[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 71 (Thursday, April 15, 2021)]
[Pages 19869-19870]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-07730]



Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 966

[Doc. No. AMS-SC-20-0004; SC20-966-1]

Tomatoes Grown in Florida; Modification of Handling Requirements; 

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule, withdrawal.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Agriculture withdraws a proposed rule 
recommended by the Florida Tomato Committee (Committee) to revise the 
exemption, container, and definition sections under the Marketing 
Order's handling requirements and to update language to reflect current 
industry practices. After reviewing and considering the comments 
received, the proposed rule is being withdrawn.

DATES: As of April 15, 2021, the proposed rule published on June 9, 
2020, at 85 FR 35222, is withdrawn.

Specialist, or Christian D. Nissen, Regional Director, Southeast 
Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, 
Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (863) 324-3375, Fax: 
(863) 291-8614, or Email: [email protected] or 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This withdrawal is issued under Marketing 
Agreement No. 125 and Order No. 966, as amended (7 CFR part 966), 
regulating the handling of tomatoes grown in Florida. Part 966 
(referred to as 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 Committee locally 
administers the Order and is comprised of producers operating within 
the production area.
    This action withdraws a proposed rule published in the Federal 
Register on June 9, 2020, (85 FR 35222) to revise the exemption, 
container, and definition sections in the handling requirements of the 
Order. Specifically, the proposal would have removed the exemption for 
pear shaped or Roma type tomatoes. This would have required Roma type 
tomatoes to meet the grade, pack and container, inspection, and 
reporting requirements, and Roma type tomatoes would have been subject 
to assessment under the Order.
    The proposal also would have changed the exemption language for 
greenhouse and hydroponic tomatoes by eliminating the exemptions for 
greenhouse and hydroponic production and would have established a new 
exemption and definition for controlled environment production. It 
would have also adjusted the pack and container requirements, and 
updated language to reflect current industry practices.
    During the proposed rule's 30-day comment period, eight comments 
were received. All the comments may be viewed on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov. Of the comments received, one comment favored 
aspects of the rule, and another favored implementing the handling 
requirements for Roma tomatoes, but opposed the new exemption 
definition for ``controlled environment.'' Four comments opposed 
removing the exemption for Roma tomatoes, and three of these comments 
also opposed the exemption change and definition for ``controlled 
environment'', with one further opposing the changes to the container 
requirements. The other comments received pertained to issues that were 
not applicable to the proposed rule.
    The proposed rule would have established changes to the handling 
requirements of the tomato Order. However, section 8e of the Act (7 
U.S.C. 608e-1) provides that when certain domestically produced 
commodities, including tomatoes, are regulated under a Federal 
marketing order, imports of that commodity must meet the same or 
comparable grade, size, quality, and maturity requirements. Since the 
proposed rule would have adjusted the exemptions to require previously 
exempt tomatoes to meet grade and/or size requirements, a corresponding 
change would have been needed to the tomato import regulations. The 
corresponding changes to the tomato import regulations were to be 
addressed in a separate rulemaking action. The comments opposed to the 
proposed rule focused primarily on the potential impact of changes to 
the tomato import regulations stemming from the changes to the domestic 
requirements as specified by section 8e.
    The opposing comments indicated the proposed changes would increase 
the cost and time to bring imported tomatoes to market. Other comments 
expressed the proposed rule was an attempt to set up technical barriers 
to restrict free trade, limit fair competition and would only benefit 
small economic special interests. Another stated some of the proposed 
changes were unnecessary, as Roma tomatoes from Mexico already must 
meet grade requirements under the U.S.-Mexico Suspension Agreement.
    Several comments objected to the definition of ``controlled 
environment'', stating it was trying to define production techniques 
that were not

[[Page 19870]]

used in the Florida production area. Another commenter questioned the 
development of the ``controlled environment'' definition, since 
greenhouse production methods represent a very small portion of the 
tomatoes handled in Florida. Comments also argued the proposed new 
exemption and definition were not reflective of production techniques 
used outside of the production area and the change would negatively 
impact greenhouse tomatoes. Further, one commenter stated shade-house 
production differs significantly from open-field tomato production, and 
that the structures in Mexico are permanent and provide a significant 
degree of control over growing conditions and warrant different 
treatment from open-field production.
    Several commenters also expressed that certain proposed changes 
were inconsistent with the Act and outside the scope of the Order.
    After reviewing and considering the comments received, the 
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has determined there is little 
support for the proposed changes and the rule to modify the handling 
requirements for tomatoes grown in Florida should not be finalized. AMS 
intends to conduct outreach with Florida tomato industry stakeholders 
and consider whether changes will be proposed in the future. 
Accordingly, the proposed rule to modify the handling requirements in 
the Order that published in the Federal Register on June 9, 2020, (85 
FR 35222) is hereby withdrawn.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 966

    Marketing agreements, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, 

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

Bruce Summers,
Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-07730 Filed 4-14-21; 8:45 am]