Statement of Regulatory Priorities

In FY 2014, USDA's focus will continue to be on programs that create or save jobs, particularly in rural America, while identifying and taking action on those programs that could be modified, streamlined, and simplified; or reporting burdens reduced, particularly with the public's access to USDA programs. USDA anticipates implementing a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill (Farm Bill) covering major farm, trade, conservation, rural development, nutrition assistance and other programs. It is anticipated that a number of high priority regulations will be developed during 2014 to implement this legislation should it be enacted. USDA's regulatory efforts in the coming year will achieve the following goals identified in the Department's Strategic Plan for 2010-2015:

  • Assist rural communities to create prosperity so they are self-sustaining, re-populating, and economically thriving. USDA is the leading advocate for rural America. The Department supports rural communities and enhances quality of life for rural residents by improving their economic opportunities, community infrastructure, environmental health, and the sustainability of agricultural production. The common goal is to help create thriving rural communities with good jobs where people want to live and raise families, and where children have economic opportunities and a bright future.

  • Ensure our national forests and private working lands are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change, while enhancing our water resources. America's prosperity is inextricably linked to the health of our lands and natural resources. Forests, farms, ranches, and grasslands offer enormous environmental benefits as a source of clean air, clean and abundant water, and wildlife habitat. These lands generate economic value by supporting the vital agriculture and forestry sectors, attracting tourism and recreational visitors, sustaining green jobs, and producing ecosystem services, food, fiber, timber and non-timber products. They are also of immense social importance, enhancing rural quality of life, sustaining scenic and culturally important landscapes, and providing opportunities to engage in outdoor activity and reconnect with the land.

  • Help America promote agricultural production and biotechnology exports as America works to increase food security. A productive agricultural sector is critical to increasing global food security. For many crops, a substantial portion of domestic production is bound for overseas markets. USDA helps American farmers and ranchers use efficient, sustainable production, biotechnology, and other emergent technologies to enhance food security around the world and find export markets for their products.

  • Ensure that all of America's children have access to safe, nutritious, and balanced meals. A plentiful supply of safe and nutritious food is essential to the well-being of every family and the healthy development of every child in America. USDA provides nutrition assistance to children and low-income people who need it; and works to improve the healthy eating habits of all Americans, especially children. In addition, the Department safeguards the quality and wholesomeness of meat, poultry, and egg products; and addresses and prevents loss or damage from pests and disease outbreaks.

    Important regulatory activities supporting the accomplishment of these goals in 2014 will include the following:

  • Strengthening Food Safety Inspection. USDA will continue to develop science-based regulations that improve the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products in the least burdensome and most cost-effective manner. Regulations will be revised to address emerging food safety challenges, streamlined to remove excessively prescriptive regulations, and updated to be made consistent with hazard analysis and critical control point principles. In 2014, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) plans to finalize regulations to establish new systems for poultry slaughter inspection, which would improve food safety and save money for establishments and taxpayers. Among other actions, USDA will provide export certificates through the use of technology. To assist small entities to comply with food safety requirements, FSIS will continue to collaborate with other USDA agencies and State partners in its small business outreach program.

  • Improving Access to Nutrition Assistance and Dietary Behaviors. As changes are made to the nutrition assistance programs, USDA will work to ensure access to program benefits, improve program integrity, improve diets and healthy eating, and promote physical activity consistent with the national effort to reduce obesity. In support of these activities in 2014, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to publish the proposed rule regarding meal pattern revisions for the Child and Adult Care Food Program and finalize a rule updating the WIC food packages. FNS will continue to work to implement rules that minimize participant and vendor fraud in its nutrition assistance programs.

  • Collaborating with Partners to Conserve Natural Resources. USDA will allow the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) State Conservationists to remove undue burdens on producers that have acted in good faith on incorrect program information provided by NRCS. The Forest Service will finalize guidance for implementation of the 2012 Planning Rule. This guidance will provide the detailed monitoring, assessment, and documentation requirements that the managers of our national forests and grasslands require to begin revising their land management plans under the 2012 Planning Rule. Currently 70 of the 120 Forest Service's Land Management Plans are expired and in need of revision.

  • Making Marketing and Regulatory Programs More Focused. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) plans to amend its veterinary biologics regulations to provide for the use of a simpler, uniform label format to better meet the needs of veterinary biologics consumers. APHIS also plans to revise tuberculosis and brucellosis regulations to better reflect the distribution of these diseases and thereby minimizing the impacts on livestock producers while continuing to address these livestock diseases. In the area of plant health, APHIS proposes to expand the streamlined method of considering the importation and interstate movement of fruits and vegetables. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will support the organic sector by proposing that all existing and replacement dairy animals from which milk or milk products are intended to be sold as organic must be managed organically from the last third of gestation.

  • Promoting Biobased Products. USDA will continue to promote sustainable economic opportunities to create jobs in rural communities through the purchase and use of biobased products through the BioPreferred® program. USDA will finalize regulations to revise the BioPreferred® program guidelines to continue adding designated product categories to the preferred procurement program, including intermediates and feedstocks and finished products made of intermediates and feedstocks. The Federal preferred procurement and the certified label parts of the program are voluntary; both are designed to assist biobased businesses in securing additional sales.

    Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations:

    Pursuant to section 6 of Executive Order 13563 "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" (Jan. 18, 2011), the following initiatives are identified in the Department's

    Final Plan for Retrospective Analysis.... The final agency plan, as well as periodic status updates for each initiative, are available online at:



    Significantly Reduce Burdens on Small Businesses


    Prior Labeling Approval System: Generic Label Approval



    Electronic Export Application and Certification Fee



    Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection



    Rural Energy America Program



    Business and Industry Loan Guaranteed Program



    Community Facilities Loan and Grants



    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Efficiencies


    Subsequent to EO 13563, and consistent with its goals as well as the importance of public participation, President Obama issued EO 13610 on Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens in May 2012. EO 13610 directs agencies, in part, to give priority consideration to those initiatives that will produce cost savings or significant reductions in paperwork burdens. Accordingly, reducing the regulatory burden on the American people and our trading partners is a priority for USDA and we will continually work to improve the effectiveness of our existing regulations. As a result of our ongoing regulatory review and burden reduction efforts, USDA has identified the following burden reducing initiatives:

  • Increase Use of Generic Approval and Regulations Consolidation. FSIS is finalizing a rule that will expand the circumstances in which the labels of meat and poultry products will be deemed to be generically approved by FSIS. The rule will reduce regulatory burden and generate a discounted Agency cost savings of $3.3 million over 10 years (discounted at 7 percent).

  • Implement Electronic Export Application for Meat and Poultry Products. FSIS is finalizing a rule to provide exporters a fee-based option for transmitting U.S. certifications to foreign importers and governments electronically. Automating the export application and certification process will facilitate the export of U.S. meat, poultry, and egg products by streamlining the processes that are used while ensuring that foreign regulatory requirements are met.

  • Streamline Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Compliance. The Forest Service, in cooperation with the Council on Environmental Quality, completed rulemaking to establish three new Categorical Exclusions for simple restoration activities. These Categorical Exclusions will improve and streamline the NEPA process, and reduce the paperwork burden, as it applies to Forest Service projects without reducing environmental protection.

  • Increase Accessibility to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Under REAP, Rural Development provides guaranteed loans and grants to support the purchase, construction, or retrofitting of a renewable energy system. This rulemaking will streamline the application process for grants, lessening the burden to the customer.

  • Reduced Duplication in Farm Programs. The Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) mission area will reduce the paperwork burden on program participants by consolidating the information collections required to participate in farm programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA). As a result, producers will be able to spend less time reporting information to USDA. Additionally, FSA and RMA will be better able to share information, thus improving operational efficiency. FFAS will evaluate methods to simplify and standardize, to the extent practical, acreage reporting processes, program dates, and data definitions across the various USDA programs and agencies. FFAS expects to allow producers to use information from their farm-management and precision agriculture systems for reporting production, planted and harvested acreage, and other key information needed to participate in USDA programs. FFAS will also streamline the collection of producer information by FSA and RMA with the agricultural production information collected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. These process changes will allow for program data that is common across agencies to be collected once and utilized or redistributed to agency programs in which the producer chooses to participate. Full implementation of the Acreage and Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI) is planned for 2014. When specific changes are identified, FSA and RMA will make any required conforming changes in their respective regulations.

    Periodic status updates for these burden reducing initiatives can be found online at:

    In additional to regulatory review initiatives identified under EO 13563 and the paper work burden reduction initiatives identified under the EO 13610, USDA has plans to initiate the following additional streamlining initiatives in 2014.

  • Simplify FSA NEPA Compliance. FSA will revise its regulations that implement NEPA to update, improve, and clarify requirements. It will also add new categorical exclusions and remove obsolete provisions. Annual cost savings to FSA as a result of this rule could be $345,000 from conducting 314 fewer environmental assessments per year, while retaining strong environmental protection.

  • Simplify Equipment Contracts for Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Loans. RUS is proposing a rule that would result in a new standard Equipment Contract Form for use by Telecommunications Program borrowers. This new standardized contract would ensure that certain standards and specifications are met and this new form would replace the current process that requires each construction provider to use their own resources to develop a contract for each project.

  • Consolidate Community Facilities Programs Loan and Grant Requirements. The Rural Housing Service (RHS) proposing to consolidate seven of the regulations used to service Community Facilities direct loans and grants into one streamlined regulation. This rule will reduce the time burden on RHS staff and provide the public with a single document that clearly outlines the requirements for servicing Community Facilities direct loans and grants.

  • Update Tuberculosis and Brucellosis Programs. Given the success USDA has had in nearly eradicating tuberculosis and brucellosis in ruminants, APHIS will propose rulemaking to update and consolidate its regulations regarding these diseases to better reflect the current distribution of these diseases and the changes in which cattle, bison, and captive cervid are produced in the United States.

    Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation under EO 13609:

    President Obama issued EO 13609 on promoting international regulatory cooperation in May 2012. The EO charges the Regulatory Working Group, an interagency working group chaired by the Administrator of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), with examining appropriate strategies and best practices for international regulatory cooperation. The EO also directs agencies to identify factors that should be taken into account when evaluating the effectiveness of regulatory approaches used by trading partners with whom the U.S. is engaged in regulatory cooperation. At this time, USDA is identifying international regulatory cooperation activities that are reasonably anticipated to lead to significant regulations, while working closely with the Administration to refine the guidelines implementing the EO. Apart from international regulatory cooperation, the Department has continued to identify regulations with international impacts, as it has done in the past. Such regulations are those that are expected to have international trade and investment effects, or otherwise may be of interest to our international trading partners.

    USDA is diligently working to carry out the President's EO mandate with regard to regulatory cooperation as new regulations are developed. Several agencies within the Department are also actively engaged in interagency and Departmental regulatory cooperation initiatives being pursued as part of the U.S.-Mexico High Level Regulatory Cooperation Council (HLRCC) and the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), as well as other fora. Specific projects are being pursued by USDA agencies such as AMS, APHIS, and FSIS and address a variety of regulatory oversight processes and requirements related to meat, poultry, animal and plant health. Projects related to electronic certification, equivalence, meat nomenclature, and the efficient and safe flow of plant, animal and food across our shared borders are all regulatory cooperation pursuits these agencies are undertaking in order to secure better alignment between our countries without compromising the high standards of safety we have in place in the U.S. relative to food safety and public health, as well as plant and animal health, so critical to American agriculture.

    Major Regulatory Priorities

    This following represents summary information on prospective priority regulations as called for in EO's 12866 and 13563:

    Food and Nutrition Service

    Mission: FNS increases food security and reduces hunger in partnership with cooperating organizations by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education in a manner that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence.

    Priorities: In addition to responding to provisions of legislation authorizing and modifying Federal nutrition assistance programs, FNS's 2014 regulatory plan supports USDA's Strategic Goal to "ensure that all of America's children have access to safe, nutritious and balanced meals," and its related objectives:

  • Increase Access to Nutritious Food. This objective represents FNS's efforts to improve nutrition by providing access to program benefits (food consumed at home, school meals, commodities) and distributing State administrative funds to support program operations. To advance this objective, FNS plans to publish a final rule from the 2008 Farm Bill addressing SNAP eligibility, certification, and employment and training issues. FNS will also publish a final rule implementing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010's Community Eligibility Provision, which eliminates the burden of household applications and increases access to free school lunches and breakfasts for children in eligible high poverty schools. In addition, FNS plans to publish a proposed rule that would enhance the eligibility standards for SNAP retailers in order to improve the availability of more healthful foods.

  • Improve Program Integrity. FNS also plans to publish a number of rules to increase efficiency, reduce the burden of program operations, and reduce improper payments. Program integrity provisions will continue to be strengthened in the SNAP and Child Nutrition programs to ensure Federal taxpayer dollars are spent effectively. To support this objective, FNS plans to publish a final rule from the 2008 Farm Bill that would provide FNS and OIG the authority to suspend payments to SNAP retailers suspected of being egregious violators. For Child Nutrition, FNS plans to publish a proposed rule to strengthen oversight requirements and institution disqualification procedures, allow the imposition of fines by USDA or State agencies for egregious and/or repeated program violations, and address several deficiencies identified through program audits and reviews.

  • Promote Healthy Diet and Physical Activity Behaviors. This objective represents FNS's efforts to ensure that program benefits meet appropriate standards to effectively improve nutrition for program participants, to improve the diets of its clients through nutrition education, and to support the national effort to reduce obesity by promoting healthy eating and physical activity. In support of this objective, FNS plans to publish proposed rules updating the meal patterns for the Child and Adult Care Food Program to align them with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, establishing professional standards for school food service and State child nutrition program directors. FNS also plans to finalize a rule updating food packages in WIC. FNS's goal is by 2015 to reduce child obesity from 16.9 percent to 15.5 percent, to double the proportion of adults consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and to increase breastfeeding rates among WIC mothers.

    Food Safety and Inspection Service

    Mission: FSIS is responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products in interstate and foreign commerce are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and packaged.

    Priorities: FSIS is committed to developing and issuing science-based regulations intended to ensure that meat, poultry, and egg products are wholesome and not adulterated or misbranded. FSIS regulatory actions support the objective to protect public health by ensuring that food is safe under USDA's goal to ensure access to safe food. To reduce the number of foodborne illnesses and increase program efficiencies, FSIS will continue to review its existing authorities and regulations to ensure that it can address emerging food safety challenges, to streamline excessively prescriptive regulations, and to revise or remove regulations that are inconsistent with the FSIS' hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) regulations. FSIS is also working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve coordination and increase the effectiveness of inspection activities. FSIS's priority initiatives are as follows:

  • Implement Poultry Slaughter Modernization. FSIS plans to issue a final rule to implement a new inspection system for young poultry slaughter establishments that would facilitate public health-based inspection. The rule would help prevent thousands of illnesses by allowing front-line inspectors to focus on public health threats such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. The rule would allow for more effective inspection of carcasses and allocation of agency resources, as well as encourage industry to more readily use new technology.

  • Streamline Export Application Processes through the Public Health Information System (PHIS). To support its food safety inspection activities, FSIS is continuing to implement PHIS), a user-friendly and Web-based system that automates many of the Agency's business processes. PHIS also enables greater exchange of information between FSIS and other Federal agencies, such as U. S. Customs and Border Protection, involved in tracking cross-border movement of import and export shipments of meat, poultry, and processed egg products. To facilitate the implementation of some PHIS components, FSIS has proposed to provide for electronic export application and certification processes and will propose similar import processes as alternatives to current paper-based systems.

  • Ensure Accurate Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products that Contain Added Solutions. FSIS is developing final regulations to establish a common or usual name for raw meat and poultry products that contain added solutions, and that do not meet a standard of identity. Without adequate labeling information, consumers likely cannot distinguish between raw meat and poultry products that contain added solutions and single-ingredient meat and poultry products. Added solutions are a characterizing component of a product likely to affect consumers' purchasing decisions. The rule will establish a common or usual name for such products that include an accurate description of the raw meat or poultry component, the percentage of added solution incorporated into the product, and the individual ingredients or multi-ingredient components in the solution.

  • Ensure Accurate Labeling of Mechanically Tenderized Beef. FSIS has concluded that without proper labeling, raw or partially cooked mechanically tenderized beef products could be mistakenly perceived by consumers to be whole, intact muscle cuts. The fact that a cut of beef has been needle or blade tenderized is a characterizing feature of the product and, as such, a material fact that is likely to affect consumers' purchase decisions and that should affect their preparation of the product. The Agency will propose that raw, needle or blade, mechanically tenderized beef products be labeled to indicate that they are "mechanically tenderized." FSIS has also concluded that the addition of validated cooking instruction is required to ensure that potential pathogens throughout the product are destroyed. Without thorough cooking, pathogens that may have been introduced to the interior of the product during the tenderization process may remain in the product.

  • Improve the Efficiency of Product Recalls. FSIS will propose to amend recordkeeping regulations to specify that all official establishments and retail stores that grind or chop raw beef products for sale in commerce must keep records that disclose the identity of the supplier of all source materials that they use in the preparation of each lot of raw ground or chopped product and identify the names of those source materials. FSIS investigators and public health officials frequently use records kept by all levels of the food distribution chain, including the retail level, to identify and trace back product that is the source of the illness the suppliers that produced the source material for the product. Access to this information will improve FSIS's ability to conduct timely and effective consumer foodborne illness investigations and other public health activities throughout the stream of commerce.

  • FSIS Small Business Implications. The great majority of businesses regulated by FSIS are small businesses. FSIS conducts a small business outreach program that provides critical training, access to food safety experts, and information resources, such as compliance guidance and questions and answers on various topics, in forms that are uniform, easily comprehended, and consistent. FSIS collaborates in this effort with other USDA agencies and cooperating State partners. For example, FSIS makes plant owners and operators aware of loan programs available through USDA's Rural Business and Cooperative programs, to help them in upgrading their facilities. FSIS employees will meet with small and very small plant operators to learn more about their specific needs and explore how FSIS can tailor regulations to better meet the needs of small and very small establishments, while maintaining the highest level of food safety.

    Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

    Mission: A major part of the mission of APHIS is to protect the health and value of American agricultural and natural resources. APHIS conducts programs to prevent the introduction of exotic pests and diseases into the United States and conducts surveillance, monitoring, control, and eradication programs for pests and diseases in this country. These activities enhance agricultural productivity and competitiveness and contribute to the national economy and the public health. APHIS also conducts programs to ensure the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals under the Animal Welfare Act.

    Priorities: APHIS continues to pursue initiatives to update our regulations to make them more flexible and performance-based. For example, in the area of animal health, APHIS has prepared a proposal to amend its veterinary biologics regulations to provide for the use of a simpler, uniform label format that would allow biologics licensees and permittees to more clearly communicate product performance information to the end user. In addition, the rule would simplify the evaluation of efficacy studies and reduce the amount of time required by APHIS to evaluate study data, thus allowing manufacturers to market their products sooner. APHIS is also preparing a proposed rule that would revise and consolidate its regulations regarding bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis to better reflect the distribution of these diseases and the current nature of cattle, bison, and captive cervid production in the United States. In the area of plant health, APHIS is preparing a proposed rule that would establish performance standards and a notice-based process for approving the interstate movement of fruits and vegetables from Hawaii and the U.S. Territories and the importation of those articles from other countries. In addition, APHIS will revise agricultural quarantine and inspection user fees so that fees collected are commensurate with the cost of providing the activity.

    Agricultural Marketing Service

    Mission: The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides marketing services to producers, manufacturers, distributors, importers, exporters, and consumers of food products. AMS also manages the government's food purchases, supervises food quality grading, maintains food quality standards, supervises the Federal research and promotion programs, and oversees the country of origin labeling program as well as the National Organic Program (NOP).

    Priorities: AMS is committed to ensuring the integrity of USDA organic products in the U.S. and throughout the world. The agency is moving forward with the following rulemaking that affect the organic industry.

  • Transitioning Dairy Animals into Organic Production. Members of the organic community, including dairy producers, organic interest groups, and the National Organic Standards Board have advocated for rulemaking on the allowance for transitioning dairy animals into organic production. Stakeholders have interpreted the current standard differently, creating inconsistencies across dairy producers. AMS is developing a proposed rule to address this issue by specifying that dairy farms have a one-time opportunity to transition animals into organic production. This proposed change to the organic standards will meet consumer expectations of organic dairy products and level the playing for organic dairy producers.

    Farm Service Agency

    Mission: FSA's mission is to deliver timely, effective programs and services to America's farmers and ranchers to support them in sustaining our Nation's vibrant agricultural economy, as well as to provide first-rate support for domestic and international food aid efforts. FSA supports USDA's strategic goals by stabilizing farm income, providing credit to new or existing farmers and ranchers who are temporarily unable to obtain credit from commercial sources, and helping farm operations recover from the effects of disaster. FSA administers several conservation programs directed toward agricultural producers. The largest program is the Conservation Reserve Program, which protects millions of acres of environmentally sensitive land.

    Priorities: FSA is focused on providing the best possible service to producers while protecting the environment by updating and streamlining environmental compliance. FSA is also strengthening its ability to help the Nation respond to national defense emergencies. FSA's priority initiatives are as follows:

  • Streamline Environmental Compliance (NEPA). FSA will revise its regulations that implement NEPA. The changes improve the efficiency, transparency, and consistency of NEPA implementation. Changes include aligning the regulations to NEPA regulations and guidance from the President's Council on Environmental Quality; providing a single set of regulations that reflect the agency's current structure; clarifying the types of actions that require an Environmental Assessment (EA); and adding to the list of actions that are categorically excluded from further environmental review because they have no significant effect on the human environment.

  • Establish Agriculture Priorities and Allocations Systems (APAS). USDA is developing APAS as part of a suite of rules that are being modeled after the Defense Priorities and Allocations System (DPAS). Under APAS, USDA would secure food and agriculture-related resources as part of preparing for, and responding to, national defense emergencies by placing priorities on orders or by using resource allocation authority. APAS is authorized by the Defense Production Act Reauthorization Act of 2009 (DPA). The authorities under DPA have already been implemented by the Department of Commerce (DOC) via memoranda of understanding with other Departments. The suite of DPA rules relieves DOC from implementation responsibility for items outside their jurisdiction and places these responsibilities with the relevant Departments.

    Forest Service

    Mission: The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, productivity, and diversity of the Nation's forests and rangelands to meet the needs of present and future generations. This includes protecting and managing National Forest System lands, providing technical and financial assistance to States, communities, and private forest landowners, plus developing and providing scientific and technical assistance, and the exchange of scientific information to support international forest and range conservation. Forest Service regulatory priorities support the accomplishment of the Department's goal to ensure our National forests are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change, while enhancing our water resources.

    Priorities: The Forest Service is committed to developing and issuing science-based regulations intended to ensure public participation in the management of our Nation's national forests and grasslands, while also moving forward the Agency's ability to plan and conduct restoration projects on National Forest System lands. The Forest Service will continue to review its existing authorities and regulations to ensure that it can address emerging challenges, to streamline excessively burdensome business practices, and to revise or remove regulations that are inconsistent with the USDA's vision for restoring the health and function of the lands it is charged with managing. FS' priority initiatives are as follows:

  • Implement Land Management Planning Framework. The Forest Service promulgated a new Land Management Planning rule at 36 CFR part 219 in April 2012 that sets out the requirements for developing, amending, and revising land management plans for units of the National Forest System. The planning directives, once finalized, will be used to implement the planning framework which fosters collaboration with the public during land management planning, and is science-based, responsive to change, and promotes social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

  • Strengthen Ecological Restoration Policies. This policy would recognize the adaptive capacity of ecosystems, and includes the role of natural disturbances and uncertainty related to climate and other environmental change. The need for ecological restoration of National Forest System lands is widely recognized, and the Forest Service has conducted restoration-related activities across many programs for decades. "Restoration" is a common way of describing much of the Agency's work and the concept is threaded throughout existing authorities, program directives, and collaborative efforts such as the National Fire Plan, a 10-year comprehensive strategy and implementation plan, and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. However, the Agency did not have a definition of restoration established in policy. That was identified as a barrier to collaborating with the public and partners to plan and accomplish restoration work.

    Rural Development

    Mission: Rural Development (RD) promotes a dynamic business environment in rural America that creates jobs, community infrastructure, and housing opportunities in partnership with the private sector and community-based organizations by providing financial assistance and business planning services, and supporting projects that create or preserve quality jobs and/or promote a clean rural environment, while focusing on the development of single and multi-family housing and community infrastructure. RD financial resources are often leveraged with those of other public and private credit source lenders to meet business and credit needs in under-served areas. Recipients of these programs may include individuals, corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Indian tribes, and private companies.

    Priorities: RD regulatory priorities will facilitate sustainable renewable energy development and enhance the opportunities necessary for rural families to thrive economically. RD's rules will minimize program complexity and the related burden on the public while enhancing program delivery and RBS oversight.

  • Streamline the Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program. RD will enhance current operations of the B&I program, streamline existing practices, and minimize program complexity and the related burden on the public.

  • Increase Accessibility to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Under REAP, Rural Development provides guaranteed loans and grants to support the purchase, construction, or retrofitting of a renewable energy system. This rulemaking will streamline the application process for grants, lessening the burden to the customer. The rulemaking is expected to reduce the information collection. REAP will also be revised to ensure a larger number of applicants will be made available by issuing smaller grants. By doing so, funding will be distributed evenly across the applicant pool and encourage greater development of renewable energy.

  • Modify review of Single Family Housing Direct Loans. RD will finalize the certified loan packager regulation to streamline oversight of the agency's vast network of committed Agency-certified packagers. This action will assist low- and very low-income people become homeowners. It will also reduce burden on program staff enabling them to focus on implementation and delivery or other and will ensure specialized support is available to them to complete the application for assistance, and improving the quality of loan application packages.

  • Update Civil Rights Protections: RD will propose a comprehensive civil rights rule to update and consolidate civil rights compliance regulations for Rural Housing Service, Rural Utilities Service and Rural Business Service. This regulation will provide detailed information on civil rights compliance and enforcement policies and procedures for all Rural Development programs.

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR)

    Mission: OASCR's mission is to provide leadership and direction for the fair and equitable treatment of all USDA customers and employees while ensuring the delivery of quality programs and enforcement of civil rights. OASCR ensures compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies for USDA customers and employees regardless of race, color, national origin, sex ( including gender identity and expression), religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital or familial status, political beliefs, parental status, protected genetic information, or because all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all bases apply to all programs.)


  • Strengthen Civil Rights Protections: USDA has made significant strides towards realizing the Secretary's vision of a "New Era for Civil Rights." In this effort, USDA plans to publish a proposed rule that will standardize the collection of race, ethnicity and gender data across USDA's conducted programs (those where USDA deals directly with the public; much of this data is already being collected). USDA will also expand the protected categories under which program participants may bring complaints of discrimination to the Department; these new protected bases will be gender identity and political beliefs.

    Departmental Management

    Mission: Departmental Management's mission is to provide management leadership to ensure that USDA administrative programs, policies, advice and counsel meet the needs of USDA programs, consistent with laws and mandates, and provide safe and efficient facilities and services to customers.


  • Promote Biobased Products: In support of the Department's goal to increase prosperity in rural areas, USDA's Departmental Management will finalize regulations to revise the BioPreferred® program guidelines to continue adding designated product categories to the preferred procurement program, including intermediates and feedstocks and finished products made of intermediates and feedstocks.

    Aggregate Costs and Benefits

    USDA will ensure that its regulations provide benefits that exceed costs, but are unable to provide an estimate of the aggregated impacts of its regulations. Problems with aggregation arise due to differing baselines, data gaps, and inconsistencies in methodology and the type of regulatory costs and benefits considered. Some benefits and costs associated with rules listed in the regulatory plan cannot currently be quantified as the rules are still being formulated. For 2014, USDA's focus will be to implement the changes to programs in such a way as to provide benefits while minimizing program complexity and regulatory burden for program participants.

    BILLING CODE 3410-90-S