[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 208 (Wednesday, October 28, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 65886-65889]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-27340]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 987

[Docket No. AMS-FV-15-0034; FV15-987-1 IR]


Domestic Dates Produced or Packed in Riverside County, 
California; Decreased Assessment Rate

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Interim rule with request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule implements a recommendation from the California Date 
Administrative Committee (committee) for a decrease in the assessment 
rate established for the 2015-16 and subsequent crop years from $0.20 
to $0.10 per hundredweight of dates handled. The committee locally 
administers the marketing order, which regulates the handling of dates 
grown or packed in Riverside County, California. Assessments upon date 
handlers are used by the committee to fund reasonable and necessary 
expenses of the program. The crop year begins October 1 and ends 
September 30. The new assessment rate will remain in effect 
indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated.

DATES: Effective October 29, 2015. Comments received by December 28, 
2015, will be considered prior to issuance of a final rule.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments 
concerning this rule. Comments must be sent to the Docket Clerk, 
Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, 
USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-
0237; Fax: (202) 720-8938; or Internet: http://www.regulations.gov. 
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 rule will be included in the 
record and will be made available to the public. Please be advised that 
the identity of the

[[Page 65887]]

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, Specialty Crops 
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, Specialty Crops 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 and Order No. 987, both 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 rule in 
conformance with Executive Orders 12866, 13563, and 13175.
    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. Under the marketing order now in effect, Riverside 
County, California, date 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 dates beginning October 1, 2015, 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 decreases the assessment rate established by the 
committee for the 2015-16 and subsequent crop years from $0.20 to $0.10 
per hundredweight of dates.
    The California date 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 date producers and handlers 
from Riverside County, California. They are familiar with the 
committee's needs and 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.
    The committee met on June 25, 2015, and unanimously recommended 
2015-16 expenditures of $59,250, and an assessment rate of $0.10 per 
hundredweight of Riverside County, California dates. In comparison, 
last year's budgeted expenditures were $56,200. The assessment rate of 
$0.10 is $0.10 lower than the rate currently in effect.
    This year's crop is estimated to be slightly larger than last 
year's crop. Sufficient income is expected to be generated when 
applying the recommended lower assessment rate to the larger crop. When 
combined with carry-in funds from the 2014-15 crop year, funding should 
be sufficient to cover anticipated 2015-16 expenses. The financial 
reserve will also be maintained within the limit specified under the 
order.
    The major expenditure recommended by the committee for the 2015-16 
crop year is $59,250 for general and administrative expenses. In 
comparison, the major expenditures recommended by the committee for the 
2014-15 crop year included $56,200 for general and administrative 
expenses, and $2,800 for contingency funds.
    The assessment rate of $0.10 per hundredweight of dates handled was 
recommended by the committee after considering several factors: The 
anticipated size of the 2015-16 crop, the committee's estimates of the 
incoming reserve, other income, and anticipated expenses. Date 
shipments for the year are estimated at 29,000,000 pounds (290,000 
hundredweight) which should provide $29,000 in assessment income. 
Income derived from handler assessments and funds from the committee's 
authorized reserve, should be adequate to cover budgeted expenses for 
the crop year.
    Section 987.72(d) of the order states that the committee may 
maintain a monetary reserve not to exceed the average of one year's 
expenses incurred during the most recent five preceding crop years, 
except that an established reserve need not be reduced to conform to 
any recomputed average. The committee expects to utilize $25,250 of the 
reserve during the year to cover expenses, leaving approximately 
$44,750 in the reserve account. The remaining reserve will be below the 
limit specified in the order.
    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 is effective 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 2015-16 budget and those 
for subsequent crop years will be reviewed and, as appropriate, 
approved by USDA.

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

[[Page 65888]]

small entities acting on their own behalf.
    There are approximately 70 date producers 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 of 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 (2014) shows that about 
3.54 tons, or 7,080 pounds, of dates were produced per acre. The 2014 
producer price published by NASS was $1,190 per ton. Thus, the value of 
date production per acre in 2014-15 averaged about $4,213 (3.54 tons 
times $1,190 per ton). At that average price, a producer would have to 
farm over 178 acres to receive an annual income from dates of $750,000 
($750,000 divided by $4,213 per acre equals 178.02 acres). According to 
committee staff, the majority of California date producers farm less 
than 178 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 date handlers 
have receipts of less than $7,000,000 and may also be considered small 
entities.
    This rule decreases the assessment rate established by the 
committee and collected from handlers for the 2015-16 and subsequent 
crop years from $0.20 to $0.10 per hundredweight of dates handled. The 
committee unanimously recommended 2015-16 expenditures of $59,250 and 
an assessment rate of $0.10 per hundredweight of dates, which is $0.10 
lower than the 2014-15 rate currently in effect. The quantity of 
assessable dates for the 2015-16 crop year is estimated at 29,000,000 
pounds (290,000 hundredweight). Thus, the $0.10 rate should provide 
$29,000 in assessment income. Income derived from handler's 
assessments, and funds from the committee's authorized reserve, and 
other funds should be adequate to cover expenses for the 2015-16 crop 
year.
    The major expenditure recommended by the committee for the 2015-16 
crop year is $59,250 for general and administrative expenses. In 
comparison, the major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 
2014-15 crop year included $56,200 for general and administrative 
expenses and $2,800 for contingency funds.
    The committee recommended a lower assessment rate because income 
generated from the lower assessment rate applied to the larger crop, 
combined with carry-in funds from the 2014-15 crop year, should be 
sufficient to cover anticipated 2015-16 expenses and to maintain a 
financial reserve within the limit specified under the order.
    Section 987.72(d) of the order states that the committee may 
maintain a monetary reserve not to exceed the average of one year's 
expenses incurred during the most recent five preceding crop years, 
except that an established reserve need not be reduced to conform to 
any recomputed average. The committee estimated a $70,000 reserve 
carry-in for the 2015-16 crop year. It expects to utilize $25,250 of 
the reserve during the year, for a carry-out of approximately $44,750, 
which is below the limit specified in the order.
    The committee reviewed and unanimously recommended 2015-16 crop 
year expenditures of $59,250. Prior to arriving at this budget, the 
Committee considered alternative expenditure levels and assessment 
rates. The committee recommended an assessment rate of $0.10 per 
hundredweight of dates after considering several factors including the 
anticipated 2015-16 crop size, the committee's estimates of the 
incoming reserve funds and other income, and its anticipated expenses.
    A review of historical and preliminary information pertaining to 
the upcoming crop year indicates that the producer price for the 2015-
16 crop year could be approximately $60.00 per hundredweight of dates. 
Utilizing these estimates and the assessment rate of $0.10 per 
hundredweight, the estimated assessment revenue for the 2015-16 crop 
year as a percentage of total producer revenue is approximately 0.17 
percent.
    This action decreases the assessment obligation imposed on 
handlers. Assessments are applied uniformly on all handlers, and 
decreasing the assessment rate reduces the burden on handlers. In 
addition, the committee meeting was widely publicized throughout the 
California date industry, and all interested persons were invited to 
attend the meetings and encouraged to participate in committee 
deliberations on all issues. Like all committee meetings, the June 25, 
2015, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and 
small, were able to express views on this issue. Industry members also 
discussed the various possible assessment rates, potential crop size, 
and estimated expenses at this meeting. Finally, interested persons are 
invited to submit comments on this interim rule, including the 
regulatory and informational impacts of this action on small 
businesses.
    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.
    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 upon good 
cause that it is impracticable, unnecessary, and contrary to the public 
interest to give preliminary notice prior to putting this rule into 
effect, and 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 2015-16 crop year began on October 1, 2015, 
and the marketing order requires that the rate of assessment for each 
crop year apply to all assessable dates handled during such crop year; 
(2) the action decreases the assessment rate for assessable dates

[[Page 65889]]

beginning with the 2015-16 crop year; (3) handlers are aware of this 
action which was unanimously recommended by the committee at a public 
meeting and is similar to other assessment rate actions issued in past 
years; and (4) this interim rule provides a 60-day comment period, and 
all comments timely received will be considered prior to finalization 
of this rule.

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 
amended as follows:

PART 987--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 987.339 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  987.339  Assessment rate.

    On and after October 1, 2015, an assessment rate of $0.10 per 
hundredweight is established for Riverside County, California dates.

    Dated: October 22, 2015.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-27340 Filed 10-27-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-02-P