President Obama has requested that Congress give him the authority to consolidate government agencies to remove duplication of services and reduce costs.
Under the proposal, the first agencies to be combined would be the U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The President claims that consolidating these agencies into one would streamline the process for new and existing companies to grow. The National Oceanic and Fisheries Administration would be moved from Commerce to the Interior Department. USDA’s Foreign Service Agency was originally included in the proposal, but was removed since it must work closely with other USDA offices.
According to the subscription service The Hagstrom Report, some exporters of agricultural products have complained about the process of having to work with the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Commerce Department, so consolidation of these agencies may provide some relief. However, some groups, such as the American Soybean Association, fear that consolidating these agencies may impair the ability of the U.S. Trade Representative to encourage removal of agricultural trade barriers. Historically, the U.S. Trade Representative has worked closely with USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service to remove trade barriers for organic products. Notably, the U.S. Trade Representative played a key role in the organic standards equivalency agreement signed with Canada in 2008, and continues to work on an equivalency agreement with the European Union. These equivalency agreements are critical to expand markets for American organic products.
The Hagstrom Report also reports that USDA’s Food Service Inspection Agency, which is responsible for inspecting meat plants, may be moved to the Food and Drug Administration.
A fact sheet on the proposal has been posted to the White House website, and is available here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/13/government-reorganization-fact-sheet.
OTA will track the President’s proposed consolidation of agencies, and provide updates on the potential impacts to the organic industry.