Birth of an Association
Contributed by Cindy Peterson, Former NWA Executive
Foreword: This article started as “50 Years of NASCOE”. As I researched, I quickly came to discover my topic was much too broad to cover even adequately in one article, therefore this deviation. Many thanks to previous ASCS/FSA employees, especially Mildred Veach Enyart, for the original History of NASCOE from which much of this information was gleaned.
March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the United States of America. On March 9 President Roosevelt began his first One Hundred Days agenda. This was the legislative period in which he rolled out his New Deal. During this period FDR and Congress created:
• The Civilian Conservation Corps
• The Tennessee Valley Authority
• The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (to become the Farm Service Agency).
The Congress also passed the Farm Credit Act and the Banking Act of 1933 establishing the FDIC.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act as unconstitutional on January 6, 1936. Congress then passed the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act subsidizing farming in a different way.
This bit of background demonstrates that the “Triple A”, as our agency was first referred to, existed for 25 years without any united, organized employee representation. The purpose of the Triple A was service to farmers. This assistance was greatly needed as the Crash of ’29 and the Dust Bowl drought of the ‘30s had combined to become the Great Depression which hit American farmers doubly hard.
The Triple A hired local people to provide new services to troubled farms in their local area. These local employees were supervised by locally elected farmers who understood the difficulties in their own areas.
Originally offices were located in any government building that could provide space. Office furniture was tables, chairs, stand-up counters and second-hand fruit crates for filing cabinets.
Over the years Triple A/ASCS employees worked side by side with Civil Service employees. ASCS employees watched as Civil Service employees received pay raises and benefits without provisions being made for ASCS. These ASCS employees were dedicated to their customers – the American farmer and rancher, but it was also apparent they had a responsibility to their families, their co-workers and themselves. Out of this concern for the future, rose a concept which became an idea, which transpired into a goal. That goal was an organization to serve the farmer but also to promote their membership, the ASCS employee.
Although an idea may be circulating throughout a county, a state or a nation, someone must step up to do something or it remains just that, an idea. Three courageous, generous men took on the NASCOE idea in April of 1958. Florida County Office Managers Marvin Whitten, Harry McGhin and Clyde Payne met in the ASCS Office in Lake City, Florida to tackle the job. These 3 men determined they would start with a Florida Association by writing a letter to each Florida county office. They decided to require a $3 membership fee and elected the first officers – President Clyde Payne, Vice President Harry McGhin and Secretary-Treasurer Marvin Whitten. These 3 men invested their own time and money, not to mention possibly jeopardizing their careers to forward their vision.
Their next step was to obtain a list of offices and addresses throughout the United States. They decided to send a letter to each 10th address on the list and each state office encouraging action within each state to form their own state organization. The goal was then to unite these individual state associations into a national association. Again this was financed by these courageous, generous individuals.
It wasn’t until this point that our organizers began to wonder what would happen if ASCS on the state or national level determined their actions were illegal. They decided the best course of action was to hold a meeting with the Administration and openly discuss the formation of these state and national associations.
In June of 1958 at Daytona Beach, Florida, ASCS Administration met with our organizers. The Administration presented no objections to the organization provided the objectives of these associations would be the improvement of ASCS employees and there would be no involvement in farm policy and no lobbying for farm legislation.
The letters went forth across the nation. The response to the letters sent both to Florida counties and to the offices nationwide was overwhelming. Almost every state wished to organize and also had volunteers ready to work toward this goal. (Are we surprised that Arkansas already had a social organization?)
As with most things in life, timing had something to do with the strong response. Civil service employees had received a salary on July 1, 1958, which ASCS employees had not received. Other contributing factors were that ASCS employees:
• Had no leave policy
• No retirement
• No health insurance
• No life insurance
• A salary schedule considerably lower than sister agencies.
In the fall of 1958 states began to organize. Clyde Payne of Florida assisted Eastern states and Woodrow Jones of Texas took the lead for Western states. Once individual states were organized it became apparent a national meeting was necessary if a national association was to come into being.
This initial organizational meeting was held in September of 1958 in Washington, DC. States that had organized and had the funding sent representatives. Other employees came at their own expense. As part of this meeting, Clyde Payne and Jack Gibson of Arkansas testified before the U.S. Agriculture Appropriations Committee. Partially through Clyde’s testimony and prior to any of Jack’s, the Committee recessed. Clyde and Jack were pulled aside. It seems they were testifying before the wrong committee! Granting salary increases was the jurisdiction of the House Post Office and Civil Committee. Ag Approps Chairman Jamie Whitten introduced Clyde and Jack to Representative Tom Murray of Tennessee, Chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Committee. It was too late for the current year!
Arrangements were made for testimony to be given in February of 1959. Preceding this meeting, ASCS employees undertook the first of many letter writing campaigns. This first concentrated, organized effort along with the congressional testimony produced a substantial salary increase in July 1959. Salaries were still not equivalent to civil service salaries but a major hurdle had been crossed.
In May 1959 in Memphis, Tennessee, the first formal meeting of the ASCS state affiliates resulted in the National Association of ASCS Office Employees.
NASCOE's First Budget, May 1959
Did you know?
• On July 1, 1958 a CO 7 Step 1 earned $3700 per year
• When NASCOE was first organized Congress was unaware that ASCS employees were federal employees and not state, county or city workers
• The fact that we are federal employees is based on Section 8b of the Soil and Domestic Allotment Act
• ASCS employees received Civil Service Retirement and Health and Life Insurance through a Congressional override of a bill vetoed by President Eisenhower
• There were once six NASCOE Areas –
o Midwest – MN, SD, NE, IA, MO, IL, WI, IN
o Northeast – ME, VT, NH, MA, NY, CT, RI, PA, NJ, OH, MI, DE
o Northwest – WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, ND, AK
o Southeast – WV, MD, VA, KY, NC, TN, SC, FL & Carib Area
o Southwest - CA, NV, AZ, UT, KS, Co, NM, HI
o South Central – OK, AR, MS, AL, LA, TX
• The NASCOE Emblem is the result of an Emblems Contest in which there were 23 entries. Our Emblem was designed by Marie White of Elkins, WV.