The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on March 2, 2016, issued a Final Rule on its Environmental Policies and Procedures (7 CFR Parts 25, 1701, 1709, et al.) that will affect actions by four agencies within USDA, including the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Many RUS borrowers opposed the Proposed Rule because it would have required the application of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to many RUS actions that today are not considered "major federal actions" and thus not subject to environmental review.

The Final Rule expressly states that "[l]ien sharing [i.e., lien accommodation] is not an action for the purposes of this part" and further provides that "[s]ervicing actions are directly related to financial assistance already provided, do not require separate NEPA review, and are not actions for the purposes of this part."

RUS received more than 500 comments on the Proposed Rule. Approximately 90 percent of those comments addressed concerns over the treatment of lien sharing and loan-servicing actions.

A number of the changes in the Final Rule, including those related to lien sharing and loan-servicing actions, serve to "clarify and reflect Agency practice under current Agency regulations."