USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides voluntary grading, inspection, laboratory analysis, audit verification and certification services for meat, poultry and egg establishments, fruit and vegetable handlers and processors, dairy processors, cotton producers and other parts of the agriculture sector to facilitate marketing and communicate quality attributes to consumers.
AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products. Through the delivery of these programs AMS facilitates marketing of more than $150 billion worth of agricultural products that help to fuel America’s agricultural economy.
As a user fee-funded organization, AMS is committed to cost-effective and transparent operations and processes. Recently, to better serve the fee-paying industry, AMS streamlined the fee setting process. Under the old process, businesses could not effectively plan for fee changes because the timing of those changes was hard to predict. In addition, the agency’s wide range of fee schedules and the lengthy regulatory process made fiscal planning difficult. The new process will result in a multitude of benefits to our industry stakeholders.
Before streamlining, AMS published a proposed and final rule each time one of our fees required adjustment. The adjustment might reflect changing customer needs, inflation, or changes to indirect and administrative costs, among other factors. Often, due to the lengthy rulemaking process, the fiscal year would end before we could publish a final rule, making the amended rates obsolete. This has at times resulted in shortfalls in the revenue that supports these vital fee-based services.
With the streamlined regulatory process we are publishing a single Federal Register notice before June 1 each year to announce the new fees based on standardized formulas that we apply to each service. This action provides our stakeholders with greater transparency about how AMS derives the fees. It also helps them to better plan for the cost of those services because all the fees are established at the same time each year. As for AMS, we save costs by eliminating staff time previously required to develop several separate rules. That, in turn, allows our staff to focus on other high-priority industry issues. And by setting fees that reflect current conditions, we can ensure the smooth continuation of our services without revenue shortfall.
This regulatory streamlining effort is a USDA Signature Process Improvement project. It supports the government’s initiative to streamline processes, and it reduces the number of regulations that are published. Our action also supports USDA’s goal of formalizing processes to integrate openness, transparency, participation and collaboration into its everyday operations.
AMS continually looks for ways to increase efficiencies and save costs. The success of this streamlining action demonstrates the value of these efforts to our industry stakeholders and our own agency.