Federal Procurement, NAFTA, and Agricultural Issues Highlight San Antonio Roundtable
By Bruce Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel
The Office of Advocacy hosted a Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable in San Antonio, Texas on March 19th that attracted dozens of small businesses and their representatives who were eager to discuss federal regulations that impact small businesses. Given San Antonio’s location as a major industrial, military, and agricultural hub, it was not surprising that federal procurement and trade issues highlighted the discussion.
Representatives of the Texas Retailers Association kicked off the discussion by suggesting that while renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a good idea, they were concerned that if not done properly it could do more harm than good. They specifically support modernizing the agreement to represent the modern economy, such as by eliminating digital barriers that inhibit trade.
Next, several small businesses that provide goods and services to the federal government and military complained that federal procurement regulations were not keeping pace with new and exponential technologies. They stated that while the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) are supposed to be flexible and open, the reality is that it has become cumbersome and contradictory. One small business stated that federal agencies, especially the military, will not accept new technologies, such as beneficial water saving devices. Another complained that small businesses were being forced to compete with large businesses who spin-off subsidiaries to compete on particular procurements. Finally, another small business complained that many government jobs are commercial in nature, and should be outsourced to the competitive private sector.
There were also several financial institutions that participated. One, an auto dealer with a related finance company, said he was forced to comply with burdensome paperwork requirements that require him to send 1099 tax forms to customers whose vehicles are repossessed. A commercial banker complained that commercial lenders and the U.S. Small Business Administration need to sync up their regulations for lending on commercial real estate projects during construction.
Agricultural issues were also discussed, particularly with respect to new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations. One small, non-profit complained about the soil-borne disease provisions of the rules, saying they were unduly strict, and suggested that the size standard for small farms needed to be raised because it disincentives small farms from growing past $500,000 in sales. Another farmer stated that the “cottage food” regulations that regulate the sale of foods people produce themselves were too restrictive and unduly burdensome.
Many other issues were raised as well, including concerns by a telecommunications tower company that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was going to promulgate complex rules for tower construction safety when the industry has already developed comprehensive safety standards that OSHA could adopt. A land surveying and mapping company praised the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) new rules on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) (i.e., drones), but complained that they were too restrictive and prevented many beneficial uses that would bring value and improved safety.
Attendees at the roundtable expressed appreciation that someone was there listening to them, but expressed frustration that so many issues have existed for years without resolution.
Advocacy was in San Antonio and Houston, Texas for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable and NAFTA Modernization Outreach Meetings on March 19-20.
Can’t get to a roundtable near you? Fill out this form and tell us about your federal regulatory burdens. We will pass this information on to the appropriate agency and use it in the planning of upcoming Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables.
Bruce Lundegren is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes safety, transportation, and security. Lundegren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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