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ua14no94 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE (DOC)...


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA)
Description of Regulatory Priorities
Major Goal and Missions
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has embarked on a major 
streamlining and reinvention program as an outgrowth of the National 
Performance Review (NPR). The most prominent NPR recommendation, which 
also defines our major goal, is to: ``Reorganize the Department of 
Agriculture to better accomplish its mission, streamline its field 
structure, and improve service to its customers.'' Secretary Mike Espy 
has further directed that this goal be accomplished in an environment 
that empowers and challenges the USDA career staff to produce the 
highest level of efficiency and service to the American public in 
general and the rural and farming community in particular. To achieve 
our goal, the Secretary has submitted to the Congress a proposal for a 
major restructuring and streamlining of the USDA which has four key 
objectives: (1) Refocus and simplify the USDA's headquarters structure, 
(2) improve accountability and service to customers by reforming USDA 
management control systems (including procedures for the development 
and review of regulations), (3) reform the USDA field structure, and 
(4) reduce costs. Under the proposal, the agencies of the Department 
would be reengineered around six basic missions which would create a 
streamlined and revitalized department. These missions are:

<bullet> Service to farmers and ranchers;
<bullet> Community and economic development in rural areas;
<bullet> Food, nutrition, and consumer services;
<bullet> Conservation programs:
<bullet> Food quality and service; and
<bullet> Research, education and economics.
When Congressional action on the restructuring proposal is complete, 
the USDA will realign its regulatory holdings in the Code of Federal 
Regulations and take the other actions necessary to bring our 
regulatory procedures in line with the restructuring.
The Role of Regulations
The programs of the Department are diverse and far-reaching, as are the 
regulations that attend their delivery. Regulations codify how the 
Department will conduct its business including the specifics of access 
to and eligibility for USDA programs. Regulations also specify the 
behavior of State and local Governments, private industry, businesses, 
and individuals necessary to comply with their provisions. The 
diversity in purpose and outreach of our programs contributes 
significantly to the USDA being at or near the top of Departments which 
produce the largest number of regulations annually. They range from 
nutrition standards for the school lunch program, to natural resource 
and environmental measures governing National Forest usage and soil 
conservation, to regulations protecting American agribusiness (the 
largest dollar value contributor to exports) from the ravages of 
domestic or foreign plant or animal pestilence, and extend from farm to 
supermarket to ensure the safety, quality, and availability of the 
Nation's food supply. Many regulations function in a dynamic 
environment which requires their periodic modification. The factors 
determining various entitlement, eligibility, and administrative 
criteria often change from year to year. Therefore, many significant 
regulations must be revised annually to reflect changes in economic and 
market benchmarks. Almost all legislation that affects USDA programs 
has accompanying regulatory needs, often with a significant impact. Two 
current examples are a bill before the Congress to reform crop 
insurance and the upcoming 1995 Farm Bill. The crop insurance bill will 
require broader farmer participation in the program, and by reducing 
non-insurance disaster payments, lower the overall cost of indemnifying 
farmers for crop losses. Further, the Congress enacts a new ``Farm 
Bill'' every five years, and 1995 marks the start of the next five-year 
cycle. This seminal legislation affects most agencies of the USDA and 
results in the addition of new programs, the deletion of others and 
modification to still others. While the specifics of these bills are 
not presently known, their passage will have considerable regulatory 
consequences.
Administration Guidance--USDA Response
In developing and implementing regulations the Department has been 
guided by the regulatory principles and philosophy set forth by the 
President in Executive Order No. 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and 
Review.'' As prescribed in the Order, the USDA is committed to 
``promulgate only those regulations that are required by law, are 
necessary to interpret the law, or are made necessary by compelling 
public need.'' When considering a rulemaking action, the USDA will 
assess the costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives, 
including the alternative of not regulating, if allowed by law. Our 
analysis will consider the costs and benefits of both quantifiable and 
qualitative measures, and opt for approaches that maximize net 
benefits.
The following are examples of USDA response mechanisms that have been 
undertaken as a result of regulation improvement guidance found in 
Presidential directives, the ``Accompanying Report Of The National 
Performance Review, Improving Regulatory Systems,'' and OMB/OIRA 
instructions:

<bullet> Simplified Review Procedures--The process for developing new 
            regulations in USDA is being thoroughly reviewed to 
            identify and implement streamlining opportunities. There is 
            already in place a procedure that provides for expedited 
            review of ``not significant'' regulations. The Department 
            has also worked cooperatively with OMB to improve the 
            coordination of classification and clearance activities. 
            Simple interactive procedures have been developed and 
            communication has been excellent. The USDA is also 
            exploring opportunities to apply innovative rulemaking 
            approaches. To this end, the Animal Plant and Health 
            Inspection Service is conducting a reinvention laboratory 
            to improve the timeliness of regulations by streamlining 
            the legal review and concurrence process.
<bullet> Improved Impact Statements--With respect to ``significant 
            regulations,'' the USDA is working to strengthen the impact 
            analyses which support these regulations. For instance, the 
            impact statement supporting the recently announced School 
            Meals Initiative involved a cooperative effort between 
            Executive Operations staff, the Economic Research Service, 
            and the Food and Nutrition Service to identify and quantify 
            the considerable body of analysis needed to fully represent 
            the impact of this rule on dietary habits, program delivery 
            considerations, and economic impacts on agricultural 
            markets. The resulting impact statement provided an 
            authoritative analysis for this important regulation. Of 
            even greater importance is that the regulation itself will 
            make a major contribution to the health and nutrition of 
            school children all over the country.
<bullet> Reduced Paperwork Burdens--The Department is reviewing its 
            existing regulations with an eye toward reducing paperwork 
            and other regulatory burdens wherever possible. One of the 
            USDA's largest agencies, the Agricultural Stabilization and 
            Conservation Service (ASCS), has conducted a comprehensive 
            regulatory review and identified changes in its procedures 
            and forms which will greatly reduce the complexity and 
            paperwork imposed on participants in its programs. In a 
            related project, but not limited to just paperwork, all the 
            agencies of the USDA have completed a review of existing 
            significant regulations to identify opportunities to do 
            away with unneeded regulations and/or modify others to 
            reduce complexity and improve efficiency and customer 
            services.
<bullet> Fewer Internal Regulations--Executive Order 12861 directs that 
            all internal agency regulations be reduced by 50% over a 3-
            year period. A reduction in overall regulations will aid in 
            streamlining work throughout USDA and ease reporting 
            burdens within the Department. USDA has developed an 
            implementation plan and performance measures for achieving 
            the 50% reduction. Progress reports will be submitted to 
            OMB in September 1994 and 1995, with a final report in 
            September of 1996.
<bullet> Consensus-Based Rulemaking--In compliance with the President's 
            request to explore non-traditional means of rulemaking, 
            USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is 
            conducting an important regulation regarding marine mammal 
            health and safety using the negotiated rulemaking 
            technique.
<bullet> Interagency Consultation--Regulations can often be improved by 
            the involvement of other agencies. A recent final rule 
            regarding the data requirements of the Farmland Protection 
            Act was distributed for review. Several agencies offered 
            suggestions to reduce workload by describing more precisely 
            how lands subject to the Act should be defined and 
            identified. There were also suggestions for improving the 
            interagency consultation process. A series of meetings was 
            facilitated by OMB which allowed the parties involved to 
            air their concerns and negotiate approaches to resolving 
            disagreements.
<bullet> Improving Regulatory Tools--The Department participates in the 
            four subgroups that have spun off of the parent Regulatory 
            Working Group; viz., Simplification, Electronic Rulemaking, 
            Cost Benefit Analysis and Risk Assessment. Procedures are 
            being established for the Departmental representatives on 
            the various working groups to communicate and coordinate 
            with each other and to disseminate information from their 
            meetings to interested parties throughout the Department.
Major Regulatory Priorities
In 1993, ten of the 43 USDA agencies accounted for 523 of 540 Federal 
Register entries. There are five agencies represented in this 
Regulatory Plan. They are the Animal and Plant Health Inspection 
Service, Farmers Home Administration, Food and Nutrition Service, 
Forest Service, and Food Safety and Inspection Service. Last year their 
published rules constituted 37 percent of the Department's regulatory 
output.
This document presents summary information on prospective significant 
regulations as called for in E.O. 12866. A brief comment on each of the 
five agencies appears below which summarizes the agency mission and its 
key regulatory priorities. A summary is also included for the 
Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, which is a major 
publisher of commodity regulations. While ASCS regulations are very 
significant, they are largely formula driven, and for that reason have 
not been presented with the Plan entries. The agency summaries are 
followed by the Regulatory Plan entries.
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Mission: Few government agencies have a more pervasive influence on the 
public than the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The FSIS is 
responsible for ensuring that the Nation's meat and poultry supply is 
safe, wholesome, unadulterated and properly packaged and labeled.
Priorities: Consistent with the President's call for a regulatory 
system that works for the people and protects and improves their health 
and safety, FSIS has undertaken a thorough review of existing 
regulations to identify changes that could be taken to improve the food 
safety of the meat and poultry supply, make available new production 
technologies and provide more complete information to consumers. The 
review has resulted in regulatory actions, such as mandatory safe-
handling labels; processing procedures and cooking instructions for 
cooked, uncured meat patties; the use of organic sprays on beef, lamb, 
and pork; and the use of nutritional labeling on meat and poultry 
products.
A particularly significant regulation presented in the 1994 Regulatory 
Plan is the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) 
initiative. HACCP is an internationally recognized process control 
system to prevent problems from occurring during the course of 
production as opposed to after the product is produced. This rule would 
amend the meat and poultry inspection regulations to mandate the use of 
HACCP systems to ensure that production processes are in control and 
producing safe and unadulterated product. The development of this rule 
has benefitted from public input in the form of an FSIS-sponsored HACCP 
roundtable attended by scientists, public health officials, consumer 
group representatives, inspectors, industry representatives, and 
farmers.
Another significant FSIS rulemaking action would simultaneously benefit 
public health and safety and simplify poultry inspection by replacing 
the several existing poultry inspection systems with a single, 
standardized, industry-wide inspection system. Also planned is a 
regulation that would eliminate duplication in the prior labeling 
approval system, contributing to greater efficiency in government 
services. The alternatives being considered would eliminate millions of 
dollars in direct labeling costs without compromising the accuracy and 
amount of information provided to the consumer.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Mission: The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) 
protects U.S. animal and plant resources from destructive diseases and 
pests, and ensures humane care and treatment of animals. The agency's 
programs address both domestic prevention and eradication programs as 
well as inspection and quarantine services at U.S. ports of entry to 
prevent the introduction of foreign or exotic diseases or pests.
Priorities: The top regulatory priorities of APHIS will be: to 
establish comprehensive regulations for the importation of 
nonindigenous species, to establish updated and specific standards for 
the humane care and treatment of captive marine mammals. The 
regulations on nonindigenous species will help prevent the introduction 
of harmful plant pests. The marine mammal regulations, which are being 
developed through the negotiated rulemaking process, support the 
President's directive to widen the application of that rulemaking 
technique. Lastly, APHIS is supporting the Vice President's National 
Performance Review through the conduct of a ``reinvention laboratory'' 
to simplify rulemaking.
Forest Service
Mission: The mission of the Forest Service (FS) is the stewardship of 
the U.S. National Forests. Major activities include; conservation and 
resource protection, public recreation, forestry research, and resource 
management.
Priorities: The President's environmental program includes efforts to 
incorporate the principles of ecosystem management in natural resource 
decisionmaking on the National Forests. In support of that effort, 
proposed regulations will be published governing the amendment, 
revision, and implementation of forest land management plans. 
Significantly, the regulation will also streamline the planning process 
and update planning procedures and requirements in order to reflect 
court decisions and the agency's experience gained with the first 
generation of forest plans.
Other regulatory actions will be taken which deal with specific 
resource management issues. These include: policy and guidelines 
addressing below-cost timber sale programs on individual national 
forests; a revision and expansion of current regulations governing the 
export of Federal timber or the substitution of Federal timber for 
private timber which is exported, as required by the Forest Resources 
Conservation and Shortage Relief Act of 1990; the establishment of a 
new system for determining grazing fees in the Western States and 
revision of the National Forest System rangeland management regulations 
to place greater emphasis on stewardship of the rangeland resource; 
finally, the regulations governing noncommercial group use and 
distribution of printed material on National Forest System lands will 
be revised.
Farmers Home Administration
Mission: The mission of the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA)/Rural 
Development Administration (RDA) involves the administration and 
delivery of a broad range of loan, grant, and technical assistance 
programs for the benefit of individual rural residents, communities, 
businesses, and other entities for farm, housing and rural development 
purposes. The provisions of FmHA/RDA programs, such as eligibility 
requirements, loan and grant uses, targeting requirements, and loan 
servicing benefits, tend to be specified in authorizing legislation; 
therefore, there is limited discretion in the promulgation of 
regulations. However, FmHA/RDA is actively reviewing its regulations 
for opportunities to reduce the paperwork burden on program 
participants, streamlining operations, and providing better controls to 
avoid waste, fraud and abuse.
Priority: The significant regulation appearing in this plan results 
from a comprehensive review of the single family housing program. Major 
changes in the rule are being proposed to improve and simplify the 
administration of the program. These changes include: providing more 
flexibility with regard to size and amenity restrictions for direct 
loans, use of income ratios instead of a family budget for determining 
repayment ability, changes to the interest credit calculation method to 
base any subsidy on a family's percentile of area median income, and 
changes in the method of selecting and processing applications. This 
latter initiative focuses on the NPR theme of better ``customer 
service'' by setting up a separate fund at the State level for priority 
applicants. Applications of families in hardship situations would be 
given expedited handling.
Food and Nutrition Service
Mission: The mission of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is to 
administer domestic food assistance programs which provide access to a 
more nutritious diet for persons with low income and encourage better 
eating habits among all Americans, particularly the Nation's children.
Priorities: FNS has established four policy and programmatic goals for 
the coming year which are enabled and/or supported by the seven 
regulatory actions in this Plan and by other regulations under 
development. These goals include:

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