[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 52 (Tuesday, March 18, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15050-15052]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-05834]

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.


Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 52 / Tuesday, March 18, 2014 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 15050]]


Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 983

[Doc. No. AMS-FV-12-0068; FV13-983-1 PR]

Pistachios Grown in California, Arizona, and New Mexico; 
Modification of Aflatoxin Regulations

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: This proposed rule invites comments on revisions to the 
aflatoxin sampling regulations currently prescribed under the 
California, Arizona, and New Mexico pistachio marketing order (order). 
The order regulates the handling of pistachios grown in California, 
Arizona, and New Mexico, and is administered locally by the 
Administrative Committee for Pistachios (Committee). This action would 
allow the use of mechanical samplers (auto-samplers) for in-line 
sampling as a method to obtain samples for aflatoxin analysis. The use 
of auto-samplers is expected to reduce handler costs by providing a 
more efficient and cost-effective process.

DATES: Comments must be received by April 17, 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 document number 
and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and 
will be made 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 the comments will be made public on the internet at 
the address provided above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrea Ricci, 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: 
Andrea.Ricci@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. 983, both as amended (7 CFR part 983), 
regulating the handling of pistachios grown in California, Arizona, and 
New Mexico, 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, 13175, and 13563.
    This proposal has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. This proposed rule is not intended to have retroactive 
    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. A 
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 revisions to the aflatoxin 
sampling regulations currently prescribed under the order. This 
proposal would allow the use of mechanical samplers (auto-samplers) as 
an additional method to obtain lot samples for aflatoxin analysis. All 
auto-samplers would need to be approved by and be subject to procedures 
and requirements established by the USDA Federal-State Inspection 
Service prior to their use. The proposed rule was unanimously 
recommended by the Committee at its meeting held on August 19, 2013.
    Section 983.50 of the order provides authority for aflatoxin 
regulations that establish aflatoxin sampling, analysis, and inspection 
requirements applicable to pistachios to be shipped for human 
consumption in domestic and export markets. Aflatoxin regulations are 
currently in effect for pistachios shipped to domestic markets.
    Section 983.150 of the order's rules and regulations contains 
specific requirements regarding sampling and testing of pistachios for 
aflatoxin. Paragraph (d)(1) of that section provides that a sample 
shall be drawn from each lot of pistachios and such samples shall meet 
specific weight requirements according to the size of the lot.
    The current method of collecting samples of pistachios to be tested 
requires hand sampling of static lots by, or under the supervision of, 
an inspector of the Federal-State Inspection Service (inspector). This 
process requires handler personnel to stage the lots to be sampled, 
which requires moving large containers around with a forklift. This 
process utilizes a considerable amount of time and warehouse space. 
Inspectors are then required to manually conduct the sampling by 
drawing samples from the containers, which is very labor intensive. 
Once the lot sample is collected, the inspector prepares test samples 
for aflatoxin analysis.
    Since the order's promulgation in 2004, the volume of open inshell 
pistachios processed annually has increased significantly, from 165 
million pounds to 354 million pounds

[[Page 15051]]

in the 2011-12 production year. This change in volume has significantly 
increased the amount of warehouse space and handler labor needed to 
stage lots for sampling. It has also driven up the total labor costs 
associated with sampling, as the number of lots to be sampled has 
increased significantly.
    If this rule is implemented, handlers would have the option of 
using mechanized sampling instead of manual sampling. Automatic 
samplers in handlers' processing facilities would mechanically draw 
samples of pistachios as they are being processed. This would make the 
sampling process more efficient by eliminating the extra warehouse 
space and handler labor needed for staging static lots for sampling. In 
addition, the labor costs of manual sampling would be eliminated, 
further reducing handler costs. A discussion of the costs is included 
in the Initial Regulatory Flexibility section of this document.

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 action on small entities. 
Accordingly, AMS has prepared this initial regulatory flexibility 
    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 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 23 handlers of California, Arizona, and New 
Mexico pistachios subject to regulation under the order and 
approximately 990 pistachio producers 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 producers are defined 
as those having annual receipts of less than $750,000.
    Currently, about 70 percent of handlers ship less than $7,000,000 
worth of pistachios on an annual basis and would be considered small 
businesses under the SBA definition. Data provided by the Committee 
regarding the size of the 2012 crop indicates that approximately 80 
percent of producers delivered less than 375,000 pounds of assessable 
dry weight of pistachios. Using an estimated price of $2 per pound of 
pistachios, this would equate to less than $750,000 in receipts; thus, 
80 percent of producers would be considered small businesses according 
to the SBA definition.
    This proposal would modify the aflatoxin sampling regulations 
currently prescribed under Sec.  983.150(d) of the order's rules and 
regulations. This rule would allow the use of auto-samplers as a method 
to obtain samples for aflatoxin analysis. Currently, only manual hand-
drawn sampling from static lots is permitted. Allowing the use of auto-
samplers for in-line sampling would streamline the sampling process for 
pistachios. It is expected to make the sampling process more efficient 
by eliminating the time and space needed for staging and inspecting 
static lots, reducing the amount of labor, and therefore reducing 
handler costs. Authority for this action is provided in Sec.  983.50 of 
the order.
    The Committee estimates the current method of sampling to range in 
cost from $135 to $170 per lot. This expense includes the warehouse 
space and employee labor needed to stage a lot for inspection and the 
costs of the inspection. The initial expense of purchasing an auto-
sampler ranges from as low as $1,000 to as high as $5,000. The cost of 
collecting samples with the auto-sampler is estimated at about $5 per 
lot, which is significantly lower than the static lot sampling method, 
which ranges from $135 to $170 per lot.
    The following example is used to illustrate potential savings for a 
handler that processes 3,000,000 pounds of pistachios per year. 
Assuming a lot size of 50,000 pounds, this handler would require 
inspection on 60 lots of pistachios (3,000,000 [bdsol] 50,000). Under 
the current manual sampling method, this would result in a total 
sampling cost of $8,100 (60 x $135). If this handler purchased an 
automatic sampler for $5,000, the total sampling cost (including 
equipment) would be $5,300 ($5,000 + $5 cost per lot to pull the 
samples). Thus, in this example the handler would save $2,800 in the 
first year of operation. After the first year, the savings would 
increase because there would be no additional equipment cost. Applying 
this on an industry-wide basis, the aggregate cost savings could be 
significant, considering recent shipment levels have exceeded 
300,000,000 pounds of pistachios.
    Based on these cost estimates and the example provided, use of 
automatic samplers could provide a significant cost saving to the 
industry. The potential cost savings for individual handlers would 
vary, depending on the size and structure of their operation. Each 
handler would need to evaluate their operation to determine which 
method of sampling best fits their needs. This proposal would provide 
an additional option for sampling that does not currently exist for 
    The Committee discussed alternatives to this change, including 
continuing to operate under the current aflatoxin sampling procedures. 
However, the Committee unanimously agreed that adding the option to use 
mechanical sampling equipment would provide handlers with a more 
efficient and cost-effective sampling alternative to the manual 
sampling process.
    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. 0581-0215, Pistachios Grown in California, Arizona, 
and New Mexico. 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 proposed rule would modify aflatoxin sampling regulations 
currently prescribed under the California, Arizona, and New Mexico 
pistachio marketing order. Accordingly, this action would not impose 
any additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small 
or large pistachio 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 
    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 proposed rule.
    In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized 
throughout the pistachio industry and all interested persons were 
invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee 
deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the August 
19, 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 

[[Page 15052]]

    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.
    A 30-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to 
respond to this proposal. Thirty days is deemed appropriate because the 
industry would like the modified regulation to be in place prior to the 
2014-15 production year, which begins September 1, 2014. This 
regulation would need to be in effect before the production year to 
allow handlers to install auto-sampling equipment prior to harvest. All 
written comments timely received will be considered before a final 
determination is made on this matter.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 983

    Marketing agreements and orders, Pistachios, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 983 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:


1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 983 continues to read as 

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 601-674.
2. Section 983.150 is amended by revising paragraph (d)(1) to read as 

Sec.  983.150  Aflatoxin regulations.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) Samples for testing. Prior to testing, each handler shall cause 
a representative sample to be drawn from each lot (``lot samples'') of 
sufficient weight to comply with Tables 1 and 2 of this section.
    (i) At premises with mechanical sampling equipment (auto-samplers) 
approved by the USDA Federal-State Inspection Service, samples shall be 
drawn by the handler in a manner acceptable to the Committee and the 
USDA Federal-State Inspection Service.
    (ii) At premises without mechanical sampling equipment, sampling 
shall be conducted by or under the supervision of an inspector, or as 
approved under an alternative USDA-recognized inspection program.
* * * * *

    Dated: Feb. 28, 2014.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-05834 Filed 3-17-14; 8:45 am]