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ua14no94 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE (DOC)...
<DOC> 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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