[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 66 (Monday, April 7, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 19028-19030]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07701]


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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.

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Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 66 / Monday, April 7, 2014 / Proposed 
Rules

[[Page 19028]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 987

[Docket No. AMS-FV-13-0090; FV14-987-2 PR]


Domestic Dates Produced or Packed in Riverside County, 
California; Revision of Assessment Requirements

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule invites comments on proposed rules and 
regulations necessary for the California Date Administrative Committee 
(committee) to exercise its authority to impose interest and late 
payment charges on overdue handler assessments. The California date 
marketing order (order) regulates the handling of dates produced or 
packed in Riverside County, California, and is administered locally by 
the committee. Assessments upon date handlers are used to fund the 
reasonable and necessary expenses of the committee. These changes are 
expected to assist in the financial administration of the order by 
encouraging handlers to pay their assessments in a timely manner.

DATES: Comments must be received by June 6, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments 
concerning this proposal. 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. All comments should reference the docket number, 
and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register, and 
will be 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 
proposal 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: Terry Vawter, Senior Marketing 
Specialist, or Martin Engeler, Regional Director, California Marketing 
Field Office, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and 
Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (559) 487-5901, Fax: (559) 
487-5906, or Email: Terry.Vawter@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 proposal is issued under Marketing 
Agreement and Order No. 987, as amended (7 CFR Part 987), regulating 
the handling of dates produced or packed in Riverside County, 
California, 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 Orders 12866, 13563, and 13175.
    This proposal has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. This proposed rule is not intended to have retroactive 
effect.
    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 proposed rule invites comments on proposed rules and 
regulations necessary for the committee to exercise its authority to 
impose interest and late payment charges on overdue handler 
assessments. Interest and late payment charges would encourage 
California date handlers to pay their assessments promptly when billed 
by the committee.
    The order was amended on June 25, 2012, [77 FR 37762], to provide 
authority for the committee to recommend these proposed actions, 
thereby permitting these changes through informal rulemaking, with the 
approval of the Secretary.
    Section 987.72 of the order establishes the authority for the 
committee to collect assessments from handlers. Paragraph (b) of that 
section specifically authorizes the committee to establish rules and 
regulations regarding delinquent assessment payments, including 
subjecting overdue assessments to an interest or late payment charge, 
or both; and authorizes the committee to recommend to USDA the period 
of time at which assessments become late, the rate of interest, and the 
late payment charge to be imposed on such delinquent assessments.
    The California date industry is a small industry with 70 producers 
and 11 handlers. If a handler withholds an assessment payment, it has 
an impact on the committee's ability to administer the order. The 
committee believes that adding the authority to charge interest and 
late payment fees would provide greater incentive for handlers to make 
assessment payments on time. This, in turn, would help ensure that the 
committee is able to meet its financial obligations, and continue to 
fund its programs on a continuing basis.
    Charging interest and late payment fees on unpaid financial 
obligations is commonplace in the business world, and implementation of 
such charges would bring the committee's financial operations in line 
with standard business practices. Such charges would remove any 
financial advantage for those who do not pay on time while

[[Page 19029]]

they benefit from committee programs, thus, creating a more level 
playing field for the industry.
    For those reasons, the committee unanimously recommended an 
interest rate of 1.5 percent per month, a late payment charge of 10 
percent on the unpaid balance, and specified that assessment payments 
become overdue at 60 days after the date on the assessment invoice. 
This recommendation was made at a committee meeting on October 31, 
2013. Based upon the above considerations, this action proposes 
interest and late payment charges for delinquent payment of 
assessments.

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 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 70 producers of dates in the production 
area and 11 handlers subject to regulation under the marketing order. 
The Small Business Administration defines small agricultural producers 
as those having annual receipts less than $750,000, and small 
agricultural service firms as those whose annual receipts are less than 
$7,000,000. (13 CFR 121.201)
    According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 
data for the most recently completed crop year (2012) shows that about 
3.70 tons, or 7,400 pounds, of dates were produced per acre. The 2012 
grower price published by NASS was $1,340 per ton, or $0.67 per pound. 
Thus, the value of date production per acre in the 2012-13 crop year 
averaged about $4,958 (7,400 pounds times $0.67 per pound). At that 
average price, a producer would have to farm over 151 acres to receive 
an annual income from dates of $750,000 ($750,000 divided by $4,958 per 
acre equals 151.2 acres). According to committee staff, the majority of 
California date producers farm less than 151 acres. Thus, it can be 
concluded that the majority of date producers could be considered small 
entities.
    In addition, according to data from the committee staff, the 
majority of California dates handlers have receipts of less than 
$7,000,000, and may also be considered small entities.
    This proposal would implement an interest charge of 1.5 percent 
monthly, and a late payment charge of 10 percent on the unpaid balance 
on handler assessments owed to the committee 60 days after the date on 
the assessment invoice.
    At the meeting, the committee discussed the impact of these changes 
on handlers. They noted that the greatest impact would only be on 
handlers who may not pay their assessments on time. Such charges would 
provide an incentive for all handlers to pay their assessments in a 
timely manner.
    The committee also discussed alternatives to these changes, 
including not implementing them at all. It was determined that not 
implementing interest and late payment charges would allow the current 
problem to continue. Late or delinquent assessment payments negatively 
impact the committee's ability to efficiently manage the program's 
resources and meet budget obligations. The committee concluded that 
encouraging timely assessment payment through the imposition of 
interest and late payment charges would benefit the administration of 
the order. Thus, the committee unanimously recommended these changes.
    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, ``Vegetable and Specialty Crop Marketing 
Orders.'' 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 action imposes no additional reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements on either small or large Riverside County, California, 
date 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 rule.
    In addition, the committee's meeting was widely publicized 
throughout the California date industry, and all interested persons 
were invited to attend the meeting and encouraged to participate in 
committee deliberations on all issues. Like all committee meetings, the 
October 31, 2013, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both 
large and small, were able to express views on this issue. Finally, 
interested persons are invited to submit comments on this proposed 
rule, including the regulatory and informational impacts of this action 
on small businesses.
    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.
    A 60-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to 
respond to this proposal. All written comments timely received will be 
considered before a final determination is made on this matter.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 987

    Dates, Marketing agreements, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 987 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 987--DOMESTIC DATES PRODUCED OR PACKED IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY, 
CALIFORNIA

0
1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 987 continues to read as 
follows:

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

0
2. Section 987.172 is amended by revising the section heading, 
designating the existing paragraph as paragraph (a), and adding new 
paragraphs (b) and (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  987.172  Adjustment of assessment obligation, and late payment 
and interest charges.

* * * * *
    (b) Pursuant to Sec.  987.72, the committee shall impose an 
interest charge on any handler whose assessment payment has not been 
received in the committee's office, or the envelope containing the 
payment

[[Page 19030]]

legibly postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service, within 60 days of the 
invoice date shown on the handler's statement. The interest charge 
shall be a rate of one and one half percent per month, and shall be 
applied to the unpaid assessment balance for the number of days all or 
any part of the unpaid balance is delinquent beyond the 60-day payment 
period.
    (c) In addition to the interest charge specified in paragraph (b) 
of this section, the committee shall impose a late payment charge on 
any handler whose payment has not been received in the committee's 
office, or the envelope containing the payment legibly postmarked by 
the U.S. Postal Service, within 60 days of the invoice date. The late 
payment charge shall be 10 percent of the unpaid balance.

    Dated: April 2, 2014.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-07701 Filed 4-4-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P