[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 54 (Thursday, March 20, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 15539-15540]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-06084]



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Rules and Regulations
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Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 54 / Thursday, March 20, 2014 / Rules 
and Regulations

[[Page 15539]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 922

[Doc. No. AMS-FV-13-0040; FV13-922-1 FIR]


Apricots Grown in Designated Counties in Washington; Suspension 
of Handling Regulations

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Affirmation of interim rule as final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adopting, as a final 
rule, without change, an interim rule that suspended the handling 
regulations and inspection requirements prescribed under the marketing 
order for apricots grown in designated Counties in Washington (order). 
The interim rule suspended the minimum grade, size, quality, maturity, 
and inspection requirements of the order for the remainder of the 2013-
2014 fiscal period and subsequent fiscal periods. This rule is expected 
to reduce overall industry expenses and increase net returns to growers 
and handlers.

DATES: Effective March 21, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Manuel Michel, Marketing Specialist, 
or Gary 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 obtain information on complying with this and 
other marketing order and agreement regulations by viewing a guide at 
the following Web site: http://www.ams.usda.gov/MarketingOrdersSmallBusinessGuide; or 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, both 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.''
    USDA is issuing this rule in conformance with Executive Orders 
12866, 13175, and 13563.
    The handling of apricots grown in designated Counties in Washington 
is regulated by 7 CFR part 922. The order's handling regulation 
contains minimum grade, size, quality, maturity, pack, and container 
requirements of apricots handled under the order. The objective of the 
handling regulation has been to ensure that only acceptable quality 
apricots enter fresh market channels to foster consumer satisfaction, 
increase sales, and improve returns to producers.
    Due to the evolving nature of fresh fruit marketing, many wholesale 
and retail apricot buyers have developed their own specific criteria 
that their suppliers are required to meet to ensure a high quality 
product. Many of these buyer standards are higher than those in effect 
under the order. For this reason, the Committee believes that buyer 
standards now override the minimum standards of the order and that the 
order's regulations are no longer necessary.
    In addition, the Committee believes that the cost of complying with 
the order's handling regulations, when such regulations are in effect, 
may exceed the benefits. Because handlers must comply with both their 
buyer's requirements and the order regulations, two sets of compliance 
expenses are incurred. Because the buyer requirements are more 
stringent than the order's, the Committee believes that the cost of 
complying with them does not result in any additional benefit to 
producers or handlers.
    Therefore, this rule continues in effect the interim rule that 
suspended the handling regulations prescribed in Sec.  922.321 for the 
remainder of the 2013-2014 fiscal period and subsequent fiscal periods.
    The order contains provisions for handlers to apply for waivers 
from mandatory inspection when such inspection is not readily available 
from the Inspection Service. With the suspension of the regulation, 
such waivers are no longer necessary. Therefore, consistent with the 
suspension of Sec.  922.321, this rule also continues in effect the 
action that suspended Sec.  922.111 for the remainder of the 2013-2014 
fiscal period and subsequent fiscal periods.
    In an interim rule published in the Federal Register on October 23, 
2013, and effective on October 24, 2013, (78 FR 62963, Doc. No. AMS-FV-
13-0040, FV13-922-1 IR), Sec. Sec.  922.111 and 922.321 were 
indefinitely suspended in their entirety, beginning on October 24, 
2013.

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 action 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 94 growers of Washington apricots in the 
production area and approximately 20 handlers subject to regulation 
under the marketing order. Small agricultural producers are defined by 
the Small Business Administration (SBA) as those having annual receipts 
of less than $750,000, and small agricultural service firms as those 
having annual receipts of less than $7,000,000. (13 CFR 121.201)
    The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that 
the 2012 total production and utilization (including both fresh and 
processed

[[Page 15540]]

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 price 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 growers and handlers of Washington 
apricots may be classified as small entities.
    This rule continues in effect the action that suspended the 
handling regulations specified in Sec. Sec.  922.111 and 922.321 for 
the remainder of the 2013-2014 fiscal period and subsequent fiscal 
periods. The suspension of these handling regulations allows the 
Washington apricot industry to market apricots without regard to the 
minimum grade, size, quality, maturity, and inspection requirements 
prescribed under the order. Authority for this action is provided in 
Sec.  922.53.
    This action is not expected to increase the costs associated with 
the order requirements. Rather, this action allows handlers to decrease 
their costs during the 2013-2014 fiscal period and subsequent fiscal 
periods by eliminating the expense associated with mandatory 
inspection. However, this rule does not impede handlers from seeking 
inspection on a voluntary basis if they find inspection desirable. The 
opportunities and benefits of this rule are equally available to all 
Washington apricot handlers and producers, regardless of their size.
    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 will not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements on either small or large 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. 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 Washington apricot industry and all interested persons were invited 
to attend the meeting and participate in the Committee's deliberations. 
Like all Committee meetings, the May 13, 2013, meeting was a public 
meeting. All entities, both large and small, were able to express their 
views on this issue.
    Comments on the interim rule were required to be received on or 
before December 23, 2013. No comments were received. Therefore, for the 
reasons given in the interim rule, we are adopting the interim rule as 
a final rule, without change.
    To view the interim rule, go to: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=AMS-FV-13-0040-0001.
    This action also affirms information contained in the interim rule 
concerning Executive Orders 12866, 12988, and 13563; the Paperwork 
Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35); and the E-Gov Act (44 U.S.C. 
101), as well as the findings in the interim rule that the regulatory 
requirements no longer tend to effectuate the declared policy of the 
Act.
    After consideration of all relevant material presented, it is found 
that finalizing the interim rule, without change, as published in the 
Federal Register (78 FR 62963, October 23, 2013) will tend to 
effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 922

    Apricots, Marketing agreements, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

PART 922--[AMENDED]

0
Accordingly, the interim rule that amended 7 CFR part 922 and was 
published at 78 FR 62963 on October 23, 2013, is adopted as a final 
rule, without change.

    Dated: February 26, 2014.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-06084 Filed 3-19-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P