Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has streamlined a host of programs and processes in an effort to help farmers, ranchers and businesses continue to drive America's productive agricultural economy. As USDA approaches its 150th anniversary, the changes—quicker disaster assistance, expedited reviews of pending product applications, and less reporting dates — will help USDA build a better, stronger and more efficient Department. Improvements were announced by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Risk Management Agency (RMA), and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
"As USDA continues to find ways to modernize our services, we remain committed to improving the customer experience by streamlining processes, accelerating delivery, and using innovative technologies," said Vilsack. "The improvements announced today will help businesses respond more quickly to market demands, provide producers with a more responsive farm safety net, and help our customers create jobs. President Obama challenged USDA and other federal agencies to streamline operations, and today USDA is taking a big step toward answering that challenge."
U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best years in decades thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of America's producers. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 86 percent of their food, while maintaining affordability and choice. The efficiencies outlined today will help producers and businesses maintain this competitive edge.
Earlier this year, Vilsack asked USDA leadership to undertake a review of the Department's operations to identify improvements and innovations to the Department's services and programs. Many of the process improvements announced today are part of the USDA Customer Service Plan, which identifies key Departmental actions and initiatives aimed at improving customer service. USDA developed this plan in support of the President's April 27, 2011, Executive Order 13571, on "Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service."
The process improvements announced include:
- USDA is accepting comments on a proposed rule to streamline the process for its Secretarial Disaster Designation, allowing farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disaster to obtain emergency loans and other assistance faster than before. Streamlining the process from six steps to two will enable USDA to help those in need in an expedited manner. Additionally, the proposed rule can help to ensure all eligible disaster counties receive a designation.
From RMA and FSA:
- Establishing 15 common Acreage Reporting Dates (ARDs) for farmers and ranchers participating in RMA and FSA programs. The common reporting dates will reduce the reporting burden on producers and also help to reduce USDA operating costs by sharing similar data across participating agencies. Before the streamlining, RMA had 54 ARDs for 122 crops, and FSA had 17 ARDs for 273 crops.
- APHIS is making a number of improvements to its process for reviewing license applications for veterinary biologics. APHIS anticipates being able to reduce its veterinary biologics licensing processes by potentially 100 days—or a 20 percent savings—by streamlining its processes;
- APHIS is focused on improving processes to better serve USDA's customers in the areas of risk assessment and rulemaking for the importation of agricultural products. The Agency found that by streamlining data needs, reducing the time for drafting risk assessments, and improving project management and tracking, APHIS expects significant improvements.
- On petitions requesting nonregulated status for genetically engineered (GE) organisms, APHIS anticipates being able to significantly reduce the average length of the petition process while maintaining strong oversight. At the same time, the new process will provide the opportunity for earlier input from the public on petitions for deregulations, allowing USDA to better serve all its stakeholders.
- APHIS is streamlining the enforcement process against those who jeopardize plant and animal health and animal welfare. Under a process pilot-tested in October 2011, APHIS aims to resolve a typical case in 165 days—a time savings of 40 percent. The new target for complex cases is 215 days—a 46 percent time reduction.