Federal agencies lay out regulatory plans

January 6, 2022

Federal agencies, including the USDA and FDA, plan an array of actions in 2022 that will affect the egg industry. The plans, laid out in a “unified regulatory agenda” that is updated twice a year, provide an advance look at agency priorities and the timing of rules – although experience says the dates in the agenda should not be taken literally. For example, the list makes it look like January is going to be a very active month for USDA, but many of the listed actions may slip until later in the year.

The Agriculture Department plans to –

  • Finalize regulations for COVID-19 pandemic assistance programs (projected for November 2021 but not yet published);
  • Seek comments, through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, on “a possible new approach to indemnity value determination and a new framework for the indemnity regulations“ that could affect indemnities for avian influenza and other diseases (January 2022);
  • Propose changes to APHIS’s rules on animal traceability that are expected to primarily affect cattle, but will need to be reviewed for any poultry impacts (March 2022);
  • Propose updates to the list of bioengineered foods subject to disclosure (January 2022);
  • Propose rules that would govern the use of poultry grower ranking systems (these systems apply to broilers, not layers, but will be an indicator of the administration’s regulatory policies for poultry generally) (January 2022);
  • Clarify the scope of the Packers and Stockyards Act (the Act does not apply to layers, but it will be important to review the proposed rule to ensure no unintended effects) (January 2022);
  • Propose a new rule on organic livestock and poultry standards that is expected to include changes to outdoor and indoor space requirements, among other provisions (March 2022);
  • Finalize changes to the accreditation of non-federal laboratories for meat, poultry and egg product testing (February 2022); and
  • Propose changes to food packages provided in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) (eggs are included in WIC) (April 2022).
  • Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) (eggs are included in WIC) (April 2022).

Among the items on the FDA’s list, the agency intends to –

  • In tandem with USDA, update the general principles for setting standards of identity for foods (these have gotten attention because plant-based products have used terms like “milk” and “eggs” in labeling, in apparent violation of the rules) (September 2022);
  • Update provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act that determine whether facilities are required to register with FDA, including changes to the definition of “farm” (currently, most egg farms are exempt from FSMA as farms) (May 2022);
  • Propose changes to the requirements for foods to be labeled as “healthy” (projected for December 2021 but still under review at the Office of Management and Budget);
  • Modify FSMA regulations on fresh produce, changes that could have implications for the land application of manure (projected for November 2021 but still pending); and
  • Issue a final rule updating the definition of “small number of animals” for purposes of minor-use animal drug applications (May 2022).

The unified agenda covers only regulations, but agencies also issue guidance documents that can be important to affected industries. Two guidance documents that FDA expects to issue by June will have an impact on the egg industry:

  • Guidance for the use of dairy terms (“milk,” “yogurt,” etc.) by plant-based products, which will likely set precedents that will determine FDA’s attitude toward egg imitators; and
  • Guidance for outdoor access for layers to comply with the Egg Safety Rule.