The USDA has an open comment period titled Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives. It comes from an Executive Order signed in February 2017 requiring federal agencies to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens. This order requires each agency to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force and Officer. They evaluate regulations and make recommendations for repeals and modifications. Specifically, they need to identify regulations that eliminate jobs, inhibit job creation, are outdated or unnecessary, impose costs that exceed benefits, or create inconsistency.
The USDA, keeping in compliance, is requesting ideas on how to better provide customer service and remove unintended barriers to participation in their programs. The current strategic goals of the agency are as follows:
- Ensure USDA programs are delivered efficiently, effectively, and with integrity and a focus on customer service.
- Maximize the ability of American agricultural producers to prosper by feeding and clothing the world.
- Promote American agricultural products and exports.
- Facilitate rural prosperity and economic development.
- Strengthen the stewardship of private lands through technology and research.
- Foster productive and sustainable use of our National Forest System Lands.
- Provide all Americans access to a safe, nutritious and secure food supply.
The agency’s budget of $139 billion is broadly allocated to the following:
- Nutrition Assistance (71%)
- Farm, Conservation, and Commodity Programs (22%)
- Forestry (4%)
- All Other (3%)
The comments thus far are overwhelmingly about food stamps, but the USDA offers many other programs in Rural Development, Farm Service, Forest Service, and Commodities as well. It’s definitely a lot to go through, but there are some resources to make the volume of information more understandable and digestible.
The first is the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). They examine how taxpayer dollars are spent by providing auditing and evaluation services. They recently published a list of open recommendations for the USDA. They also publish a High Risk List every two years of programs that are vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement. Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safety falls under the scope of the USDA and is on the list. You can also search within the site for a specific program you are curious about and see if a report or study has been undertaken.
Another reliable resource is the National Agricultural Law Center (NALC). It is nonpartisan and provides research and information services. You can look at their research by topic, which they have a ton of, or you can search the site for a particular program or issue.
There are some other resources I know of, but they function mostly at the state rather than national level. In order not to further overwhelm this post with links, I’ll refrain from listing them here. If you are looking for state-level resources, (any state, not just California or Ohio), feel free to comment or email.
When leaving comments for this docket, it is requested that they are as specific as possible, referencing cost information and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) citations. A member of the general public is unlikely to know this, but also feel free to reach out if you’d like help finding citation information. Comments are due by July 18th. Happy writing!