The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced its plan to update regulatory processes for notices regarding public property, loans, grants, benefits and contracts by rescinding an outdated statement of policy that required USDA agencies to needlessly delay the delivery of these benefits to rural communities.
"As USDA continues working to streamline government and remove red tape, we're able to better serve our rural constituents by helping them have quicker and easier access to federal loan and grant programs," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the law that governs rulemaking, provides Federal Agencies an exemption to notice and comment requirements for rules related to property, loans, grants, benefits, and contracts. In 1971 USDA voluntarily revoked this exemption because, at the time, the Federal Register published information that was not widely available elsewhere. Today, new technologies, such as the internet, are available to widely distribute program information to interested stakeholders.
Over the past four decades, USDA has found that this restrictive statement of policy often increased costs and delays. USDA remains committed to continuing to maintain transparency and accountability while increasing efficiency in the regulatory process. This proposed policy change would restore USDA's discretion to use notice and comment, with regard to these specific rules, when it best serves the interest of the public. It would also improve USDA's ability to efficiently implement programs that provide funding for disaster assistance loans and rural business grants to farmers and rural communities faster.
This proposed policy change is expected to be published in the June 3, 2013 issue of the Federal Register.