[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 161 (Tuesday, August 20, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 51098-51100]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-20264]


========================================================================
Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.

========================================================================


Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 20, 2013 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 51098]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 922

[Doc. No. AMS-FV-13-0041; FV13-922-2 PR]


Apricots Grown in Designated Counties in Washington; Increased 
Assessment Rate

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This proposed rule would increase the assessment rate 
established for the Washington Apricot Marketing Committee (Committee) 
for the 2013-2014 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.50 to $1.50 per 
ton of Washington apricots handled. The Committee locally administers 
the marketing order, which regulates the handling of apricots grown in 
designated counties in Washington. Assessments upon apricot handlers 
are used by the Committee to fund reasonable and necessary expenses of 
the marketing order. The fiscal period begins April 1 and ends March 
31. The higher rate is deemed necessary to fund an increase in the 
Committee's proposed budget and replenish its reserve. The proposed 
assessment rate would remain in effect indefinitely unless modified or 
suspended, or if the marketing order were terminated.

DATES: Comments must be received by September 4, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments on 
this proposed 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. 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 
proposed 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 comments will be made public on the internet at 
the address provided above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Manuel Michel or Gary D. Olson, 
Northwest Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order and Agreement 
Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (503) 326-
2724, Fax: (503) 326-7440, or Email: Manuel.Michel@ams.usda.gov or 
GaryD.Olson@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 proposed rule is issued under Marketing 
Agreement No. 132 and Order No. 922, as amended (7 CFR part 922), 
regulating the handling of apricots grown in designated counties in 
Washington, 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 proposed rule 
in conformance with Executive Order 12866.
    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, 
Civil Justice Reform. Under the order now in effect, apricot handlers 
in designated counties in Washington are subject to assessments. Funds 
to administer the order are derived from such assessments. It is 
intended that the assessment rate, as proposed herein, would be 
applicable to all assessable Washington apricots beginning April 1, 
2013, and continue until amended or suspended, or until the order is 
terminated.
    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. Such 
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 
entry of the ruling.
    This proposed rule would increase the assessment rate for the 
Committee for the 2013-2014 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.50 to 
$1.50 per ton for Washington apricots handled under the order.
    The order provides authority for the Committee, with the approval 
of USDA, to formulate an annual budget of expenses and collect 
assessments from handlers to administer the program. The members of the 
Committee are growers and handlers of apricots in designated counties 
in Washington. They are familiar with the Committee's needs, and with 
the costs of goods and services in their local area, and are therefore 
in a position to formulate an appropriate budget and assessment rate. 
The assessment rate is formulated and discussed in a public meeting. 
Thus, all directly affected persons have an opportunity to participate 
and provide input.
    The Committee met on May 13, 2013, and unanimously recommended 
expenditures of $5,370 for the 2013-2014 fiscal period. In comparison, 
the Committee's budgeted expenditures for the previous fiscal period 
were $4,995. The Committee also unanimously recommended an assessment 
rate of $1.50 per ton of Washington apricots.
    The recommended assessment rate of $1.50 is $1.00 higher than the 
rate currently in effect. The higher assessment rate is needed to fund 
a proposed increase in administrative costs and to replenish the 
reserve. The increased assessment rate is the same rate that was in 
effect in 2011 and previous years.

[[Page 51099]]

    The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2013-
2014 fiscal period include $2,500 for the management fee; $1,200 for 
Committee travel; $1,000 for the annual audit; and $670 for office 
supplies, insurance, and miscellaneous expenses. In comparison, major 
expenditures for the 2012-2013 fiscal period included $2,400 for the 
management fee; $1,300 for Committee travel; $750 for the annual audit; 
and $545 for office supplies, insurance, and miscellaneous expenses. 
The proposed expenses for 2013-2014 fiscal period are comparable to the 
expenses from last year, with a slight increase in management fees, 
offset by an equal reduction in travel expenses. Higher audit and 
insurance fees account for the majority of the remaining $375 
difference in the year-over-year budget increase.
    The Committee's recommended assessment rate was derived by dividing 
the 2013-2014 anticipated expenses by the expected shipments of 
Washington apricots, while also taking into account the Committee's 
monetary reserve.
    Committee members estimated the 2013 fresh apricot production to be 
approximately 5,950 tons, which would be smaller than the 2012 
production of 6,700 tons. The smaller crop is attributed to the effects 
of weather, pollination and tree health.
    The recommended assessment rate of $1.50 per ton, when multiplied 
by the 5,950 tons of estimated 2013 Washington apricot shipments, is 
expected to generate $8,925 in handler assessments. The projected 
revenue from handler assessments would be adequate to cover the 2013-
2014 budgeted expenses of $5,370, with a $3,555 surplus that would be 
added to the reserve. The Committee plans to increase its monetary 
reserve from $1,733 at the beginning of the 2013-2014 fiscal period to 
approximately $5,288 at the end of the fiscal period. That amount would 
be within the provisions of the order and would provide the Committee 
with greater ability to withstand fluctuations in assessment income and 
expenses in the future.
    The proposed assessment rate would continue in effect indefinitely 
unless modified or suspended, or until the order is terminated by USDA 
upon recommendation and information submitted by the Committee, or 
other available information.
    Although this assessment rate would be in effect for an indefinite 
period, the Committee would continue to meet prior to or during each 
fiscal period to recommend a budget of expenses and consider 
recommendations for modification of the assessment rate. The dates and 
times of the Committee meetings are available from the Committee or 
USDA. Committee meetings are open to the public and interested persons 
may express their views at these meetings. USDA would evaluate 
Committee recommendations and other available information to determine 
whether modification of the assessment rate is needed and further 
rulemaking would be undertaken as necessary. The Committee's 2013-2014 
budget and those for subsequent fiscal periods would be reviewed and, 
as appropriate, approved by USDA.

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 proposed rule 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 
businesses 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 20 handlers of Washington apricots who are 
subject to regulation under the order and approximately 94 apricot 
growers in the regulated area. Small agricultural service firms are 
defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) (13 CFR 121.201) as 
those having annual receipts of less than $7,000,000, and small 
agricultural growers are defined as those having annual receipts of 
less than $750,000.
    The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that 
the 2012 total production and utilization (including both fresh and 
processed markets) of Washington apricots was approximately 6,700 tons, 
the average price was $1,250 per ton, and the total farm-gate value was 
approximately $8,371,000. Based on these reports and the number of 
apricot growers within the production area, it is estimated that the 
2012 average revenue from the sale of apricots was approximately 
$89,000. In addition, based on information from the USDA's Market News 
Service, 2012 f.o.b. prices for WA No.1 apricots ranged from $16.00 to 
$24.00 per 24-pound loose-pack container, and from $18.00 to $27.00 for 
2-layer tray-pack containers. Using average prices and shipment 
information provided by the Committee, it is determined that each of 
the Washington apricot handlers currently ship less than $7,000,000 
worth of apricots on an annual basis. In view of the foregoing, it is 
concluded that the majority of handlers and growers of Washington 
apricots may be classified as small entities.
    This proposal would increase the assessment rate established for 
the Committee, and collected from handlers, for the 2013-2014 and 
subsequent fiscal periods from $0.50 to $1.50 per ton of Washington 
apricots handled. The Committee unanimously recommended 2013-2014 
expenditures of $5,370 and an assessment rate of $1.50 per ton. 
Although the proposed assessment rate of $1.50 is $1.00 higher than the 
rate established for the 2012-2013 fiscal period, it is the same rate 
as was established in 2011 and prior years.
    The Committee estimates that the 2013-2014 Washington apricot crop 
will be 5,950 tons. At the proposed $1.50 per ton assessment rate, the 
Committee anticipates assessment income of approximately $8,925, which 
would be adequate to cover budgeted expenses for the 2013-2014 fiscal 
period. In addition, at the proposed assessment rate and expense level, 
the Committee anticipates that $3,555 would be added to its monetary 
reserve, which it estimates would be $5,288 on March 30, 2014. That 
reserve level is within the maximum permitted by the order of 
approximately one fiscal period's operational expenses (Sec.  
922.42(a)(2)).
    The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2013-
2014 fiscal period include $2,500 for the management fee; $1,200 for 
Committee travel; $1,000 for the annual audit; and $670 for office 
supplies, insurance, and miscellaneous expenses. In comparison, major 
budgeted expenditures for the 2012-2013 fiscal period included $2,400 
for the management fee; $1,300 for Committee travel; $750 for the 
annual audit; and $545 for office supplies, insurance, and 
miscellaneous expenses.
    The Committee discussed alternatives to this action, including 
recommending alternative expenditure levels and assessment rates. 
Although lower assessment rates were considered, none were selected 
because they would not have generated sufficient income to administer 
the order. Committee members also discussed reasons for and against 
regulatory suspension, order suspension, and order termination. The 
result of these discussions was the Committee's recommendation to 
maintain the order's administrative

[[Page 51100]]

functions and to increase the assessment rate.
    This action would increase the assessment obligation imposed on 
handlers. While the increase would impose some additional costs on 
handlers, the costs are minimal and uniform on all handlers. 
Additionally, these costs would be offset by the benefits derived from 
the operation of the order.
    Like all Committee meetings, the May 13, 2013, meeting was a public 
meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express 
their views on this issue. The Committee's meeting was widely 
publicized throughout the Washington apricot industry and all 
interested persons were invited to attend and participate in the 
Committee's deliberations. Finally, interested persons are invited to 
submit comments on this proposed rule, including the regulatory and 
informational impacts of this action on small businesses.
    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. 0581-0189. 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 proposed rule would not impose any additional reporting or 
recordkeeping requirements on either small or large Washington apricot 
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.
    USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, 
overlap or conflict with this action.
    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 guide should be sent to Jeffrey Smutny at the previously 
mentioned address in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section.
    A 15-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to 
respond to this proposed rule. Fifteen days is deemed appropriate 
because: (1) The 2013-2014 fiscal period began on April 1, 2013, and 
the order requires that the assessment rate for each fiscal period 
apply to all assessable Washington apricots handled during such fiscal 
period; (2) the Committee needs to have sufficient funds to pay its 
expenses, which are incurred on a continuous basis; (3) handlers are 
already shipping Washington apricots from the 2013 crop; and (4) 
handlers are aware of this action, which was unanimously recommended by 
the Committee at a public meeting, and is similar to other assessment 
rate actions issued in past years.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 922

    Apricots, Marketing agreements, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 922 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 922--APRICOTS GROWN IN DESIGNATED COUNTIES IN WASHINGTON

0
1. The authority citation for 7 CFR Part 922 continues to read as 
follows:

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

0
2. Section 922.235 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  922.235  Assessment rate.

    On or after April 1, 2013, an assessment rate of $1.50 per ton is 
established for Washington apricots handled in the production area.

    Dated: August 14, 2013.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-20264 Filed 8-19-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P