Environmental Policies and Procedures; Compliance With the National Environmental Policy Act and Related Authorities
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is consolidating, updating, and amending its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). FSA's previous NEPA regulations had been in place since 1980. Significant changes to the structure of FSA and the scope of FSA's programs require changes in FSA's NEPA regulations. The changes will also better align FSA's NEPA regulations with the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations and meet the FSA responsibilities for periodic review of their categorical exclusions (CatExs). CatExs involve proposed actions that typically do not result in individual or cumulative significant environmental effects or impacts and therefore do not merit further environmental review in an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The additions to the existing list of CatExs improves the clarity and consistency of the regulations. This final rule also expands and clarifies the list of proposed actions that require an EA. The FSA NEPA implementing regulations also cover the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) programs that FSA administers on behalf of CCC. In addition, this rule makes conforming changes to existing references to FSA NEPA regulations in other FSA regulations. The revisions to the FSA NEPA implementing regulations are intended to improve transparency and clarity of the FSA NEPA process for FSA program participants, and to provide for a more efficient environmental review that will lead to better decisions and outcomes for stakeholders and the environment. Finally, in coordination with the Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Rural Utilities Service, this rule removes the old NEPA regulations.