Opens Doors To Regulatory Hearings Via the Internet
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has used the Internet to
eliminate the voluminous paperwork, procedure, and distance
that shut most citizens out of regulatory rulemaking.
The Agricultural Marketing Service's Internet Rulemaking for
Organic Food Standards program makes the entire process available
online via the agency's Website. A "virtual reading
room" replaces thousands of pages of reference materials
and reams of public meeting transcripts and comments.
This creative use of the Internet has reaped a record-breaking
275,000 comments on a proposed rule. Today, the program
was named one of 25 finalists for the Innovations in American
innovative programs demonstrate each year that American democracy
consistently changes while producing outstanding results,"
said Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation, which
sponsors the awards program. "We hold them up not
only as models of success, but also as evidence of the dynamic
nature of American governments."
year the Innovations in American Government Awards will honor
the top 25 government initiatives that address today's toughest
issues. These successful programs will be granted a
total of $1.3 million to encourage their replication in other
governments across the country. With its selection as
one of 25 finalists, Internet Rulemaking on Organic Food Standards
already has distinguished itself as a leading example of a
government agency tackling a tough situation -and succeeding
-by using an innovative and creative approach.
Innovations in American Government Awards recognize not only
outstanding federal government programs but innovative programs
from all levels of government - federal, state and local,
as well as tribal. This year, five federal programs
have been named finalists for the Innovations Awards.
In addition to Internet Rulemaking for Organic Food Standards,
other federal programs that have been selected come from the
Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Care Financing
Administration, and the Department of Defense.
are honored to have been chosen as a finalist for the Innovations
in American Government Award," said Dr. Enrique E. Figueroa,
Administrator, USDA/Agricultural Marketing Service.
"We have worked very hard to include the people in rulemaking
decisions, and hope that Internet Rulemaking on Organic Food
Standards can be a model for other agencies to do the same."
October 13, representatives from the USDA will describe the
program and answer questions before the Innovations in American
Government Awards National Selection Committee. On the
following day, the Committee will announce the 10 winning
programs. The National Selection Committee is composed
of former elected officials, private industry and civic leaders,
and is chaired by David Gergen, former advisor to four presidents
and current editor-at-large at U.S. News & World Report.
Rulemaking on Organic Food Standards -Background
The USDA and many other government agencies are required to
seek public comment as they write proposed regulatory rules.
This law gives citizens and other stakeholders the opportunity
to voice their concerns and opinions and it gives agencies
a broader perspective of the impact of their rules.
For average citizens who wished to comment, however, the process
isn't always user-friendly. Often, they are required
to travel to Washington, D.C., pore over massive amounts of
paper files, public comment letters, and reference materials.
This leaves rulemaking to individuals who are familiar with
the Federal Register or to attorneys and lobbyists in the
field -not to the average citizen.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service developed the Internet
Rulemaking on Organic Food Standards system to put rulemaking
back into the hands of the people. Now, instead of going
to the USDA's offices in Washington, D.C. to submit a comment,
people concerned with a proposed rule can log onto the USDA's
Website: www.ams.usda.gov/nop. Internet Rulemaking on
Organic Food Standards has resulted in a record-breaking 275,000
comments on a proposed rule. During the public comment
period, the Website received 369,000 hits -an average of 2,700
public can also access the site's "virtual reading room"
which has reference materials, transcripts of public meetings,
and comments about the proposed rule. The agency must
use the administrative record to draft the final rule, giving
the people a voice in decision making.
the Innovations Awards Program
The Innovations in American Government Awards are funded by
the Ford Foundation and administered by the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University, in partnership
with the Council for Excellence in Government. The Innovations
in American Government Awards received more than 1,600 applications
in 1999. In May, the field was narrowed to 98 semifinalists,
and today's announcement reduced the number of contestants
to just 25. Each of the 25 finalists receives a $20,000
grant from the Ford Foundation to be used toward replicating
its program in other areas. The winners of the ten $100,000
grants will be announced on October 14, in Washington, D.C.
the Innovations program began granting awards in 1986, the
Ford Foundation has made grants totaling $14.6 million to
125 winners and 105 finalists. More than 85 percent
of the programs receiving Innovations Awards have been replicated.
Ford Foundation, established in 1936, is a private, non-profit
institution that serves as a resource for innovative people
and institutions worldwide. Its goals are to strengthen
democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international
cooperation, and advance human achievement. A national
and international philanthropy with assets of more than $11
billion, the Foundation has provided more than $9 billion
in grants and loans to some 9,000 institutions and 100,000
University's John F. Kennedy School of Government is a
graduate school of public policy dedicated to preparing leaders
for service in government and other institutions of democratic
societies and to contributing to the solution of important
Council for Excellence in Government is a national, non-profit
and nonpartisan organization whose 750 members have served
as senior public-sector officials. Its mission is to
improve the performance of government by strengthening results-oriented
management and creative leadership in the public sector and
to build understanding in government by focusing public discussion
on its role and responsibilities.
to the Innovations
Innovations in American Government Program
Awards Program of the Ford Foundation and Harvard Universityıs
F. Kennedy School of Government in partnership
the Council for Excellence in Government