Consumer Groups Rally Against Rollbacks

Dan Industry News Release, Legislative

consumer groups
A dozen consumer groups have banded together to work against legislation that would make it more difficult for the government to issue regulations. The groups have dubbed it the “filthy food act,” which they say will make it more difficult to keep the American food supply safe. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says the bill is formally known as the Regulatory Accountability Act, clearing the House in January, with the Senate looking at its own version of the legislation. Groups like the Environmental Working Group, the Consumers Union, and others, say they are working to “raise the alarm” across social media platforms this week. The groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders this week saying, “Food safety rules help to reduce the risks posed by pathogens and pesticides. But the ‘Filthy Food Act’ would create an unprecedented regulatory gauntlet through which no food safety rule or guidance could pass.” They also say the act would cut science out of the regulatory process, replacing public input and expert testimony with mountains of reviews and red tape. The groups also point out that the Food Safety and Modernization Act, passed in 2011 and strongly supported by consumer groups and the food industry, would have been much more difficult to push through if the Regulatory Accountability Act was in place.

From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service.

Regulatory Accountability Act

(Sec. 103) This bill revises federal rulemaking procedures under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to require a federal agency to make all preliminary and final factual determinations based on evidence and to consider: (1) the legal authority under which a rule may be proposed; (2) the specific nature and significance of the problem the agency may address with a rule; (3) whether existing rules have created or contributed to the problem the agency may address with a rule and whether such rules may be amended or rescinded; (4) any reasonable alternatives for a new rule; and (5) the potential costs and benefits associated with potential alternative rules, including impacts on low-income populations.

Rulemaking notice requirements are revised to require agencies to:

  • publish in the Federal Register advance notice of proposed rulemaking involving a major or high-impact rule, a negative-impact-on-jobs-and-wages rule, or a rule that involves a novel legal or policy issue arising out of statutory mandates;
  • consult with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before issuing a proposed rule and after the issuance of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking;
  • provide interested persons an opportunity to participate in the rule making process;
  • hold a hearing before the adoption of any high-impact rule;
  • expand requirements for the adoption of a final rule, including requiring that the agency adopt a rule only on the basis of the best evidence and at the least cost; and
  • grant any interested person the right to petition for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule.

A “major rule” or “major guidance” is a rule or guidance that OIRA determines is likely to impose: (1) an annual cost on the economy of $100 million or more, adjusted annually for inflation; (2) a major increase in costs or prices; (3) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S. enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises; or (4) significant impacts on multiple sectors of the economy.

The bill defines: (1) “high-impact rule” as a rule that OIRA determines is likely to have an annual cost on the economy of $1 billion or more, adjusted annually for inflation; and (2) “negative-impact-on-jobs-and-wages rule” as any rule likely to reduce employment or wages in certain economic sectors or industry areas by specified amounts over specified periods.

The bill specifies the minimum amount of information that must be included in an advance notice of a proposed rulemaking.

After notice or advance notice of a proposed rulemaking, the agency making the rule is prohibited from: (1) advocating for the submission of information to form part of the record of review, (2) appealing to the public to undertake advocacy, or (3) communicating for publicity or propaganda within the United States in a manner not authorized by Congress. The agency may request comments or information in an impartial manner.

The notice of final rulemaking that agencies must publish when they adopt a final major rule shall include a report, to be revised every five years, on the benefits and costs to regulated entities. If an agency determines in a revised report that the cost to regulated entities has exceeded the anticipated cost at the time the final rule was issued, the agency must submit to Congress an assessment of whether the rule: (1) is accomplishing its regulatory objective; and (2) has been rendered unnecessary considering changes in the subject area, other government regulations, and alternatives that might impose smaller burdens or achieve lower costs. Upon delivery of such an assessment about a rule exceeding the anticipated cost, the agency must: (1) reopen the public docket to receive additional comments, and (2) consider modifications or alternatives that reduce costs and increase benefits to regulated entities or individuals.

OIRA must issue guidelines to promote coordination, simplification, and harmonization of agency rules during the rulemaking process.

The bill exempts from such revised procedures rulemakings that concern monetary policy proposed or implemented by the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) or the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Read the full Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017.