[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 93 (Tuesday, May 14, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 28118-28120]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-11393]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 955

[Doc. No. AMS-FV-12-0071; FV13-955-1 IR]


Vidalia Onions Grown in Georgia; Change in Reporting and 
Assessment Requirements

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Interim rule with request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule changes the reporting and assessment requirements 
currently prescribed under the marketing order for Vidalia onions grown 
in Georgia (order). The order regulates the handling of Vidalia onions 
grown in Georgia and is administered locally by the Vidalia Onion 
Committee (Committee). This rule changes the date by which handlers are 
required to submit monthly shipping reports and their corresponding 
assessments to the Committee from the fifth day of the month to the 
tenth day of the month. In addition, this rule also changes the due 
date to the first business day after the tenth of the month should the 
tenth fall on a weekend or a holiday. These changes are expected to 
benefit handlers without negatively affecting program compliance.

DATES: Effective May 15, 2013; comments received by July 15, 2013 will 
be considered prior to issuance of a final rule.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments 
concerning this rule. Comments must be sent to the Docket Clerk, 
Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, 
AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 
20250-0237; Fax: (202) 720-8938; or Internet: http://www.regulations.gov. All comments should reference the document number 
and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and 
will be made available for public inspection in the Office of the 
Docket Clerk during regular business hours, or can be viewed at: http://www.regulations.gov. All comments submitted in response to this rule 
will be included in the record and will be made available to the 
public. Please be advised that the identity of the individuals or 
entities submitting the comments will be made public on the Internet at 
the address provided above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Corey Elliott, Marketing Specialist, 
or Christian Nissen, Regional Director, Southeast Marketing Field 
Office, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and Vegetable 
Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (863) 324-3378, Fax: (863) 325-8793, or 
Email: Corey.Elliott@ams.usda.gov or Christian.Nissen@ams.usda.gov.
    Small businesses may request information on complying with this 
regulation by contacting Jeffrey Smutny, Marketing Order and Agreement 
Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence 
Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237; Telephone: (202) 720-
2491, Fax: (202) 720-8938, or Email: Jeffrey.Smutny@ams.usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This rule is issued under Marketing 
Agreement and Order No. 955, as amended (7 CFR part 955), regulating 
the handling of Vidalia onions grown in Georgia, hereinafter referred 
to as the ``order.'' The order is effective under the Agricultural 
Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601-674), 
hereinafter referred to as the ``Act.''
    The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing this rule in 
conformance with Executive Order 12866.
    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. This rule is not intended to have retroactive effect.
    The Act provides that administrative proceedings must be exhausted 
before parties may file suit in court. Under section 608c(15)(A) of the 
Act, any handler subject to an order may file with USDA a petition 
stating that the order, any provision of the order, or any obligation 
imposed in connection with the order is not in accordance with law and 
request a modification of the order or to be exempted therefrom. A 
handler is afforded the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. 
After the hearing, USDA would rule on the petition. The Act provides 
that the district court of the United States in any district in which 
the handler is an inhabitant, or has his or her principal place of 
business, has jurisdiction to review USDA's ruling on the petition, 
provided an action is filed not later than 20 days after the date of 
the entry of the ruling.
    This rule changes the reporting and assessment requirements 
currently prescribed under the order. This rule changes the date by 
which handlers are required to submit monthly shipping reports and 
their corresponding assessments to the Committee from the fifth day of 
the month to the tenth day of the month. In addition, this rule also 
changes the due date to the first business day after the tenth of the 
month should the tenth fall on a weekend or a holiday. These changes 
are expected to benefit handlers without negatively affecting program 
compliance. The Committee unanimously recommended these changes at a 
meeting on August 9, 2012.
    Section 955.60 of the order provides authority for the Committee to 
require handlers to file reports and provide information as may be 
necessary for the Committee to perform its duties. Section 955.101 of 
the regulations provides the requisite reporting requirements. 
Currently this section provides, in part, that handlers are required to 
file with the Committee a monthly shipping report on the fifth day of 
each month following the month in which shipments were made.
    Section 955.42 provides the authority for the collection of 
assessments from handlers to administer the order and the authority to 
establish the time and rate of assessments. Section 955.142 specifies 
that handler assessments are required to be paid on a monthly basis 
corresponding with the due date of the monthly shipping reports. In 
addition, Sec. Sec.  955.101 and 955.142 specify that should the fifth 
day of the month fall on a weekend or holiday, both reports and 
assessments are due on the first business day prior to the fifth.
    This rule revises Sec. Sec.  955.101 and 955.142 to require that 
handlers submit monthly shipping reports and assessments to the 
Committee by the tenth day of the month following the month in which 
shipments were made. This rule also changes the reporting and 
assessment requirements to state that if the tenth falls on a weekend 
or holiday, the monthly reports and assessments are due on the first 
business day after the tenth day of the month.
    At the August meeting, the Committee discussed that the industry 
has expressed concern regarding the difficulties some handlers were 
having in submitting their reports and assessments by the fifth of the 
month. Some handlers have reported that the current due date of the 
fifth of the month has created a hardship for them because of the short 
turnaround time for preparing the monthly shipping report and getting 
it submitted to the

[[Page 28119]]

Committee with their assessment payment by the due date.
    Some of the data on the shipping report is not available or 
verifiable until after the final day of the month when all shipments 
have been made. This data is necessary for the handlers to prepare and 
submit accurate shipping reports to the Committee and to pay 
assessments associated with those shipments. Handlers routinely find 
that they do not have sufficient time to close out their internal 
month-end sales paperwork in time to complete and submit their monthly 
reports and the assessment payment by the fifth of the month.
    Further, for those times when the fifth falls on a weekend or 
holiday, the first business day before the weekend or holiday could be 
as early as the second of the month. This can make it even more 
difficult for handlers to meet the established due date. Handlers who 
have the staff necessary to gather data quickly can have a difficult 
time getting reports and assessments to the Committee office in just 
two days. Such a short turnaround can be even more challenging for 
smaller operations.
    In addition, the Committee established penalties and an increased 
interest rate for late assessments in 2011. Although this has helped 
improve compliance with reporting and assessment requirements, handlers 
that were already having trouble submitting their monthly reports and 
assessments now face interest and late fees on late payments.
    Therefore, the Committee voted unanimously to extend the monthly 
reporting and assessment due date an additional five days to the tenth 
of the month. For those occasions when the tenth falls on a weekend or 
a holiday, the due date will be the next business day following the 
tenth. These changes will allow handlers additional reporting time, and 
should provide handlers sufficient time to receive the sales and 
shipment data information needed to complete their monthly reports and 
to submit their assessments.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    Pursuant to requirements set forth in the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act (RFA) (5 U.S.C. 601-612), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) 
has considered the economic impact of this action on small entities. 
Accordingly, AMS has prepared this initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis.
    The purpose of the RFA is to fit regulatory actions to the scale of 
business subject to such actions in order that small businesses will 
not be unduly or disproportionately burdened. Marketing orders issued 
pursuant to the Act, and the rules issued thereunder, are unique in 
that they are brought about through group action of essentially small 
entities acting on their own behalf.
    There are approximately 40 handlers of Vidalia onions who are 
subject to regulation under the order and approximately 80 onion 
producers in the designated production area. Small agricultural service 
firms, which include handlers, are defined by the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) as those having annual receipts of less than 
$7,000,000, and small agricultural producers are defined as those 
having annual receipts of less than $750,000. (13 CFR 121.201).
    Based on National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) and 
Committee data, the average annual grower price for fresh Vidalia 
onions during the 2012 season was around $17 per 40-pound container, 
and total Vidalia onion shipments were around 4,450,000 40-pound 
containers. Using available data, more than 90 percent of Vidalia onion 
handlers have annual receipts less than $7,000,000. However, the 
average receipts for Vidalia producers were around $946,000 in 2012, 
which is higher than the SBA threshold for small producers. Assuming a 
normal distribution, the majority of handlers of Vidalia onions may be 
classified as small entities, while the majority of producers may be 
classified as large entities, according to the SBA definition.
    This rule changes the reporting and assessment requirements 
currently prescribed under the order. This rule revises Sec. Sec.  
955.101 and 955.142 to change when monthly shipping reports and 
assessments, respectively, are due to the Committee from the fifth day 
of the month to the tenth day of the month following the month in which 
the shipments were made. In addition, this rule also changes both 
sections to specify that should the tenth fall on a weekend or a 
holiday, the due date will be the first business day after the tenth of 
the month. Authority for these changes is provided for in Sec. Sec.  
955.60 and 955.42. These changes are expected to benefit handlers 
without negatively affecting program compliance. The Committee 
unanimously recommended these changes at a meeting on August 9, 2012.
    It is not anticipated that this action will impose any additional 
costs on the industry. This action relaxes the current due dates for 
monthly reports and assessments, which should benefit all businesses. 
Handlers may see reduced costs as they will have more time to submit 
reports without accruing late payment penalties. While the majority of 
Vidalia onion handlers are considered to be small businesses, the 
effects of this rule are not expected to be disproportionately greater 
or less for small entities than for larger entities.
    As an alternative to this action, the Committee considered making 
no change to the current regulations. However, filing reports and 
paying assessments by the fifth day of the month was a hardship for 
some handlers. Thus, the Committee determined that action was needed, 
and this alternative was rejected.
    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
chapter 35), the order's information collection requirements have been 
previously approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and 
assigned OMB No. 0581-0178 (Generic Vegetable Crops). No changes in 
those requirements as a result of this action are necessary. Should any 
changes become necessary, they would be submitted to OMB for approval.
    This rule will not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements on either small or large Vidalia onion handlers. As with 
all Federal marketing order programs, reports and forms are 
periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and 
duplication by industry and public sector agencies.
    AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote 
the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide 
increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information 
and services, and for other purposes.
    In addition, USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules 
that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this rule.
    Further, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout 
the Vidalia onion industry, and all interested persons were invited to 
attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all 
issues. Like all Committee meetings, the August 9, 2012, meeting was a 
public meeting, and all entities, both large and small, were able to 
express their views on this issue.
    Finally, interested persons are invited to submit comments on this 
interim rule, including the regulatory and informational impacts of 
this action on small businesses.
    A small business guide on complying with fruit, vegetable, and 
specialty crop marketing agreements and orders may be viewed at: 
www.ams.usda.gov/MarketingOrdersSmallBusinessGuide. Any questions about 
the compliance

[[Page 28120]]

guide should be sent to Jeffrey Smutny at the previously mentioned 
address in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section.
    This rule invites comments on changes to the reporting and 
assessment requirements currently prescribed under the order. Any 
comments received will be considered prior to finalization of this 
rule.
    After consideration of all relevant material presented, including 
the Committee's recommendation and other information, it is found that 
this interim rule, as hereinafter set forth, will tend to effectuate 
the declared policy of the Act.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553, it is also found and determined upon good 
cause that it is impracticable, unnecessary, and contrary to the public 
interest to give preliminary notice prior to putting this rule into 
effect and that good cause exists for not postponing the effective date 
of this rule until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register 
because: (1) This rule relaxes requirements by giving handlers 
additional time to submit monthly reports and assessments; (2) Vidalia 
onion handlers began shipping onions on April 17; (3) this issue has 
been widely discussed at industry meetings, and the Committee has kept 
the industry well informed; (4) the Committee unanimously recommended 
these changes at a public meeting and interested parties had an 
opportunity to provide input; and (5) this rule provides a 60-day 
comment period, and any comments received will be considered prior to 
finalization of this rule.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 955

    Marketing agreements, Onions, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 955 is 
amended as follows:

PART 955--VIDALIA ONIONS GROWN IN GEORGIA

0
1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 955 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 7 U.S.C. 601-674.


Sec.  955.101  [Amended]

0
2. In Sec.  955.101, paragraph (b) is amended by revising the word 
``fifth'' to read ``tenth'', and the words ``prior to'' to read 
``following'' respectively, everywhere they appear.


Sec.  955.142  [Amended]

0
3. In Sec.  955.142, paragraph (a) is amended by revising the word 
``fifth'' to read ``tenth'', and the words ``prior to'' to read 
``following'' respectively, everywhere they appear.

    Dated: May 9, 2013.
Rex A. Barnes,
Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-11393 Filed 5-13-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P