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 Government Awards.
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
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 a day.
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
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 individuals worldwide.
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 public problems.
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
to the Innovations
Innovations in American Government Program
Awards Program of the Ford Foundation and Harvard
F. Kennedy School of Government in partnership
the Council for Excellence in Government