[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 41 (Friday, March 1, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 13771-13776]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-04790]



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Rules and Regulations
                                                Federal Register
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Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 41 / Friday, March 1, 2013 / Rules 
and Regulations

[[Page 13771]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Office of the Secretary

7 CFR Part 7

RIN 0560-AG90


Selection and Functions of Farm Service Agency State and County 
Committees

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is adopting, without change, an 
interim rule that amended the regulations governing the selection and 
functions of State and county committees. The amendments in the interim 
rule were needed to make the regulations consistent with the Farm 
Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (the 2002 Farm Bill) and the 
Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill). The 
intent of the amendments was to ensure that socially disadvantaged 
(SDA) farmers and ranchers are appropriately represented on county 
committees, to make the county committee election process more open and 
accountable, and to clarify requirements for committee membership in 
the situation where existing county committees are consolidated or 
combined. All of these amendments have already been implemented by FSA, 
except for the new provisions specifying that the Secretary may appoint 
a voting member to the county committee when required to ensure fair 
representation of SDA farmers and ranchers. Those appointments will be 
made starting in 2013. There will be no change in State and county 
committee functions and election procedures as a result of this rule.

DATES: Effective March 1, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Boyd; telephone: (202) 720-
7890, email: Barbara.Boyd@wdc.usda.gov. mailto:. Persons with 
disabilities or who require alternative means for communications should 
contact the USDA Target Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Section 10708 of the 2002 Farm Bill (Pub. L. 107-171) mandates 
several changes in the election process for FSA county committees and 
in the functions of both State and county committees in conducting 
county committee elections. Section 1615 of the 2008 Farm Bill (Pub. L. 
110-246) makes minor additional changes. The interim rule was published 
in the Federal Register on June 5, 2012 (77 FR 33063-33075), following 
a proposed rule published on November 28, 2006 (71 FR 68755-68762). The 
rule was effective on September 4, 2012. The interim rule implemented 
the changes in the regulations required by both the 2002 and 2008 Farm 
Bills, and also made additional clarifying changes in response to 
comments on a previous proposed rule for the 2002 Farm Bill changes. 
The interim rule included provisions for the appointment of an SDA 
voting member to a county committee, which is authorized by the 2002 
Farm Bill and will be implemented in 2013.
    Consistent with the 2002 Farm Bill, the purpose of the amendments 
was to increase the transparency and accountability of county elections 
and to provide opportunities for the nondiscriminatory participation of 
SDA farmers and ranchers in county committees and in the programs of 
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 2002 Farm Bill 
requires several actions by FSA to achieve those goals. The regulations 
specified in the interim rule are one of those actions; the other 
actions include collecting and reporting extensive data on the results 
of county committee elections and establishing Uniform Guidelines for 
conducting those elections. The 2008 Farm Bill requires additional 
changes to increase the maximum number of county committee members in 
the situation where counties are combined or consolidated into a single 
multi-county office, and to clarify that a farmer or rancher may serve 
only on the county committee for the county office where their farm 
records are administered.
    In response to the interim rule, 10 comments were submitted. The 
responses to issues raised in the comments are discussed later in this 
document. The issues raised concerned SDA appointments and outreach. No 
changes are being made to the regulations as a result of comments, 
because most of the comments supported the rule and the few 
alternatives suggested by commenters exceed our legislative authority 
or are not legally viable. There were no comments on the provisions of 
the interim rule other than the SDA appointment process. Both 
supporting and opposing comments on the interim rule supported the need 
for FSA's outreach to SDA producers. Therefore, in the discussion of 
the comments, this rule provides additional information about our 
outreach efforts.

Background on County Committees

    County committees were originally authorized by Congress in the 
1930s to allow for grassroots input and local administration of 
Agricultural Adjustment Administration programs. At that time, local 
farmers elected delegates to a county convention, which selected the 
members of the county committee. Direct election of county committee 
members has been FSA practice since FSA itself was authorized by the 
Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture 
Reauthorization Act of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-334).
    County committees provide local input on the administration of FSA 
programs, including commodity price support loans and payments, 
conservation programs, disaster payments, and emergency programs. 
Committee members are a critical component of the day-to-day operations 
of FSA. They help deliver and provide outreach for FSA Farm Programs at 
the local level. Farmers who serve on committees help decide the kind 
of programs their counties will offer. They provide input on how to 
improve program delivery. They work to make FSA agricultural programs 
serve the needs of local farmers and ranchers, and help local farmers 
and ranchers know

[[Page 13772]]

what programs are available. The duties of county committees currently 
include:
     Informing farmers of the purpose and provisions of FSA 
programs;
     Keeping the State FSA Committee informed of local 
administrative area (LAA) conditions;
     Monitoring changes in farm programs;
     Participating in monthly county meetings;
     Directing outreach activities;
     Making recommendations to the State committee on existing 
programs;
     Conducting hearings and reviews as requested by the State 
committee; and
     Ensuring SDA farmers and ranchers are fairly represented.
    County committee decisions are made by consensus. Committee members 
vote to achieve consensus on various items, for example, yield 
determination for the county, the county executive director (CED) 
ratings, and approving producer applications when required for various 
Farm Programs.
    County committees do not oversee the administration of FSA direct 
or guaranteed farm operating loans or ownership loans. Those are 
administered by FSA federal employees.
    There are currently more than 7,700 committee members serving on 
more than 2,100 committees nationwide. More than 219,000 ballots were 
cast in the 2011 county elections. Elected committee members serve for 
a 3-year term, and roughly one-third of seats are up for election each 
year. There are term limits, which enables beginning farmers and those 
who have not participated in the past have an opportunity to serve. The 
interim rule added provisions specifying that the Secretary may appoint 
an SDA voting member when there is no elected SDA member on a county 
committee and one is needed to ensure fair representation based on the 
demographics of the county. In the context of this rule, SDA groups are 
African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanics, Asian 
Americans, Pacific Islanders and women. Appointed members will serve a 
1-year term and also have term limits. The determination of the need 
for an appointed member will be performed after each annual election. 
The 2012 county committee elections are in December 2012. Therefore, 
the determination of need for appointed members based on the results of 
the election 2012 cycle will be made by January 2013. Appointed SDA 
members will start their 2013 term in March 2013.
    County committees may also have appointed non-voting SDA advisors. 
The appointment of those advisors is one of the efforts USDA has made 
to address the concerns in the 2002 Farm Bill about fair representation 
of SDA farmers and ranchers on county committees. Non-voting SDA 
advisors are recommended by the local county committee, in consultation 
with local community groups and local Tribal organizations representing 
SDA farmers and ranchers, and appointed by the State committee. 
Advisors attend county committee meetings and ensure that SDA issues 
and viewpoints are understood and considered in FSA actions. Non-voting 
advisors do not have the authority to sign documents or vote on county 
committee actions.
    As discussed in the next section, the interim rule updated the 
regulations to make them consistent with current practice, but did not 
change the role of county committees or county committee voting members 
from current practice, with the exception of the new SDA appointment 
authority that will be implemented in 2013.

Amendments Implemented Through the Interim Rule

    The interim rule amended 7 CFR part 7, ``Selection and Functions of 
Farm Service Agency State and County Committees.'' It made substantive 
changes to the regulations that were needed to add requirements from 
the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. This section of the document briefly 
discusses those amendments that have already been implemented in the 
regulations. We did not receive any comments on the amendments.
    The definitions for ``participate'' and ``cooperate'' were added to 
the regulations. These terms, which are specified in the 2002 Farm 
Bill, are used to clarify who is eligible to vote in county elections 
and be nominated to serve on county committees. Farmers and ranchers 
who ``participate,'' meaning they receive assistance, benefits, or 
services from USDA or indirectly through another federal government 
agency, may vote in county elections and be nominated as county 
committee members. Farmers and ranchers who provide information to the 
FSA county office about their farming operation, thus meeting the 
definition of ``cooperate'' in the rule, may also be eligible voters 
and nominees even if they do not directly receive benefits or services 
from USDA.
    The regulations for the establishment of LAAs were revised to be 
consistent with current practice and with the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. 
The regulations specify at least 3 LAAs per county, with up to 11 LAAs 
for county committees that have jurisdiction over multiple counties. 
The maximum allowable number of LAAs per county committee was increased 
in some cases. The purpose of having more LAAs is, in part, to ensure 
that SDA representation is not reduced when county offices are 
combined. In some circumstances, such as a very large county or one 
with many farms, a county committee with jurisdiction over a single 
county can have up to five LAAs.
    The specific requirements on election procedures were added to the 
regulations, including specific requirements to give the public advance 
notice at least 30 days before the election on how, where, and when 
eligible voters may vote. FSA holds all the county elections at the 
same time every year, with ballots available in November and counted in 
December. The elections are widely publicized at the county, State, 
Tribal, and national levels. As specified in the regulations, the 
public may observe the opening and counting of the ballots, and the 
county committee must provide at least 10 days advance notice of the 
date, time, and place at which the ballots will be opened and counted.
    Occasionally, a vacancy on the county committee occurs outside of 
the normal election cycle, such as when a member resigns or moves away. 
The procedures for how a vacancy may be filled by a special election or 
a designated alternate were clarified in the regulations. While the 
option to have the State committee designate an alternate is specified 
in the regulations so that FSA can exercise that option if needed, 
special elections are normally held to fill vacancies.
    The challenges and appeals requirements regarding the voter 
eligibility or results of a county committee election in the 
regulations includes specific requirements to allow nominees to 
challenge the results of elections within required times and to allow a 
special election if the election is nullified.
    The 2002 Farm Bill requires FSA to collect and report detailed 
information on county election results. Therefore, the regulations 
include requirements for FSA county committees to collect this 
information and provide it to the FSA national office. This information 
is already being collected and reported. FSA publishes this information 
annually, and it is available on our Web site at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. Election results for 2002 through 2011 are currently posted.
    The political activity restrictions and personnel actions 
procedures in the regulations are consistent with the specific 
procedures in FSA handbooks and directives that are already in use. 
Since the details are in the handbooks

[[Page 13773]]

and directives, the provisions now reference the appropriate handbooks 
and directives. Obsolete appeals provisions were removed from the 
regulations.
    The interim rule also made a number of technical changes to remove 
other obsolete provisions, such as removing references to county 
conventions and community committees.

Provisions To Appoint SDA Members to County Committees

    The 2002 Farm Bill grants the Secretary the authority to appoint a 
SDA committee member to a committee to achieve the goal of fair 
representation in a county committee jurisdiction. The 2008 Farm Bill 
requires the Secretary to develop procedures to maintain SDA 
representation on county committees. The interim rule specified that 
the Secretary may appoint one additional SDA voting member to a county 
committee when a significant population of SDA farmers and ranchers 
exist in the committee jurisdiction and no member is elected from that 
socially disadvantaged population.
    As discussed in the preamble to the interim rule, the Secretary 
will use the authority to appoint SDA committee members when the 
statistical evidence, measured at the county level, demonstrates a lack 
of diversity and underrepresentation on selected county committees over 
a period of at least 4 years. The appointed SDA committee member will 
be in addition to the elected voting members. The appointed member does 
not replace any of the elected members. Where the county already has an 
SDA advisor, the Secretary may appoint that advisor as the SDA voting 
member.
    FSA's analysis of 2010 and 2011 election results showed that of the 
approximately 2,100 county committees, about 13 percent met the 
threshold where SDA representation would be expected based on the 
demographics of the eligible county committee voters in the county. Of 
these counties where SDA representation would be expected, over half 
already had an elected SDA voting member. Almost all of the counties 
where SDA representation would be expected already had a non-voting SDA 
advisor. Fewer than 20 counties that met the benchmark for expected SDA 
representation had neither an elected SDA voting member nor an SDA 
advisor.
    The Secretary will also consider observed historical voting 
patterns in determining when an SDA appointment is needed. FSA has 
collected detailed election data for the past decade of county 
committee elections, as required by the 2002 Farm Bill. Voting patterns 
are relevant because individual voting members may resign or reach term 
limits, resulting in a temporary lack of SDA representation. Only 
counties that have an observed pattern of non-representation for at 
least the past four election cycles will be considered for SDA 
appointments. Analysis of 2007 through 2010 election data found that 
about 5 percent of counties (over 100) would be in this group. Counties 
that meet the benchmark for lacking SDA representation and do not 
currently have an SDA voting member, but have had one in at least one 
of the last four election cycles, will not be considered for 
appointments. Where counties do not currently have an SDA voting 
member, meet the benchmark for lacking SDA representation for at least 
four election cycles, and have an advisor, the Secretary may select the 
existing advisor as the appointed SDA voting member. The vast majority 
of the appointments (roughly 80 percent) are expected to be elevation 
to voting status of persons who are already serving on their local 
county committee as a non-voting SDA advisor. In the few counties with 
no SDA advisor, the selection of an appointed member will follow the 
same procedure used to identify an SDA advisor, including, among other 
things, outreach to community based organizations.
    FSA will continue outreach efforts to increase SDA voter 
participation and SDA representation on county committees through the 
regular election process. We will also continue to update the 
statistical analysis each year with current year election data. Going 
forward, the appointment process will be used where and when it is 
needed to ensure fair representation of SDA farmers and ranchers. If in 
any year the statistical analysis finds that SDA farmers and ranchers 
are fairly represented on all county committees, then the Secretary 
will not need to make any SDA appointments that year.

Discussion of Comments on Interim Rule

    FSA received ten comments on the interim rule. The comments were 
received from producers, organizations representing producers, and 
organizations representing county committee members and FSA county 
office employees. The commenters generally supported the interim rule, 
and the goals of making the election processes more transparent and 
ensuring fair SDA representation. Three commenters did not support the 
SDA appointments. Some generally supportive comments suggested 
alternatives to the SDA appointment process as specified in the interim 
rule. Nine of the 10 comments addressed the new procedures for 
appointing SDA members; the 10th addressed the need for more outreach 
to SDA stakeholders, which was also an issue of concern for many of the 
other commenters. We did not receive comments on any other provision of 
the interim rule.
    Comment: The SDA appointment process would inject politics into the 
county committee system. It would be a huge problem for the Secretary 
of Agriculture to appoint numerous qualified SDA committee members 
every year.
    Response: Based on our past experience with appointing non-voting 
SDA advisors, we do not envision major problems finding qualified SDA 
farmers and ranchers who meet the eligibility requirements for county 
committee membership as specified in the interim rule. The eligibility 
requirements for appointed and elected members are identical.
    Comment: The current election process has local accountability and 
should be maintained.
    Response: The current election process will be maintained. In 
addition, the SDA appointed members will be selected from the local 
community and must meet the same eligibility requirements as elected 
members.
    Comment: The SDA appointments will create a disconnection rather 
than a connection to the community. The election process serves the 
community better.
    Response: The SDA appointments do not replace any elected members. 
The SDA appointed members will be selected from the local community. 
The appointments are needed to ensure that the county committee 
membership represents the community. In most cases, the election 
process has resulted in county committee membership that fairly 
represents the community in that area. FSA outreach has resulted in 
increased SDA representation on county committees. However, our 
analysis of election results indicates that in a few county committee 
jurisdictions, fair representation of the community has not been 
achieved through the election process. If in the future the election 
results in every county demonstrate fair representation of the local 
community based on the demographics of that community, no appointments 
will be needed.
    Comment: The new rule is unnecessary because the policies and 
procedures already in place accomplish the stated objective of fair and 
balanced

[[Page 13774]]

representation. Appointments are undemocratic.
    Response: While the increased FSA outreach activities over the last 
several years have resulted in the election process reflecting fair 
representation in most locations, our analysis of election results 
indicates that in a few county committee jurisdictions, fair 
representation has not been achieved through the existing election 
process. If in the future the election results in every county 
demonstrate fair representation based on the demographics of that 
county, no appointments will be needed.
    Comment: If there is an existing SDA advisor, will the SDA 
appointed member be in addition to that person, or will the advisor 
become the appointed member?
    Response: Where an SDA appointment is needed, the Secretary will 
consider any existing SDA advisor for that position, in which case the 
advisor would likely be appointed as the SDA member. However, the 
Advisor is a separate position from the SDA appointed member and it is 
possible that both positions could potentially be filled by two 
separate people in the same county if there is a need to represent 
multiple SDA groups for fair representation. In that situation where 
multiple SDA groups lack fair representation on the county committee, 
there could be both a voting SDA appointed member and a non-voting 
Advisor in the same county.
    Comment: Encouraging SDA representation through appointments is 
just and fair, but the SDA category should include small farmers.
    Response: The SDA groups for this regulation are defined in the 
2002 Farm Bill; we do not have the authority to add groups to the 
definition. However, FSA does recognize the needed for outreach and 
program education with small farmers and includes reaching that group 
in their outreach plans. Additional information on existing FSA Farm 
Programs is also available on the FSA Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov. Information on FSA Education and Outreach as well as 
contact information is available at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/outreach. 
Information on assistance available to SDA farmers is available at: 
http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=about&subject=landing&topic=sao-oa-cr-ma.
    Comment: Instead of appointments, have SDA-only elections to elect 
a county level at-large member. The 2002 Farm Bill provides the 
Secretary with the authority to establish at-large minority LAAs and to 
accept nominations from SDAs for those designated at-large seats.
    Response: The 2002 Farm Bill does not provide USDA the authority to 
conduct separate elections where only SDA members may be nominated, or 
to create at-large minority LAAs. The procedures for appointing SDA 
members in the regulations are narrowly tailored to promote diversity 
and inclusion on county committees, consistent with the legislative 
authority provided in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills.
    Comment: Use the LAA demographics instead of the county 
demographics to decide if an appointment is needed. Using county level 
data may dilute the apparent need for an SDA representative.
    Response: The county committee serves the county as a whole, and we 
have legislative authority for one and only one appointed SDA member 
per county. Therefore, it is appropriate to use county level 
demographic data to determine if an SDA appointment is needed, and to 
select that member from any LAA in the county.
    Comment: LAA boundaries should be reviewed in consultation with 
community and SDA groups.
    Response: SDA population is one of the factors used in determining 
LAA boundaries.
    Comment: Appoint SDA members to a 3 year term instead of a 1 year 
term. One year is not enough time to develop relationships with the 
farming community or to be effective in understanding FSA programs and 
their delivery.
    Response: The SDA member term was established as 1 year because the 
county committee elections are held every year. If an SDA member is 
elected, there is no need for an additional SDA appointed member to 
achieve fair representation. The goal is to increase the SDA population 
through the election process whenever possible. If the need for an 
appointed member continues beyond 1 year, the appointed SDA member can 
be selected for up to 9 consecutive years as an appointed member. Also, 
a formerly appointed member may at any time run for election as an 
elected member, subject to the 9 consecutive years limit. The ability 
to serve for 9 consecutive years provides the opportunity to build 
community relationships and knowledge base over time.
    Comment: Release voter lists to candidates and community 
organizations. Some local county FSA offices will not provide that 
information. The list of voters should include the race, gender, and 
ethnicity of voters, under conditions consistent with the Privacy Act.
    Response: FSA collects and publishes general information about 
voter demographics in each LAA. The Privacy Act requires that agencies 
publish a System of Records notice in the Federal Register with a 
period for public comment before personal information is collected to 
inform the public on how the collected information will be used. 
Personally identifiable information may be released for certain routine 
uses, which must be specified in the System of Records notice. As 
provided in the current regulations and in the applicable System of 
Records notice, releasing the list of eligible voter names and 
addresses to candidates for county committee is listed as a ``routine 
use'' of that information in the System of Records notice that covers 
the collection of that information. Only names and addresses are 
provided to candidates; other information such as race, ethnicity, and 
gender, etc., is not released to candidates. Releasing personally 
identifiable information on race, ethnicity, and gender of individual 
voters to candidates for county committee elections is not an 
authorized routine use in the applicable System of Records (Farm 
Records File (Automated) USDA/FSA-2) that covers the collection of FSA 
program participant information. Releasing that information is 
longstanding FSA policy and did not change with the interim rule. In 
addition, lists of voter names without addresses will be provided to 
any member of the public, including community organizations, on 
request. If there is an issue with a particular FSA county office not 
providing that information, please contact the applicable State Office. 
Contact information for State Offices can be found at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/stateOffices.
    Comment: Implement Section 14006 of the 2008 Farm Bill, and release 
the data on program participation data to the public.
    Response: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 2007 
Census of Agriculture data, which includes data on producer 
demographics at the national, State, and county levels, is currently 
available on the web at www.agcensus.usda.gov. USDA has also 
implemented new forms and a Departmental Regulation to implement 
Section 14006, and has directed agencies to collect the required data 
on race, ethnicity, and gender of program applicants and participants. 
That data is expected to be available to the public on the USDA Web 
site in 2013.

[[Page 13775]]

    Comment: The FSA local offices need to do more on SDA outreach, not 
just about the county committee process, but about all of its programs. 
They need to invest more in partnerships with community based 
organizations to improve outreach and training. Also, the county 
committees need to do more on providing information to local SDA 
farmers and ranchers. Elections should be more widely publicized, and 
FSA should do more to improve SDA participation in elections. More 
emphasis should be placed on outreach to all farmers, not just SDA 
farmers, at the local level, to foster the next generation of farmers. 
FSA should be required to work with community based organizations on 
evaluations and required improvements in election participation and 
participation in FSA programs.
    Response: The Farm Service Agency is committed to improving 
outreach to farmers and ranchers and will continue to provide guidance 
and tools to assist local offices in conducting and improving outreach 
at the local levels within the resources available. Local farmers and 
ranchers are also encouraged to become involved and learn more about 
the county committee by attending county committee regular meetings. 
Times and place of county committee meetings can be obtained from the 
local FSA county office and the public is welcomed at the meetings.
    FSA is committed to carrying out an effective outreach program to 
improve program participation processes and overcome barriers commonly 
faced by farmers and ranchers. Those barriers include access to credit 
and lack of information on available FSA programs. Part of that 
commitment includes ensuring:
     Resources such as funding, manpower, and training 
materials are provided to States and counties we serve;
     Partnerships with members of the underserved and minority 
groups, community based organizations, community leaders, congressional 
leaders, educational institutions, and other federal agencies are 
required and supported; and
     Fair representation in FSA county committee nominations 
and elections is achieved.
    FSA conducts an extensive outreach program and relies on 
partnerships to assist in efforts to improve accessibility to our 
programs and services. FSA has made outreach an integral part of the 
overall delivery of programs and services to customers and potential 
beneficiaries. The purpose of the outreach is to ensure that the county 
committee election process, and all FSA programs and services, are 
equally available to all customers.
    With hundreds of national partners and thousands of state and 
county partners, these outreach efforts to enhance the county committee 
election process have improved participation and awareness 
significantly over the years. Through outreach informational meetings, 
the mailing of election material packets, slide presentations, public 
service announcements, newsletters, press releases, posters, fact 
sheets, and success stories, the public have become more aware of the 
county committee structure, eligibility requirements, and nomination 
processes. More information on the county committee election process 
and election results are available in English and Spanish at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections.
    Last year, FSA outreach coordinators conducted over 7,000 outreach 
activities that reached over 4 million people nationwide. FSA does 
evaluate the effectiveness of outreach in improving election and 
program participation. In the past few years through extensive outreach 
efforts:
     Participation of beginning and minority farmers in FSA 
programs has increased;
     Farm loan assistance to immigrant farmers has increased; 
and
     SDA participation in county committee nominations and 
elections have increased.
    In addition to the county office outreach meetings, participation 
in other partner events and activities helps to ensure we are reaching 
all of our customers and potential customers. We participate in local 
and national conferences, festivals, State and county fairs, farm 
expos, and grower and producer workshops. We conduct special group 
meetings to discuss disaster assistance programs and county committee 
elections. Through the USDA Strike Force Initiative, FSA works in 
partnership with community based organizations and other USDA agencies 
to improve outreach and provide assistance to persistent poverty 
communities and farmers. FSA also participates in farm tours and Ag 
Field Days.
    Through extensive outreach, planning, promotion, and partnerships, 
FSA has shown a strong commitment to promote fair representation and 
the increase participation of eligible farmers and ranchers in all FSA 
programs. See www.fsa.usda.gov/outreach for more information.

Executive Order 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review,'' and 
Executive Order 13563, ``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,'' 
direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available 
regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select 
regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential 
economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive 
impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 emphasized the importance 
of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of 
harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility.
    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) designated this rule as 
not significant under Executive Order 12866 and therefore, OMB has not 
reviewed this final rule.

Regulatory Flexibility

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612), as amended by 
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 
(SBREFA), generally requires an agency to prepare a regulatory 
flexibility analysis of any rule subject to the notice and comment 
rulemaking requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 
U.S.C. 553) or any other statute, unless the agency certifies that the 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. FSA has determined that this rule will not 
have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities for 
the reasons explained below. Therefore, FSA has not prepared a 
regulatory flexibility analysis.
    There are no costs to comply with this rule because the regulatory 
changes were implemented through the previous interim rule. There are 
no costs of compliance with this rule for the public, and the costs for 
the previous interim rule are expected to be minimal. No comments were 
received on the proposed rule or interim rule regarding the economic 
impact on small entities. Therefore, FSA certifies that this rule will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities.

Environmental Review

    The environmental impacts of this rule have been considered in a 
manner consistent with the provisions of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347), the regulations of the 
Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), and the FSA 
regulations for compliance with NEPA (7 CFR part

[[Page 13776]]

799). The rule was determined to be Categorically Excluded. Therefore, 
no environmental assessment or environmental impact statement will be 
completed for this final rule.

Executive Order 12372

    Executive Order 12372, ``Intergovernmental Review of Federal 
Programs,'' requires consultation with State, and local officials. The 
objectives of the Executive Order are to foster an intergovernmental 
partnership and a strengthened Federalism, by relying on State, and 
local processes for State, and local government coordination and review 
of proposed Federal Financial assistance and direct Federal 
development. For reasons set forth in the Notice to 7 CFR part 3015, 
subpart V (48 FR 29115, June 24, 1983), the programs and activities 
within this rule are excluded from the scope of Executive Order 12372.

Executive Order 12988

    This rule has been reviewed in accordance with Executive Order 
12988, ``Civil Justice Reform.'' This rule is not retroactive and it 
does not preempt State, or local laws, regulations, or policies unless 
they present an irreconcilable conflict with this rule. Before any 
judicial action may be brought regarding the provisions of this rule 
the administrative appeal provisions of 7 CFR parts 11 and 780 must be 
exhausted.

Executive Order 13132

    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 13132, 
``Federalism.'' The policies contained in this rule do not have any 
substantial direct effect on States, the relationship between the 
Federal government and the States, or the distribution of power and 
responsibilities among the various levels of government. Nor does this 
rule impose substantial direct compliance costs on State, and local 
governments. Therefore, consultation with the States is not required.

Executive Order 13175

    This rule has been reviewed for compliance with Executive Order 
13175, ``Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal 
Governments.'' Executive Order 13175 imposes requirements on the 
development of regulatory policies that have Tribal implications or 
preempt Tribal laws. The policies contained in this rule do not preempt 
Tribal law.
    FSA has been working closely with the USDA Office of Tribal 
Relations to ensure that the rule meets the concerns of Tribal leaders 
and to develop a plan to improve the rule implementation with FSA 
staff. USDA will also respond in a timely and meaningful manner to all 
Tribal government requests for consultation concerning this rule and 
will provide additional venues, such as webinars and teleconferences, 
to periodically host collaborative conversations with Tribal leaders 
and their representatives concerning ways to implement this rule in 
Indian country. We received one comment on the interim rule, from a 
group representing Tribal farmers and ranchers. That comment is 
addressed above and noted that the local county committee and local FSA 
office should improve outreach efforts to Tribal members.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA, Pub. L. 
104-4) requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of their 
regulatory actions on State, local, or Tribal governments or the 
private sector. Agencies generally must prepare a written statement, 
including a cost benefit analysis, for proposed and final rules with 
Federal mandates that may result in expenditures of $100 million or 
more in any 1 year for State, local, or Tribal governments, in the 
aggregate, or to the private sector. UMRA generally requires agencies 
to consider alternatives and adopt the more cost effective or least 
burdensome alternative that achieves the objectives of the rule. This 
rule contains no Federal mandates under the regulatory provisions of 
Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) for State, 
local, or Tribal governments, or the private sector. Therefore, this 
rule is not subject to the requirements of sections 202 and 205 of 
UMRA.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Currently approved information collection activities are covered 
under OMB control number 0560-0229. This rule involves no change to the 
currently approved collection of information.

E-Government Act Compliance

    FSA is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote 
the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide 
increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information 
and services, and for other purposes.

List of Subjects for 7 CFR Part 7

    Agriculture.

PART 7--SELECTION AND FUNCTIONS OF FARM SERVICE AGENCY STATE AND 
COUNTY COMMITTEES

0
Accordingly, we are adopting as final, without change, the interim rule 
that amended 7 CFR part 7 and that was published at 77 FR 33063-33075 
on June 5, 2012.

    Signed on December 4, 2012.
Thomas J. Vilsack,
Secretary of Agriculture.
[FR Doc. 2013-04790 Filed 2-28-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-05-P