U.S. Department of Agriculture

Fall 2018 Statement of Regulatory Priorities

The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) ongoing regulatory reform strategy remains one of the cornerstones for creating a culture of consistent, efficient service to our customers, while reducing burdens and improving efficiency. Accordingly, USDA's fall 2018 Regulatory Agenda reflects these priorities, including those administrative efficiencies such as streamlining and one-stop shopping. Moreover, these USDA regulatory reform efforts, combined with other reform efforts, will make it easier to invest, produce, and build in rural America, which will lead to the creation of jobs and enhanced economic prosperity. To achieve results, USDA is guided by the following comprehensive set of priorities through which the Department, its employees, and external partners will work to identify and eliminate regulatory and administrative barriers and improve business processes to enhance program delivery and reduce burdens on program participants. These priorities include:

Regulatory Reform Task Force (RRTF): In response to Executive Order 13777 - Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda and Executive Order 13771 - Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, which set forth expectations for reducing the regulatory burden on the public, the Department has established an internal RRTF to identify outdated regulations for elimination and administrative processes for streamlining. The USDA RRTF is comprised of senior agency managers representing all the major missions of the Department. USDA is also soliciting public comments on recommended reforms through July 2019.

Organizational Reform: To ensure that USDA's programs, agencies, and offices best serve the Department's customers, USDA is implementing organizational changes that are targeted at improving customer service like seeking direct public feedback through our Tell Sonny initiative. Through these reforms, USDA is breaking down organizational barriers that have impeded the Department's ability to most effectively and efficiently support its customers across the Nation. Moreover, reforms like the consolidation of administrative functions at the mission area level eliminate inefficiencies and allow the Department to best support the needs of our customers. Through the implementation of these improvements, USDA will be better positioned to remove obstacles, and give agricultural producers every opportunity to prosper and feed a growing world population. These improvements support the accomplishment of USDA's mission to provide leadership on agriculture, food, natural resources, rural prosperity, nutrition, and related issues through fact-based, data-driven, and customer-focused decisions.

Farm Bill Implementation: Legislation covering major commodity support programs and crop insurance, trade, conservation, rural development, nutrition assistance and other programs (the Farm Bill) expires at the end of fiscal year 2018. Plans for implementation to any new or modified programs reauthorized in the new Farm Bill will be considered upon enactment and regulatory agenda priorities adjusted accordingly. USDA notes that Farm Bill implementation will allow us the opportunity to modify existing regulations while introducing program reforms to ease the burden on our customers and improve program outcomes.

Executive Order 13777 - Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda

Executive Order 13777 establishes a Federal policy to lower regulatory burdens on the American people by implementing and enforcing regulatory reform. The RRTF reviewed proposed, pending and existing regulations to determine the deregulatory and regulatory actions to include in the 2018 fall Regulatory Agenda.

These actions were further evaluated to determine which rules should be made a priority based on the impact of their proposals and the Department's ability to finalize the action in FY 2019.

Executive Order 13777 also directed the Department to seek input from entities significantly affected by Federal regulations. To satisfy this requirement, the Department published a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register on July 17, 2017, seeking public input on identifying regulatory reform initiatives (82 FR 32649). The RFI asked the public to identify regulations, guidance documents, or any other policy documents or administrative processes that need reform, as well as ideas on how to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal such items. Through the end of June 2018, USDA had received and reviewed over 4,000 public comments on recommended reforms, including requests from stakeholders to extend the public comment period past its one-year time period. Accordingly, USDA has extended the public comment period through July 18, 2019. While comments to the notice do not bind USDA to any further actions, all submissions are reviewed and inform actions to repeal, replace, or modify existing regulations.

Executive Order 13771 - Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs

Executive Order 13771 directs agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new regulation while limiting the total costs associated with an agency's regulations. Specifically, it requires a regulatory two-for-one wherein an agency must propose the elimination of two existing regulations for every new regulation it publishes. Moreover, the costs associated with the new regulation must be completely offset by cost savings brought about by deregulation.

The Department's 2018 fall Regulatory Agenda reflects the Department's commitment to regulatory reform and continues USDA's rigorous implementation of Executive Order 13771. The Regulatory Agenda identifies 72 rules, of which 34 rules are not subject to the offsetting or deregulatory requirements of Executive Order 13771. Of the remaining 38 rules, 32 are deregulatory and six are regulatory. Of the 32 deregulatory actions, USDA has identified 16 final rules that will be completed in FY 2019 resulting in either a cost savings or meeting the direction that an agency issue twice as many Executive Order 13771 deregulatory actions as Executive Order 13771 regulatory actions.

USDA's 2018 fall Statement of Regulatory Priorities was developed to lower regulatory burdens on the American people by implementing and enforcing regulatory reform. These regulatory priorities will contribute to the mission of the Department, and the achievement of the long-term goals the Department aims to accomplish. Highlights of how the Department's regulatory reform efforts contribute to the accomplishment of the Department's strategic goals include the following:

The Department will promote American agricultural products and exports that benefit and grow the U.S. agricultural economy and rural America: To achieve this, USDA will expand international marketing opportunities through promotion activities, development of international standards, removal of trade barriers to U.S. exports, and negotiation of new trade agreements. USDA will also partner with developing countries to assist them with movement along the agricultural market continuum from developing economies to developed economies with promising demand potential.

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program: This action will assist U.S. agricultural industries to conduct market promotion activities that promote U.S. agricultural commodities in foreign markets, including activities that address existing or potential non-tariff barriers to trade. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0551-AA92.

The Department will ensure that programs are delivered efficiently, effectively, with integrity, and a focus on customer service: To achieve this, USDA is working to leverage the strength and talent of USDA employees with continued dedication to data-driven enterprise solutions through collaborative governance and human capital management strategies centered on accountability and professional development. USDA will reduce regulatory and administrative burdens hindering agencies from reaching the greatest number of stakeholders. Improved customer service and employee engagement within USDA will create a more effective and accessible organization for all stakeholders.

Implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard: This action was mandated by the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Law), which required USDA to develop a national standard and the procedures for its implementation within two years of the Law's enactment. Pursuant to the law, AMS has proposed requirements that, if finalized, will serve as a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard for bioengineered food and food that may be bioengineered. The proposed rule published on May 4, 2018, and the deadline for public comment was July 3, 2018. AMS reviewed over 14,000 comments that will be analyzed and addressed in the final rule. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0581-AD54.

Improve effectiveness and efficiency of helping individuals move into work: The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (FNA) establishes a time limit for participation in SNAP of three months in three years for able-bodied adults without children who are not working. FNA allows states to waive the time limit under certain circumstances. The proposed action would modify SNAP requirements and services for able-bodied adults without children in response to public input provided through an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published on February 23, 2018. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0584-AE57.

Revision of categorical eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 allows households in which all members receiving benefits under a State program funded by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are categorically eligible to participate in SNAP. States have the option of adopting a policy in which households may become categorically eligible for SNAP because they receive a non-cash or in-kind benefit or service funded by TANF. FNS will issue a proposed rule to amend the regulations pertaining to categorically eligible TANF households by limiting categorical eligibility to households that received cash TANF or other substantial assistance from TANF. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0584-AE62.

Reform provisions for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's Quality Control System: FNS will propose revisions to reform and strengthen its SNAP Quality Control system based on stakeholder input received from its June 1, 2018, request for State government and stakeholder input as to how to best proceed with reforming the SNAP Quality Control system. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0584-AE64.

Simplifying Rural Development's Guaranteed Loan Regulations Combining Rural Development Guaranteed Loan Regulations into a single regulation: Rural Development proposes to combine its four existing guaranteed loan regulations: 1) Water and Waste Disposal; 2) Community Facilities; 3) Business and Industry; and 4) Rural Energy for America, into a single regulation. The proposed action will enable Rural Development to simplify, improve, and enhance the delivery of these four guaranteed loan programs, and better manage the risks inherent with making and servicing guaranteed loans and will result in an improved customer experience for lenders trying to access these programs. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0572-AC43.

Servicing Regulation for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Telecommunications Programs: The RUS Telecommunications Programs provide loan funding to build and expand broadband service into unserved and underserved rural communities, along with limited funding to support the costs to acquire equipment to provide distance learning and telemedicine service. RUS will propose to modify the program to give RUS greater authority to address servicing actions associated with distressed loans employing only limited coordination with the Department of Justice. This will streamline and expedite servicing actions, improve the government's recovery on such loans, and improve overall customer service. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0572-AC41.

Amendments to Rural Development (RD) environmental reviews for rural infrastructure projects: USDA's RD programs provide loans, grants and loan guarantees to support investment in rural infrastructure to spur economic development, create jobs, improve the quality of life, and address the health and safety needs of rural residents. The current regulation requires that the environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) be completed prior to the completion of the obligation of funds. The proposal will allow RD some flexibility with the authority to move forward with the obligation of funds conditioned upon the completion of environmental review for infrastructure projects. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0572-AC44.

Animal Welfare; Amendments to Licensing Provisions and to Requirements for Dogs: The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will issue a proposal that would amend the regulations governing the issuance and renewal of licenses under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to better promote sustained compliance under the AWA by (1) reducing licensing fees and (2) strengthening existing safeguards that prevent an individual whose license has been suspended or revoked, or who has a history of noncompliance, from obtaining a license or working with regulated animals. This rulemaking would also strengthen the veterinary care and watering standards for regulated dogs to better align the regulations with the humane care and treatment standards set by the Animal Welfare Act. The proposal follows an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published on August 24, 2017, that solicited comment from the public to aid in the development of these revisions. APHIS received and analyzed approximately 47,000 public comments. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0579-AE35.

The Department is making it a priority to maximize the ability of American agricultural producers to prosper by feeding and clothing the world: A strong and prosperous agricultural sector is essential to the well-being of the overall U.S. economy. America's farmers and ranchers ensure a safe and reliable food and fuel supply and support job growth and economic development. To maintain a strong agricultural economy, USDA will support farmers in starting and maintaining profitable farm and ranch businesses, as well as offer support to producers affected by natural disasters. The Department will continue to work to create new markets and support a competitive agricultural system by reducing barriers that inhibit agricultural opportunities and economic growth.

Seed Cotton Changes to Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Programs: This final action, as authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will revise the ARC and PLC Programs to add seed cotton to the list of covered commodities and establish a loan rate for the purposes of calculating an ARC or PLC payment. For more information about this rule, see RIN 560-AI40.

Market Facilitation Program: This action will assist agricultural producers with respect to commodities, livestock, or livestock products that have been significantly impacted by actions of foreign governments resulting in the loss of traditional exports. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0560-AI42.

Importation, Interstate Movement, and Release Into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms (Part 340): APHIS is proposing to revise its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms in order to update the regulations in response to advances in genetic engineering and APHIS' understanding of the plant health risk posed by genetically engineered organisms, thereby reducing burden for regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant health risks. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0579-AE47.

National Organic Program; Strengthening Organic Enforcement: The Agricultural Marketing Service will propose changes to the USDA organic regulations to strengthen the oversight of organic products, improve enforcement of organic standards, and protect organic integrity. The proposal will address gaps in the organic standards to deter fraud, and enhance enforcement. In addition, this proposal will support consumer trust and continued industry growth. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0581-AD09.

Establishing a performance standard for authorizing the importation and interstate movement of fruits and vegetables: APHIS would broaden the existing performance standard to provide for consideration of all new fruits and vegetables for importation into the United States using a notice-based process rather than through proposed and final rules. Likewise, APHIS would propose an equivalent revision of the performance standard governing the interstate movements of fruits and vegetables from Hawaii and the U.S. territories (Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and the removal of commodity-specific phytosanitary requirements from those regulations. This action will allow APHIS to consider requests to authorize the importation or interstate movement of new fruits and vegetables in a manner that is more flexible and responsive to evolving pest situations in both the United States and exporting countries, while maintaining the science-based process for making risk evaluations. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0579-AD71.

Providing all Americans access to a safe, nutritious, and secure food supply is USDA's most important responsibility, and it is one undertaken with great seriousness. USDA has critical roles in preventing foodborne illness and protecting public health, while ensuring Americans have access to food and healthful diet. The Department will continue to prevent contamination and limit foodborne illness by expanding its modernization of food inspection systems, and USDA's research, education, and extension programs will continue to provide information, tools, and technologies about the causes of foodborne illness and its prevention. USDA will continue to develop partnerships that support best practices in implementing effective nutrition assistance programs that ensure eligible populations have access to programs that support their food needs.

Increase flexibilities provided to school lunch program operators in meeting nutrition requirements: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to issue a final rule that provides flexibilities to Program operators participating in the Child Nutrition Programs effective School Year 2019-2020. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0584-AE53.

Provide regulatory flexibility for retailers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): FNS will issue a proposed rule to provide retailers with more flexibility in meeting the enhanced SNAP eligibility requirements of the 2016 final rule and meet the requirements expressed in the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2017. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0584-AE61.

Modernize swine slaughter inspection: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) plans to finalize a proposal published on February 1, 2018, to establish a voluntary New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) for market-hog slaughter establishments, and mandatory provisions for all swine slaughtering establishments. NSIS will provide for increased offline inspection activities that are more directly related to food safety resulting in greater compliance with sanitation and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS received over 83,500 comments. Many of the comments requested that FSIS withdraw the proposal to remove limits on line speeds due to the negative effect on animal welfare and worker safety. These comments will be analyzed and further addressed in the final rule. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0583-AD62.

The Department will ensure productive and sustainable use of our National Forest System Lands: To ensure that America's forests and grasslands are healthy and sustainable, USDA manages approximately 193 million acres of public land, much of it rural and remote. Land management activities can influence rural economies, and USDA can help enable economic growth and recovery.

Update and Clarification of the Locatable Mineral Regulations: The Forest Service plans to seek public input as it evaluates its management of the activities associated with mining "locatable minerals" that have an impact on the surface resources including expediting Forest Service review and approval of certain proposed mineral operations on National Forest System (NFS) lands. The Forest Service plans to seek public input to determine whether its assessment of the need for these changes is shared by the public. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0596-AD32.

Oil and Gas Resource Revisions: The Forest Service plans to seek public input as it evaluates its regulations concerning its responsibility for authorizing and regulating access to federal oil and natural gas resources. Updating the regulations will afford an opportunity to modernize and streamline analytical and procedural requirements, reduce the paperwork burden on industry, reduce permitting times for leasing NFS lands, and help provide a more consistent approach to oil and gas management across the NFS. In addition, USDA recommended revising the regulation as part of the USDA Final Report Pursuant to Executive Order 13783 on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. The regulation revision will also make updates in response to legislative actions such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005. For more information about this rule, see RIN 0596-AD33.