US regulatory actions and plan released

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Oct. 17 released the Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions and Regulatory Plan, which provide updates to the public about regulatory activity.

Of note to agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration all released agenda items applicable to their departments. Many of the department administrators praised President Donald Trump for signing executive orders that start the process leading to regulatory change

“To date, under President Trump, EPA has finalized 28 major deregulatory actions saving Americans over $1.6 billion and meeting the president’s two-for-one regulatory order,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are providing the states and regulated community the regulatory certainty they need to advance new technologies, improve environmental protections, and enhance economic growth.”

EPA’s Fall 2018 Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions shows continued progress in reducing regulatory burden as envisioned by Executive Order 13771. In the last fiscal year, EPA finalized 10 deregulatory actions and saved a total of $1.2 billion in regulatory costs.

To date, under Trump, EPA has finalized 28 major deregulatory actions saving Americans over $1.6 billion. For the next fiscal year, EPA has proposed a regulatory budget that anticipates saving a total of $818 million in regulatory costs. Additionally, the Regulatory Agenda includes 45 actions that are expected to be deregulatory. Thirty-four actions will appear for the first time.

EPA’s 2018 Regulatory Plan describes 25 priority actions it plans to propose or complete in the coming year, including:

A revised definition of “Waters of the United States;”

The Affordable Clean Energy Rule—Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Existing Electric Utility Generating Units;

Revisions to Emission Guideline Implementing Regulations; and

Revisions to the New Source Review Program.


USDA rule changes

USDA has announced changes including to those to USDA’s Freedom of Information Act regulations to farm program regulations to crop insurance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rules.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service plans to revise regulations for quality control of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

The rule change would attempt to improve the SNAP error rate, which reflects overpayments and underpayments, not fraud and abuse. The notice indicates the states report their error rates and there have been questions about the integrity of those state-collected statistics.

“There have been concerns about the SNAP QC process by not only its stakeholders, but FNS as well, primarily due to questions regarding the integrity of state collected error rate data that is used to develop SNAP’s national error rates,” a USDA statement said. “SNAP has been working diligently for several years to address these concerns and plans to move forward to reform components of its QC process to ensure the integrity of state-reported error rates.”

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service plans to revise its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms, USDA said.

APHIS said the revision is being planned “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 the burden for regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant health risks.”

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FDA rule changes

The FDA list is contained with the report of the Health and Human Services Department, of which it is a subset, and contains drug rule changes and changes to food regulations.

“Specifically, we’re following up our earlier actions on partially hydrogenated oils in foods with a rulemaking that proposes to remove the remaining uses to further reduce deaths from coronary heart disease,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a blog post. “We’re also working on updating the definition of the claim ‘healthy’ on food labels so it reflects current nutrition guidelines and to encourage its use.”

The food regulation proposals include a decision not to finalize a 10-year-old proposed rule that would require labeling of food that was refused entry to the United States, removing standards of identity for French dressing and cherry pie, and labeling of certain gluten-free foods.

“This is a down payment on a comprehensive effort to modernize food standards to reduce regulatory burden and remove old-fashioned barriers to innovation,” Gottlieb said. “To support this effort, we’ll also reopen the comment period on a proposed rule seeking to establish general principles to update the framework for standards of identity. In addition to standards of identity, there are statutory and regulatory provisions that relate to the naming of food products.”


Budget revisited

As the Regulatory Agenda was being released, Trump met with cabinet officials, telling them “to come back with a 5-percent cut for our next meeting. Some of you will say, ‘I can do much more than 5.’” Trump indicated earlier that the cuts would be “for next year.”

According to reports, USDA may try to cut funding to the crop insurance program, eliminate a green-payment program, or chop USDA research programs, if recent proposals are any indication. Crop insurance has been a target every time Trump has sent a budget package to Congress.

The Trump administration’s budget-cutting plans for next year may well include a test, or even a full-scale revival, of “America’s Harvest Box,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.

Perdue faced a hail of criticism last spring for his proposal to send a box of canned and processed foods to SNAP recipients each month in lieu of half of the benefits they would otherwise spend at grocery stores. The proposal became known as “Blue Apron For The Poor.”

Asked if the Harvest Box would be part of USDA budget proposals for next year, Perdue replied, “I hope so, yes. Sure. At the least, I would hope that Congress will trust us with a pilot project. … At least give us a chance to demonstrate the efficacy of that program.”

The USDA estimated last spring that it could save $129 billion over 10 years with the Harvest Box through volume purchasing of foods such as cereal, pasta, peanut butter, beans, and canned meats, fruits and vegetables. It planned on shipping the box to 80 percent of SNAP recipients.

“I think it’s a great idea, frankly,” said Perdue, who was credited with the concept. “With our SNAP recipients, we think they can have fresh fruits and vegetables and a good value meal cheaper than we are providing it now.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].