agency now that the Government-wide hiring freeze is lifted. This will be among the topics discussed with Congressional representatives during the upcoming trip. We appreciate the work and effort put forth by our legislative team and we look forward to their perspective after meeting with Congress.
Many of us have read about the initial budget proposals and the desire to reduce the size of our Government. NACS has offered to assist the Agency in developing plans for FLP delivery as we look to the future. Time is relatively short for the initial submission and we expect this to be a priority for the new Secretary. We will continue to offer assistance and make sure your interests are considered. I have not always had the answers you wanted, but please continue to contact me or any of the board with your questions and concerns. We do listen and strive to represent every State and every member!
John W. Gehrke
Each of us should have received a link to a survey called FSA Business Applications Satisfaction Survey. The point of this message is to encourage all employees to complete this survey. As an employee Association, we spend a considerable amount of time and energy on IT issues. This is a sincere effort by FSA management to solicit feedback from the field on the functionality of our software systems.
I know many of us tend to roll our eyes and think "here we go again". Let's put forth the effort and aim for 100% completion. There is a direct link between this survey and the IT Steering Committee (ITSC). The main purpose of the ITSC is setting priorities for improvements and enhancements as we move forward. We all know that information technology systems are vital to the work we do in the field. Kim Eilerman, FLM in Illinois, is the NACS representative to this steering committee. NACS also has several other members as part of this group. This survey allows all of us the chance to be directly involved in the process to improve our systems. Let's take advantage of this opportunity! Thank you to those that have already completed the survey. For those that have not, we have until this Friday.
NACS will continue to share your concerns and monitor the progress made as a result of this survey. I know this is a very busy time of year for FLP. Thank you for the work you do and the way you do it.
NACS recently concluded our 2017 Zone meetings. A very big THANK YOU to the Zone Representatives and the members of the hosting states that planned and carried out the work necessary to make these meetings a success!!! We also appreciate the effort put forth by the National Office and NFAOC staffs. Considerable time and effort was given so that NACS members would be informed and have the chance to meet with management both in the group setting and individually.
I was told that the best part of being NACS President is attending each of the Zone meetings and meet new members. I found this to be very true. The Zone Reps are preparing a newsletter for each of their Zones to summarize the meeting, so I will not do that here. I will say that while each State or region may have some unique challenges, many of the issues important to our membership remain consistent across the country. I will attempt to touch on some of these.
FUNDING: NACS worked with our partner organizations to ensure some legislative relief for our immediate funding concerns. We believe the Department has the ability to secure additional funding prior to the next continuing resolution and we believe that will happen very soon.
BUDGET CONCERNS: Although the President's proposal was not what we hoped to hear, we have a long way to go until decisions are final. We must keep in mind that FLP continues to have strong support among the House and Senate agriculture committees and with appropriators. No drop in FLP funding levels have been proposed. USDA must retain adequate staff to provide record loan making levels and to service our existing $24 billion portfolio. NACS will continue to tell our story to the Administration and to Congress. We will not be alone; our private sector industry partners understand the need for the programs and service we provide and they continue to assist in this effort.
DAFLP Jim Radintz stressed during our recent meetings that we should" keep calm and carry on". Similar words of encouragement were expressed by Acting Administrator Chris Beyerhelm. Very good advice; we keep doing what we do serving our customers and creating economic development in the rural communities where we live and work. NACS will not relent on advocating on your behalf.
Your NACS Board is preparing for our Spring Board meeting next week. Please contact any or all of us with your questions and concerns.
Don't forget to check the NACS web site for details on the upcoming convention scheduled for June 25th - 29th. Congratulations to the Ohio Association for signing 8 new members this past week!!! Please continue to share your success stories with us.
John W. Gehrke
Inauguration Day is quickly approaching and NACS is preparing to introduce your Association to the new Administration. We look forward to telling the NACS story and the great success of the farm loan programs that we deliver everyday! Chris Beyerhelm will be serving as Acting Administrator during the transition period. He has been a great asset to all employee organizations and to the Agency.
Congratulations to Bill Cobb! He has been named as Assistant Deputy Administrator of Farm Loan Programs. Bill has been a supporter and great resource for our organization. We look forward to continue working with him and the entire National Office staff.
A legislative update has been sent out. I encourage you to look it over and become familiar with any legislators from your district and State. Never pass up the chance to tell the NACS story when the opportunity presents itself.
You recently received a flyer regarding the upcoming Zone meetings. I will not restate what was in there, but I do encourage you to join us. Every single member has a chance to make a difference; to NACS and to the Agency. The same way we are given the chance every day to have a positive impact in people's lives.
You will meet people that share the same successes, concerns, and frustrations you have. Most importantly, together, we can develop solutions. That is what we do. As a bonus, you will make great work contacts and new friends for life. I hope to meet you very soon at a Zone meeting.
John W. Gehrke
Merry Christmas! The holiday season is a hectic time for all of us. Rural America is facing difficult economic times and that can make this time of year even more stressful; both for FSA employees and our customers. Times like this remind us how important the work we do really is and the impact we have. Both what we do and how we do it is important.
I am a month behind publishing this update. The work and effort put forth by NACS members is ongoing and important, but it is also imperative that we share that information with you outside of Zone meetings and National Convention. I will do better; I may have just made my first New Year's resolution for 2017...
I traveled the weekend of Veteran's Day to Indianapolis for the American Bankers Association (ABA) annual Ag Lending Conference. Farmer Mac sponsored an FSA guaranteed lender stakeholder meeting prior to the conference. I was able to visit with many bankers and listen in on the various FSA presentations and lender panels. FSA National Office presenters did an excellent job and Farmer Mac, as always, was a great host and gave NACS the chance to submit comments prior to the meeting. I was somewhat surprised that the major concern centered on our environmental regulations. The Agency noted that the hot topics sessions they conduct for employees is intended to distribute information, address concerns, and answer questions directly to the field employees.
NACS member John Gehrke meets with Steve Apodaca and Ed Elfmann of the ABA Center for Agriculture and Rural banking.
This was followed by the National FLP Policy Meeting held the last week of November. Our thanks to the Administration for inviting each of the employee associations! Jim Radintz, DAFLP, and the National Office staff did a very good job planning and presenting several days of material. We also thank Jim for the time he spent with NACS during the conference. We were able to ask several HR and IT questions during the panel discussions. Succession planning continues to be a priority for the Agency. The new Administration transition process was also on the Agenda. Overall, the meeting was a great opportunity to network with fellow FSA employees. We also appreciated the opportunity to attend the Farm Loan Chief's Association annual meeting.
Don't forget to check out the ZONE MEETING REGISTRATIONS on the NACS web site at http://www.nacs-fsa.org/. Zone B will kick off the meetings the first weekend in February in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!!!
Wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!!!
John W. Gehrke
Denise is a Farm Loan Manager from Nebraska. She was elected NACS President at the June 2018 Convention.