USDA Asks for Input on AWA Licensing Requirements

This morning the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published in the Federal Register an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking and request for public comments regarding procedures for applying for licenses and renewals at the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The notice in the Federal Register states, “We are soliciting public comment on potential revisions to the licensing requirements under our Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to promote compliance with the Act, reduce licensing fees, and strengthen existing safeguards that prevent any individual whose license has been suspended or revoked, or who has a history of noncompliance, from obtaining a license or working with regulated animals. We are soliciting public comment on these topics to help us consider ways to reduce regulatory burden and more efficiently ensure the sustained compliance of licensees with the Act.”

The notice outlines several changes regarding licensing requirements that are under consideration by the USDA, such as eliminating license application fees and annual license fees, requiring applicants to disclose animal cruelty violations, and specifying procedures so licensees have time to apply for licenses.

The USDA invites the public to provide data and information regarding potential economic effects, alternatives to reduce regulatory burden, and suggestions to ensure the compliance of licensees with the AWA.

Additionally, the USDA’s notice calls for comments on four questions, which are excerpted below in full:

  1. Should we propose to establish a firm expiration date for licenses (such as 3-5 years) and if so, what should that date be and why? Please provide supporting data.
  2. What fees would be reasonable to assess for licenses issued? Are the existing license fees (9 CFR 2.6) reasonable, or should they be adjusted to take additional factors into consideration, such as the type of animals used in regulated activities? Please provide data in support of any proposed adjustments to the license fees.
  3. In addition to the existing prohibitions on any person whose license has been suspended or revoked from buying, selling, transporting, exhibiting, or delivering for transportation animals during the period of suspension or revocation (9 CFR 2.10(c)), should such persons be prohibited from engaging in other activities involving animals regulated under the AWA, such as working for other AWA-regulated entities or using other individual names or business entities to apply for a license? Please suggest specific activities that should be covered and provide supporting data and information.
  4. Do you have any other specific concerns or recommendations for reducing regulatory burdens involving the licensing process or otherwise improving the licensing requirements under the AWA?

The announcement of this notice coincides with the 51st anniversary of the AWA. Public comments may be submitted online or in writing through October 23, 2017. Comments will be available for public viewing after submission. NABR plans to submit comments and we encourage your institution to do so as well.

USDA Calls for Public Comments on Regulatory Reform

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comments from the public about the regulatory burden they have experienced and ideas for regulatory reform at the department. Specifically, USDA is looking for “public ideas on regulations, guidance documents, or any other policy documents that are in need of reform, for example ideas to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal those items.”

Public comments will be accepted in four batches over a one-year period; the deadline for the first batch is September 15. The second batch of comments is due on November 14. The third and fourth batches are due on February 12, 2018 and July 17, 2018, respectively. NABR is planning to submit comments during the November batch and we encourage your institution to submit comments as well.

The questions below have been excerpted in full from the USDA’s notice in the Federal Registrar:

  1. Are there any regulations that should be repealed, replaced, or modified?
  2. For each regulation identified in question number 1, please identify whether the regulation:
    1. Results in the elimination of jobs, or inhibits job creation;
    2. Is outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
    3. Imposes costs that exceed benefits;
    4. Creates a serious inconsistency or otherwise interferes with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
    5. Is inconsistent with the requirements or regulations of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), which requires that agencies maximize the quality, objectivity, and integrity of the information (including statistical information) they disseminate; or
    6. Derives from or implements Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.
  3. Are there any existing USDA requirements that duplicate or conflict with requirements of another Federal agency? Can the requirement be modified to eliminate the conflict?
  4. What are the estimated total compliance costs of the USDA regulations to which you or your organization must comply? This should include the costs of complying with information collections, recordkeeping, and other requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Comments may be submitted electronically, by mail, hand delivery, or courier. The USDA has requested that submitters please specify “Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives” in the comment for submission. To read the full notice in the Federal Register and to submit comments, please click here.

USDA FOIA Logs Posted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published on its website a list of all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were submitted to the department in 2017. NABR is analyzing the documents and will report any findings of interest to the biomedical research community.

FOIA was enacted in 1966 to promote transparency and ensure accountability of government officials and agencies. The law permits the public to request records owned by federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To review NABR’s analysis of FY 2016 FOIA requests from animal rights groups please click here (log-in required).

Recording of “Q&A with the USDA: The Fifth Edition” Now Available for Online Viewing

If you were unable to attend NABR’s exclusive July 18 webinar or just want to see it again, the recording is now available online for on-demand viewing.

Please click here to view “Q&A with the USDA: The Fifth Edition.” You will need your NABR Members Only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

You can find all of NABR’s past webinars, including this one, in an online library in the Members Only section of our website.

If you have problems logging in or have any questions about the webinar, please contact us at info@nabr.org.

Spending Bills Approved and Advanced on Capitol Hill

Late last week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $20.5 billion agriculture spending bill. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act will fund programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for FY2018. The bill includes a $4.8 billion increase to the amount proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, but $7.9 billion less than the previous year’s funding level. Of interest to the animal research community is the allocation of $953.2 million for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency that regulates and inspects animal research laboratories. This is $143.2 million above Trump’s budget request for APHIS and $7 million above the funding level for FY2017. The bill was approved by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Also last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $156 billion Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for FY 2018. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Bill contains $21.6 billion more than the amount proposed by Trump and $34.7 billion more than the funding level for FY2018. The spending bill contains $35.2 billion for the NIH ($8.6 billion increase to the Trump’s budget proposal and $1.1 billion increase to FY 2017 allocation) and was approved by the subcommittee on July 13. The bill contains language that directs the NIH to develop a plan to speed up the process of transferring retired research chimpanzees to retirement sanctuaries.

Please stay tuned for more important updates from NABR during the Appropriations process.

NABR Releases FY2016 FOIA Analysis – Government Costs Increase

NABR has prepared a review of federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were submitted by animal rights organizations in Fiscal Year 2016. FOIA was enacted in 1966 to promote transparency and ensure accountability of government officials and agencies. The law permits members of the public to submit requests for records in the possession of federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In FY 2016, both USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the NIH received a significant number of requests from animal rights activists. As outlined in further detail in NABR’s FY2016 FOIA Analysis (log-in required), these agencies received 12% more requests from animal rights groups than the previous year, and the cost for the government to respond to the requests increased by 20%.

NABR believes animal rights activists will continue to submit broad requests for large amounts of data about research facilities in FY 2017 in part because of the USDA’s decision on February 3 to temporarily remove the Animal Care Inspection Service (ACIS) database. NABR will continue to monitor FOIA requests submitted to federal agencies and, when possible, alert members if they are named in the requests. Research facilities should carefully review all information submitted to federal agencies. To read the full FY2016 FOIA Analysis, please click here (log-in required).

House Appropriations Committee Marks-Up FY18 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

Last Wednesday the full House Appropriations Committee considered the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for FY18 to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was appropriated $906 million, $96 million more than the President’s requested amount, but $40 million short of the FY17 funding level. The FDA will receive $2.8 billion, the same as in FY17. The bill also appropriates $60 million to the FDA as part of the 21st Century Cures initiative enacted last winter. Including revenue from user fees, total funding for the FDA is $5.2 billion, $490 million more than in FY17. The USDA will not resume funding the renewal of Class B licensed dealers in FY18. The report requires that most of a $400,000 increase be used to establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The committee also addressed the February 3 removal of data from the USDA’s Animal Care Inspection System database, noting in the report that the USDA “must utilize the resources provided in this bill to promptly finish reviewing the information on its website, restore all legally permissible records previously removed, and resume posting on the USDA website.”

To read the FY18 agriculture appropriations bill, click here. The committee’s report on the bill can be found here.

$2 Billion Increase for NIH in Omnibus Spending Bill

House and Senate leadership reached an agreement around 2:00 A.M. Monday morning on a spending bill that would fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2017, which ends September 30, 2017. The spending bill contains an increase of $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is 6.2 percent above the funding level provided in FY 2016. In total, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would receive $2.8 billion more in funding than the amount that was allocated for FY 2016.

Also in the spending bill is $153.4 billion for programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a $12.8 increase from FY 2016 levels.

Of interest to the animal research community is a provision that would prohibit any federal funds from being used to carry out activities related to the issuance or renewal of licenses under the USDA’s Animal Welfare Act to Class B dealers who sell dogs and cats for research, experiments, teaching or testing. The provision repeats a similar provision included in spending bills last year. The prohibition on funding does not apply to all Class B license activities.

Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) praised the omnibus spending bill and lauded the importance of funding medical research by stating in a press release: “The funding provided in this bill reflects the priorities of the American people, and puts us on track to maintain a robust, sustained federal commitment to medical research. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill, and I’ll continue working to ensure NIH has the resources it needs to give hope to more families battling cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases.”

The agreement comes just a few days after legislators scrambled to avoid a government shutdown. Funding for FY 2016 expired in December, and the continuing resolution that was keeping the government operating throughout the past several months expired on Friday, April 28. To prevent a shutdown, Congress approved a one week extension, which expires this Friday, May 5 at midnight. The deal reached last night by House and Senate leadership has been reported as a bipartisan agreement.

The spending bill is expected to pass both the House and Senate before Friday’s midnight deadline. To read the full 1665-page text of the bill, click here. Stay tuned for more Updates from NABR about the spending bill and NIH funding.

BREAKING NEWS: Governor Sonny Perdue Confirmed as Agriculture Secretary

This afternoon Governor Sonny Perdue was confirmed by the Senate to be U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by a vote of 87-11-1. Prior to the full Senate’s vote, Perdue was vetted by the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 30. His confirmation passed through the committee with only Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voting no. Perdue has been a relatively uncontroversial Cabinet pick with Republicans and Democrats being on board with his confirmation.

As Agriculture Secretary, Perdue will head a department that oversees a broad area of programs from crop insurance to nutrition, forestry, rural development, and international trade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also houses the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which is responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the federal law that oversees the humane use of animals in biomedical research programs.

Perdue is a veterinarian by training, the owner of several small agribusinesses and he was also the governor of Georgia from 2003-2011. Perdue has previously stated that reducing regulatory burden will be one of his goals at the helm of the USDA. Please continue to check your email, follow us on Twitter, or visit NABR.org for the latest news coverage on Secretary Perdue’s confirmation.

Recording of Last Week’s NABR Webinar is Now Available Online

Did you miss last week’s NABR webinar? Want to watch it again? Interested in hosting a lunch-and-learn opportunity for your staff?  NABR’s April 11 webinar, "USDA Animal Search Tool – Deactivated: The Impact on the Research Community" is now available online for on-demand viewing.

Please click here to view "USDA Animal Search Tool – Deactivated: The Impact on the Research Community." You will need your NABR members-only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

You can find all of NABR’s past webinars, including this one, in an online library in the Members Only section of our website.

If you have problems logging in or have any questions about the webinar, please contact us at info@nabr.org.

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