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Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis (ORACBA)

The Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis (ORACBA) was established by the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-354, H.R.4271,
Section 304
).P.L. 103-354, H.R., Section 304 ORACBA began operation on April 15, 1995, in USDA's Office of the Chief Economist.

The Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis's (ORACBA) primary role is to ensure that major regulations proposed by USDA are based on sound scientific and economic analysis.



SBCA 2015 Conference and Annual Meeting, “Advancing the Policy Frontier”
March 18-20, 2015
This year’s SBCA Conference and Annual Meeting features presentations from more than 150 experts from academia, nonprofits, businesses, and government presenting on topics ranging from theory to methods to specific applications of benefit-cost analysis. In addition to the conference program, there will be pre-conference professional development workshops organized by leading experts on the following topics:


The USDA Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis (ORACBA) needs your help, as we transition to an improved email service that will provide better service to our subscribers. We need feedback and your updated contact information, using the link below. The updated contact information will help ensure subscribers receive the Risk News/Calendar.  We do not share your contact information. Your feedback will  improve the content of the Risk News/Calendar.

Our current list was created over the past decade and does not contain sufficient information to  contact or identify subscribers when there is a problem with an e-mail address or other transmission issues. ORACBA would like to start the new service with a clean email list containing all information needed to maintain contact with our subscribers.

We ask that you complete the following feedback form. The form provides for your name, organization, email address, alternate contact number or email, and suggestions to help us improve the ORACBA Risk News/Calendar and ORACBA Risk Forums.


Harvard School of Public Health
March 9-12, 2015
Develop your ability to identify and assess health risks posed by environmental hazards.
This program enhances your knowledge of how risk analysis is done, how it is interpreted, and how it influences regulatory decision-making. Participants from diverse backgrounds will improve their ability to identify and quantify health risks, understand how risk information is perceived and communicated, and apply this information across industries and sectors.


Linda Abbott, Director, ORACBA
Adaptive Management and Governance Challenges: New Approaches. Kane SM*; Independent Consultant and University of New South Wales, Abbott, LC and JA Wentz
Abstract: This presentation reports on a new proposal in the legal community for developing an alternative track in the Administrative Procedure Act applicable to agency decision-making relying upon adaptive management. We offer reactions to the proposal from the legal community and federal agencies.  We summarize some of the current problems encountered in implementing and/or effectively achieving adaptive management as currently defined. We also discuss an iterative process for risk analysis, adaptive risk analysis, and its potential application in USDA conservation programs to present an alternate view and approach for addressing the uncertainties and rigidities in decision making.

Mark Powell, Risk Scientist, ORACBA
Considering variability and uncertainty in food safety risk assessment. Powell M*; U.S. Department of Agriculture

Characterizing variability and uncertainty is central to food safety risk assessment. However, there are limitations to the ability to empirically separate variability and uncertainty. A simple regression analysis is used to illustrate. Consider two models based on the same hypothetical experimental data. Model 1 has one explanatory variable and accounts for 80% of the observed variance. Model 2 has two explanatory variables and accounts for 90% of the variance. In many risk assessment applications, there may be practical reasons for using the more parsimonious model (e.g., observational data are unavailable for the second experimental control variable). A portion of the residual variability unaccounted for by Model 1, however, becomes parameter uncertainty under Model 2. When analyzed separating uncertainty and variability, the two models agree with respect to the central tendency of the output but result in ambiguity about the percentiles of the variability distribution and attendant uncertainty. Consequently, separating variability and uncertainty is model-dependent and somewhat arbitrary.

Considering the Design of Three-Class Sampling Plans for Process Control. Powell M*, LaBudde R; U.S. Department of Agriculture and Least Cost Formulations, Ltd.
Abstract: Three-class sampling plans based on marginal and unacceptable microbiological limits have been used for food safety lot acceptance sampling and have been recommended for process control purposes. However, existing microbiological criteria based on three-class samplings do not consider variability, resulting in highly inconsistent false-alarm rates for detecting out-of-control processes for processes with substantially different common cause variation. The formal design approach for three-class sampling plans recommended by the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) is intended for lot acceptance sampling and is inappropriate for process control because it would result in false-alarm rates greater than 50%. A more general approach to the statistical design of three-class sampling plans is presented that takes variability into account and makes the plans suitable for process control purposes. However, if the limits are set based on microbiological considerations (e.g., shelf-life, hazardous levels) rather than statistical design specifications, then the three-class sampling plans may continue to serve a useful food safety function by indicating marginal and unacceptable microbiological quality. However, this function is distinct from that of sampling plans with limits derived from observing a process under control where exceedances of the limits indicate a potential loss of statistical control.


Eliza Mojduszka, Senior Economist, ORACBA
Dr. Mojduszka an expert participant at the Standards Alliance North American Conference on Good Regulatory Practices and Regulatory Cooperation, held in Mexico City, Mexico on December 10-11, 2014.  The Conference was organized by the Standards Alliance, a partnership created between USAID and American National Standards Institute, to provide capacity-building assistance to developing countries, related to implementation of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade  (TBT) Agreement.
Eliza gave a presentation entitled “Regulatory Practices at USDA” in Session 3 of the Conference.  The Session focused on the principles of implementing Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) by providing tangible examples of RIAs, as well as analyses of impacts on competition, risk analyses, and ex- post assessments.  The discussion also included examples of how best practices for RIAs have been implemented for specific regulated sectors.  Eliza’s presentation can be found at:


Congratulations to former ORACBA alum, University of  North Carolina Goodnight-Glaxo Welcome Distinguished Professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, Jennifer Kuzma, on her election to the Council of the Society for Risk Analysis and for being selected as the 2014-2016 SRA/Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer Award. Her new article on “Heterogeneous Consumer Preferences for Nanotechnology and Genetic-modification Technology in Food Products” in Journal of Agricultural Economics was featured in Crop Biotech Update as well as other publications. 
To see announcement on GES homepage and link to the article, go to  To see the NC State news release, go to   

JIFSAN Courses

The increasing emphasis on risk-based decision making and the increasingly global nature of the food supply have resulted in the use of risk analysis to systematically address food safety issues worldwide. This has created a need to educate food safety and other public health professionals about the principles of food safety risk analysis and the tools and techniques required to apply this approach. For a detailed course description, or to register, visit our website at:
See ORACBA calendar for courses and dates.

Mailing List

Join the ORACBA mailing list and receive notice of all risk forums, related activities and the monthly ORACBA Risk News/Calendar. Join by sending an e-mail to Jennifer Lohr. In the Subject line enter "Mailing List" and be sure to include your phone number and e-mail address.