USDA updates regulations process

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For most new rules, the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act requires that a notice be published in the Federal Register to notify the public and invite comments. The law specifically exempts some loans and grants, however, but since 1971 the USDA has continued to use the ledger to provide notice of all new rules, since the information was not likely to be available elsewhere.

The Federal Register is the federal government's official daily record for all agencies' rules, notices, meeting announcements and policy statements. Traditionally, it has served as the primary resource for all actions of the federal government.

Technology such as the Internet has changed that, though. Information once published only in the Federal Register is now also available through a variety of forms online.

In many cases the requirement to publish notices and solicit comments "necessarily delays the implementation of a program without providing a corresponding benefit," the agency asserts in its proposal. This is especially true for little-noticed programs that affect only a handful of people. 

For future rules, the USDA will use its discretion on publishing notices and requesting comments, waiving the requirement if it determines that the public would be best served by issuing the grant or loan immediately.

"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 in a statement.