[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 42 (Tuesday, March 4, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 12034-12037]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-04691]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 993

[Doc. No. AMS-FV-13-0065; FV13-993-1 FR]


Dried Prunes Produced in California; 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 
Prune Marketing Committee (Committee) for the 2013-14 and subsequent 
crop years from $0.22 to $0.28 per ton of salable dried prunes handled. 
The Committee locally administers the marketing order, which regulates 
the handling of dried prunes grown in California. Assessments upon 
dried prune handlers are used by the Committee to fund reasonable and 
necessary expenses of the program. The crop year begins August 1 and 
ends July 31. The assessment rate will remain in effect indefinitely 
unless modified, suspended, or terminated.

DATES: Effective Date: March 5, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jerry L. Simmons, Marketing 
Specialist, or Martin Engeler, Regional Director, California Marketing 
Field Office, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (559) 
487-5901, Fax: (559) 487-5906, or Email: Jerry.Simmons@ams.usda.gov or 
Martin.Engeler@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. 110 and Order No. 993, both as amended (7 CFR part 993), 
regulating the handling of dried prunes grown in California, 
hereinafter referred to as the ``order.'' The order is effective under 
the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act

[[Page 12035]]

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, California 
dried prune 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 
dried prunes beginning on August 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 crop years from $0.22 to $0.28 
per ton of salable dried prunes handled.
    The California dried prune 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 
California dried prunes. They are familiar with the Committee's needs 
and with the costs for goods and services in their local area. 
Therefore, they are 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 2011-12 and subsequent crop years, the Committee 
recommended, and USDA approved, an assessment rate that would continue 
in effect from crop year to crop year 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 25, 2013, and unanimously recommended 
2013-14 expenditures of $43,791 and an assessment rate of $0.28 per ton 
of salable dried prunes. The assessment rate of $0.28 is $0.06 higher 
than the rate currently in effect, even though last year's budgeted 
expenditures of $44,968 were higher than those recommended for this 
year.
    The Committee unanimously recommended the higher assessment rate 
because the production estimate of 105,000 tons of salable dried prunes 
for the 2013-14 crop year is substantially lower than the 137,285 tons 
produced during the 2012-13 crop year. Using the proposed assessment 
rate, assessment income for the 2013-14 crop year will be $29,400. 
Assessment income, combined with funds carried over from the prior crop 
year and interest income, is expected to be adequate to cover budgeted 
expenses for the year.
    The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2013-14 
year include $26,944 for salaries, $9,538 for operating expenses, and 
$7,308 for contingencies. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2012-13 
were $22,997, $9,970, and $12,001, respectively.
    The assessment rate recommended by the Committee was derived by 
considering the funds needed to meet anticipated expenses, the 
estimated salable tons of California dried prunes, excess funds in the 
amount of $14,384 carried forward into the 2013-14 crop year, and 
estimated interest income in the amount of $7. As mentioned earlier, 
dried prune production for the year is estimated at 105,000 salable 
tons, which should provide $29,400 in assessment income. Income derived 
from handler assessments, along with interest income and funds from the 
Committee's authorized reserve, will be adequate to cover budgeted 
expenses.
    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 
crop year 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 2013-14 budget and those 
for subsequent crop years 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 businesses. 
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 800 producers of dried prunes in the 
production area and approximately 21 handlers subject to regulation 
under the marketing order. Small agricultural producers are defined by 
the Small Business Administration (13 CFR 121.201) as those having 
annual receipts of less than $750,000, and small agricultural service 
firms are defined as those whose annual receipts are less than 
$7,000,000.
    Committee data indicates that about 64 percent of the handlers ship 
less than $7,000,000 worth of dried prunes. Dividing the average prune 
crop value for 2012 reported by the National Agricultural Statistics 
Service (NASS) of $172,500,000 by the number of producers (800) yields 
an average annual producer revenue estimate of about $215,625. Based on 
the foregoing, the majority of handlers and producers of dried prunes 
may be classified as small entities.
    This rule increases the assessment rate established for the 
Committee and collected from handlers for the 2013-14 and subsequent 
crop years from $0.22 to $0.28 per ton of salable dried prunes. The 
Committee unanimously recommended 2013-14 expenditures of $43,791 and 
an assessment rate of $0.28 per ton of salable dried prunes. The 
assessment rate of $0.28 is $0.06 higher

[[Page 12036]]

than the 2012-13 rate. The quantity of assessable dried prunes for the 
2013-14 crop year is estimated at 105,000 tons. Thus, the $0.28 rate 
should provide $29,400 in assessment income, and when combined with 
carry-in funds and interest income, should be adequate to meet this 
year's expenses.
    The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2013-14 
year include $26,944 for salaries, $9,538 for operating expenses, and 
$7,308 for contingencies. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2012-13 
were $22,997, $9,970, and $12,001, respectively.
    The Committee unanimously recommended the higher assessment rate 
because the production estimate of 105,000 tons of salable dried prunes 
for this year is substantially lower than the 137,285 tons produced 
last year. At the current assessment rate, the anticipated crop would 
not generate sufficient revenue to meet the 2013-14 budgeted expenses.
    Prior to arriving at this budget and assessment rate, the Committee 
considered information from various sources, including the Committee's 
Executive Subcommittee. The assessment rate of $0.28 per ton of salable 
dried prunes was recommended after considering various factors, 
including the amount of handler assessment revenue needed to meet 
anticipated expenses, the estimated quantity of salable tons of 
California dried prunes for the 2013-14 crop year, excess funds carried 
forward into the 2013-14 crop year, and estimated interest income. An 
alternative to this action would be to continue with the $0.22 per ton 
assessment rate. However, an assessment rate of $0.28 per ton of 
salable dried prunes, along with excess funds from the 2012-13 crop 
year, is needed to provide sufficient income to fund the Committee's 
operations.
    A review of historical crop and price information, as well as 
preliminary information pertaining to the 2013-14 season, indicates 
that the producer price for salable dried prunes for the 2013-14 season 
could average about $1,300 per ton. Utilizing this estimate and the 
proposed assessment rate of $0.28, estimated assessment revenue as a 
percentage of total estimated producer revenue should be about 0.02 
percent for the 2013-14 season ($0.28 divided by $1,300 per ton).
    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 from the operation of the marketing 
order. In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized 
throughout the California dried prune industry. All interested persons 
were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee 
deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the June 25, 
2013, meeting was a public meeting. 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. 0581-0178. 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 California dried prune 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 October 23, 2013 (78 FR 63128). Copies of the proposed rule 
were also mailed or sent via facsimile to all dried prune 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 
November 7, 2013, was provided for interested persons to respond to the 
proposal.
    One comment was received during the comment period in response to 
the proposal. The commenter expressed disagreement with the proposed 
increase in the assessment rate and that the increase in the assessment 
should be reconsidered. The commenter also asserted that the proposal 
failed to explain how the additional cost coupled with the substantial 
decrease in production of dried prunes for the 2013-14 year would harm 
handlers and producers. We disagree.
    The proposal stated that the members of the Committee that 
unanimously recommended the increased assessment rate are producers and 
handlers of California dried prunes, and represent those who are 
affected by the assessment rate. They are familiar with the Committee's 
needs and with the costs for goods and services in their local area. 
The assessment rate was formulated and the increase was thoroughly 
discussed in a public meeting. The Committee members and other 
interested parties did not believe that the increase in the assessment 
rate, as proposed, would harm either handlers or producers. Further, 
the increase to $0.28 is approximately .022% of the producer price for 
salable dried prunes, which could average about $1,300 per ton for the 
2013-14 season. The percent of producer price for the last four years 
was .017%, .023%, .012%, and .020%, respectively. Therefore, AMS has 
concluded that the proposed assessment rate, as proposed, is reasonable 
and in line with previous years' rates. Further, the increase is the 
minimal amount necessary to fund basic Committee operations. 
Accordingly, no change to the assessment rate as proposed is made in 
the final rule.
    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/AMSv1.0/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 
2013-14 crop year began on August 1, 2013, and the marketing order 
requires that the rate of assessment for each crop year apply to all 
assessable dried prunes handled during such crop year; (2) the 
Committee needs to have sufficient funds to pay its expenses, which are 
incurred on a continuous basis; and (3) 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. Also, a 15-day

[[Page 12037]]

comment period was provided for in the proposed rule.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 993

    Marketing agreements, Plums, Prunes, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.
    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 993 is 
amended as follows:

PART 993--DRIED PRUNES PRODUCED IN CALIFORNIA

0
1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 993 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 601-674.
0
2. Section 993.347 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  993.347  Assessment rate.

    On and after August 1, 2013, an assessment rate of $0.28 per ton of 
salable dried prunes is established for California dried prunes.

    Dated: February 25, 2014.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-04691 Filed 3-3-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P