[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 205 (Wednesday, October 23, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 62961-62963]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-24901]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 922

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


Apricots Grown in Designated Counties in Washington; Increased 
Assessment Rate

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This rule increases 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 program. 
The fiscal period began on April 1 and ends March 31. The assessment 
rate will remain in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or 
terminated.

DATES: Effective Date: October 24, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Manuel Michel, Marketing Specialist, 
or Gary D. Olson, Regional Director, 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 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 rule in 
conformance with Executive Orders 12866 and 13563.
    This 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 
necessary to administer the order are derived from such assessments. It 
is intended that the assessment rate, as issued herein, will be 
applicable to all assessable apricots beginning April 1, 2013, and 
continue until amended, suspended, or 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

[[Page 62962]]

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 increases the assessment rate established for the 
Committee for the 2013-2014 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.50 to 
$1.50 per ton of Washington apricots handled.
    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 Committee 
members are producers and handlers of apricots in designated counties 
in Washington. They are familiar with the Committee's needs, and with 
the costs for 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.
    For the 2012-2013 and subsequent fiscal periods, the Committee 
recommended, and USDA approved, an assessment rate that would continue 
in effect from fiscal period to fiscal period unless modified, 
suspended, or terminated by USDA upon recommendation and information 
submitted by the Committee or other information available to USDA.
    The Committee met on May 13, 2013, and unanimously recommended 
2013-2014 expenditures of $5,370 and an assessment rate of $1.50 per 
ton of apricots handled. In comparison, the Committee's budgeted 
expenditures for the previous fiscal period were $4,995. The assessment 
rate of $1.50 per ton is $1.00 higher than the rate previously 
established. The higher assessment rate is needed to fund an increase 
in administrative costs and to replenish the monetary reserve. The 
increased assessment rate of $1.50 per ton is the same rate that was in 
effect for the 2011-2012 and prior fiscal periods.
    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 assessment rate recommended by the Committee 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 shipments to be 
approximately 5,950 tons, which should generate $8,925 in assessment 
income. Income derived from handler assessments should be adequate to 
cover budgeted expenses, with an expected surplus of $3,555 that may be 
placed in reserve. Funds in the Committee's reserve are expected to be 
$5,288 on March 31, 2014, which is within the maximum permitted by the 
order's limit of approximately one fiscal period's operational expenses 
(Sec.  922.42(a)(2)).
    The assessment rate established herein will continue in effect 
indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated by USDA upon 
recommendation and information submitted by the Committee or other 
available information.
    Although this assessment rate will be in effect for an indefinite 
period, the Committee will 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 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 will evaluate Committee 
recommendations and other available information to determine whether 
modification of the assessment rate is needed. Further rulemaking will 
be undertaken as necessary. The Committee's 2013-2014 budget, and those 
for subsequent fiscal periods, will be reviewed and, as appropriate, 
approved by USDA.

Final 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 rule on small entities. 
Accordingly, AMS has prepared this final 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 
Washington apricot handler currently ships 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 rule increases 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 
assessment rate of $1.50 per ton is $1.00 higher than the rate 
established for the 2012-2013 fiscal period, it is the same rate as was 
established for the 2011-2012 and prior fiscal periods. The Committee 
estimates that the 2013-2014 Washington apricot crop will be 5,950 
tons. Therefore, the $1.50 per ton assessment rate should provide 
approximately $8,925 in assessment income and be adequate to fund the 
budgeted expenses for the 2013-2014 fiscal period. In addition, the 
Committee anticipates that $3,555 will

[[Page 62963]]

be added to its monetary reserve, which it estimates will be $5,288 on 
March 30, 2014. This reserve level is within the maximum permitted by 
the order.
    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 functions and to increase the 
assessment rate.
    This action increases the assessment obligation imposed on 
handlers. While assessments impose some additional costs on handlers, 
the costs are minimal and uniform on all handlers. Some of the 
additional costs may be passed on to producers. However, these costs 
are offset by the benefits derived by the operation of the marketing 
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 Committee 
deliberations on all issues.
    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 rule does 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. As noted in the 
initial regulatory flexibility analysis, USDA has not identified any 
relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this 
final rule.
    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.
    A proposed rule concerning this action was published in the Federal 
Register on August 20, 2013 (78 FR 51098). Copies of the proposed rule 
were also made available to all apricot handlers by Committee staff. 
Finally, the proposal was made available through the Internet by USDA 
and the Office of the Federal Register. A 15-day comment period ending 
September 4, 2013, was provided for interested persons to respond to 
the proposal. No comments were received.
    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.
    After consideration of all relevant material presented, including 
the information and recommendation submitted by the Committee and other 
available information, it is hereby found that this rule, as 
hereinafter set forth, will tend to effectuate the declared policy of 
the Act.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553, it also found and determined that good 
cause exists for not postponing the effective date of this rule until 
30 days after publication in the Federal Register 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; (4) handlers are aware of this 
rule, which was unanimously recommended by the Committee at a public 
meeting and is similar to other assessment rate actions issued in past 
years; and (5) a 15-day comment period was provided for in the proposed 
rule.

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

    Dated: October 17, 2013.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-24901 Filed 10-22-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P