[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 11 (Thursday, January 16, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 2773-2775]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-00753]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 915

[Doc. No. AMS-FV-13-0054; FV13-915-2 FR]


Avocados Grown in South Florida; 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 
Avocado Administrative Committee (Committee) for the 2013-14 and 
subsequent fiscal periods from $0.25 to $0.30 per 55-pound bushel 
container of Florida avocados handled. The Committee locally 
administers the marketing order, which regulates the handling of 
avocados grown in South Florida. Assessments upon Florida avocado 
handlers are used by the

[[Page 2774]]

Committee to fund reasonable and necessary expenses of the program. The 
fiscal period begins April 1 and ends March 31. The assessment rate 
will remain in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or 
terminated.

DATES: Effective Date: January 17, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Doris Jamieson, Marketing Specialist, 
or Christian D. Nissen, Regional Director, Southeast Marketing Field 
Office, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and Vegetable 
Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (863) 324-3375, Fax: (863) 325-8793, or 
Email: Doris.Jamieson@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 Order 
No. 915, as amended (7 CFR part 915), regulating the handling of 
avocados grown in South Florida, 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 marketing order now in effect, Florida 
avocado handlers are subject to assessments. Funds 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 
Florida avocados 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 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 2013-14 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.25 to 
$0.30 per 55-pound bushel container of avocados.
    The Florida avocado marketing 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 producers and handlers of 
Florida avocados. They are familiar with the Committee's needs and with 
the costs of goods and services in their local area and are thus 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 2012-13 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 June 12, 2013, and unanimously recommended 
2013-14 expenditures of $472,553 and an assessment rate of $0.30 per 
55-pound container of avocados. In comparison, last year's budgeted 
expenditures were $324,575. The assessment rate of $0.30 is $0.05 
higher than the rate currently in effect. The Committee recommended 
increasing the assessment rate to provide additional funds for research 
to address the Laurel Wilt fungus, which can infect and kill avocado 
trees.
    The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2013-14 
year include $175,000 for research, $119,483 for salaries, and $51,500 
for employee benefits. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2012-13 
were $75,000, $101,705, and $48,000, respectively.
    The assessment rate recommended by the Committee was derived by 
reviewing anticipated expenses, expected shipments of Florida avocados, 
and available reserves. Florida avocado shipments for the year are 
estimated at 1,000,000 55-pound bushel containers, which should provide 
$300,000 in assessment income. Income derived from handler assessments 
and interest, and funds from the Committee's authorized reserve, should 
be adequate to cover budgeted expenses. Funds in the reserve (currently 
$465,000) will be kept within the maximum permitted by the order 
(approximately three fiscal periods' expenses, Sec.  915.42).
    The assessment rate established in this rule 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, and further rulemaking 
will be undertaken as necessary. The Committee's 2013-14 budget and 
those for subsequent fiscal periods would 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 30 handlers of Florida avocados subject to 
regulation under the order and approximately 300 producers of avocados 
in the production area. Small agricultural service firms, which include 
avocado handlers, are defined by the Small Business Administration 
(SBA) as those having annual receipts of less than $7,000,000,

[[Page 2775]]

and small agricultural producers are defined as those having annual 
receipts of less than $750,000 (13 CFR 121.201).
    According to Committee data and information from the National 
Agricultural Statistical Service, the average price for Florida 
avocados during the 2011-12 season was approximately $20.79 per 55-
pound bushel container and total shipments were slightly higher than 
1.2 million 55-pound bushels. Using the average price and shipment 
information, the majority of avocado handlers could be considered small 
businesses under SBA's definition. In addition, based on avocado 
production, producer prices, and the total number of Florida avocado 
producers, the average annual producer revenue is less than $750,000. 
Consequently, the majority of avocado handlers and producers may be 
classified as small entities.
    This rule increases the assessment rate for the 2013-14 and 
subsequent fiscal periods from the current rate of $0.25 to $0.30 per 
55-pound bushel container of avocados. The Committee unanimously 
recommended the increased assessment rate, and 2013-14 expenditures of 
$472,553. The increase was recommended to provide an additional 
$100,000 for research to address the Laurel Wilt fungus, which can 
infect and kill avocado trees. As previously stated, income from 
handler assessments and interest, and funds from reserves, should be 
adequate to meet this year's expenses.
    Alternative expenditure and assessments levels were discussed prior 
to arriving at this budget. However, the Committee agreed on $472,553 
in expenditures, reviewed the quantity of assessable avocados and 
available reserves, and recommended an assessment rate of $0.30 per 55-
pound bushel container.
    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. In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized 
throughout the Florida avocado industry and all interested persons were 
invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee 
deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the June 12, 
2013, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and 
small, were able to express views on this issue.
    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 Generic OMB Fruit 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 imposes no additional reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements on either small or large Florida avocado 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 September 17, 2013 (78 FR 57099). Copies of the proposed 
rule were also mailed or sent via facsimile to all Florida avocado 
handlers. Finally, the proposal was made available through the internet 
by USDA and the Office of the Federal Register. A 15-day comment period 
ending October 2, 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: http://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 is 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 handlers are 
already receiving avocadoes from the 2013-14 crop from growers, the 
fiscal period began on April 1, 2013, and the assessment rate applies 
to all Florida avocados received during the 2013-14 and subsequent 
seasons. Further, handlers are aware of this rule which was recommended 
at a public meeting. Also, a 15-day comment period was provided for in 
the proposed rule and no comments were received.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 915

    Avocados, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 915 is 
amended as follows:

PART 915--AVOCADOS GROWN IN SOUTH FLORIDA

0
1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 915 continues to read as 
follows:

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


0
2. Section 915.235 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  915.235  Assessment rate.

    On and after April 1, 2013, an assessment rate of $0.30 per 55-
pound container or equivalent is established for avocados grown in 
South Florida.

    Dated: January 10, 2014.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-00753 Filed 1-15-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P