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Rule

Onions Grown in Certain Designated Counties in Idaho, and Malheur County, OR; Decreased Assessment Rate

Action

Final Rule.

Summary

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim final rule which decreased the assessment rate established for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee (Committee) for the 2005-2006 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.105 to $0.10 per hundredweight of onions handled. The Committee locally administers the marketing order which regulates the handling of onions grown in designated counties in Idaho, and Malheur County, Oregon. Authorization to assess onion handlers enables the Committee to incur expenses that are reasonable and necessary to administer the program. The fiscal period began July 1 and ends June 30. The assessment rate will remain in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated.

 

Table of Contents Back to Top

EFFECTIVE DATE: Back to Top

September 30, 2005.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Back to Top

Susan M. Hiller, Northwest Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (503) 326-2724, Fax: (503) 326-7440; or George Kelhart, Technical Advisor, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237; Telephone: (202) 720-2491, Fax: (202) 720-8938.

Small businesses may request information on complying with this regulation by contacting Jay Guerber, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237; Telephone: (202) 720-2491, Fax: (202) 720-8938, or E-mail: Jay.Guerber@usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Back to Top

This rule is issued under Marketing Agreement No. 130 and Marketing Order No. 958, both as amended (7 CFR part 958), regulating the handling of onions grown in designated counties in Idaho, and Malheur County, Oregon, 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 Order 12866.

This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. Under the marketing order now in effect, Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion 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 onions beginning July 1, 2005, and continue until amended, suspended, or terminated. This rule will not preempt any State or local laws, regulations, or policies, unless they present an irreconcilable conflict with this rule.

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 continues in effect the action that decreased the assessment rate established for the Committee for the 2005-2006 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.105 per hundredweight to $0.10 per hundredweight of onions handled.

The Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion 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 producers and handlers of Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions. They are familiar with the Committee's needs and with the costs for 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.

For the 2004-2005 and subsequent fiscal periods, the Committee recommended, and USDA approved, an assessment rate that would continue in effect from fiscal period to fiscal period unless modified, suspended, or terminated by USDA upon recommendation and information submitted by the Committee or other information available to USDA.

The Committee met on April 14, 2005, and unanimously recommended 2005-2006 expenditures of $956,001 and an assessment rate of $0.10 per hundredweight of onions. In comparison, last year's budgeted expenditures were $997,442. The assessment rate of $0.10 is $0.005 lower than the previous rate. The decreased assessment rate recommended by the Committee reflects the reduction in anticipated expenditures.

Both producers and handlers in the regulated production area expressed a need to decrease the assessment rate to help offset the lower prices received by handlers. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported in the Vegetables 2004 Summary, published in January 2005, that the 2004 average F.O.B. price for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions was $8.14 per hundredweight. That price is $1.42 below the three year average F.O.B. price of $9.56 per hundredweight for this production area. The Committee considered assessment rates lower than $0.10 per hundredweight; however, it determined that the lower rates would not generate the income necessary to sustain the current level of programs desired by the industry.

The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2005-2006 year include $10,000 for committee expenses, $104,371 for salary expenses, $81,160 for travel/office expenses, $62,470 for production research expenses, $32,000 for export market development expenses, $616,000 for promotion expenses, and $50,000 for unforeseen marketing order contingencies. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2004-2005 were $10,000 $13,482, $81,960, $60,000, $32,000, $600,000, and $50,000, respectively.

The Committee based its recommended assessment rate decrease on the 2005-2006 crop estimate, the 2005-2006 program expenditure needs, and the current and projected size of its monetary reserve. The Committee estimated onion shipments for 2005-2006 at 8,464,000 hundredweight which should provide $846,400 in assessment income. Income derived from handler assessments, along with contributions ($73,600), interest income ($7,400), other income ($2,000), and funds from the Committee's authorized reserve ($26,601), should be adequate to cover budgeted expenses. The Committee estimates that its operating reserve will be approximately $596,074 at the end of the 2005-2006 fiscal period. Funds in the reserve will be kept within the maximum permitted by the order of approximately one fiscal year's operational expenses (§ 958.44).

The assessment rate 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 fiscal period 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 2005-2006 budget and those for subsequent fiscal periods will be reviewed and, as appropriate, approved by USDA.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Back to Top

Pursuant to requirements set forth in the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has considered the economic impact of this rule 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 business 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. Thus, both statutes have small entity orientation and compatibility.

There are approximately 233 producers of onions in the production area and approximately 37 handlers subject to regulation under the marketing order. Small agricultural producers are defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts of less than $750,000, and small agricultural service firms are defined as those whose annual receipts are less than $6,000,000.

According to the NASS Vegetables 2004 Summary, the total F.O.B. value of onions in the regulated production area for 2004 was $110,355,000. Therefore, based on an industry of 233 producers and 37 handlers, it can be concluded that the majority of handlers and producers of Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions may be classified as small entities.

This rule continues in effect the action that decreased the assessment rate established for the Committee and collected from handlers for the 2005-2006 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.105 to $0.10 per hundredweight of onions. The Committee unanimously recommended 2005-2006 expenditures of $956,001 and an assessment rate of $0.10 per hundredweight. The assessment rate of $0.10 is $0.005 lower than the rate in effect during the 2004-2005 fiscal period. The quantity of assessable onions for the 2005-2006 year is estimated at 8,464,000 hundredweight which should provide $846,400 in assessment income. Income derived from handler assessments, along with contributions ($73,600), interest income ($7,400), other income ($2,000), and funds from the Committee's authorized reserve ($26,601), should be adequate to cover budgeted expenses. The decreased assessment rate recommended by the Committee reflects the reduction in anticipated expenditures from $997,442 to $956,001.

Both producers and handlers in the regulated production area expressed a need to decrease the assessment rate to help offset the lower prices received by handlers. The NASS reported in the Vegetables 2004 Summary, which was published in January 2005, that the 2004 average F.O.B. price for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions was $8.14 per hundredweight. That price is $1.42 below the three-year average F.O.B. price of $9.56 per hundredweight for this production area. The Committee considered lower assessment rates; however, it determined that lower rates would not generate the income necessary to sustain the current level of programs desired by the industry.

The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2005-2006 year include $10,000 for committee expenses, $104,371 for salary expenses, $81,160 for travel/office expenses, $62,470 for production research expenses, $32,000 for export market development expenses, $616,000 for promotion expenses, and $50,000 for unforeseen marketing order contingencies. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2004-2005 were $10,000, $163,482, $81,960, $60,000, $32,000, $600,000, and $50,000, respectively.

The Committee reviewed and unanimously recommended 2005-2006 expenditures of $956,001 which includes decreases in salary expenses and travel/office expenses, as well as increases in production research expenses and promotion expenses. Prior to arriving at this budget, the Committee considered information from various sources, such as the Committee's Executive, Promotion, Research, and Export subcommittees. These subcommittees discussed alternative expenditure levels, based upon the relative value of various research and promotion projects to the onion industry. The assessment rate of $0.10 per hundredweight of assessable onions was then determined by taking into consideration the estimated level of assessable shipments, the market situation, program expenditure needs, and the desire to sustain a monetary reserve at a viable level.

A review of historical information and preliminary information pertaining to the upcoming year indicates that the producer price for the 2005-2006 season could range between $5.50 and $8.00 per hundredweight of onions. Therefore, the estimated assessment revenue for the 2005-2006 year as a percentage of total producer revenue could range between 1.82 and 1.25 percent.

This action continues in effect the action that decreased the assessment obligation imposed on handlers. Assessments are applied uniformly on all handlers, and some of the costs may be passed on to producers. However, decreasing the assessment rate reduces the burden on handlers, and may reduce the burden on producers. In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the April 14, 2005, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express views on this issue.

This action imposes no additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion 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.

USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this rule.

An interim final rule concerning this action was published in the Federal Register on June 3, 2005 (70 FR 32481). Copies of that rule were made available by the Committee's staff to all producers, handlers, and interested persons. In addition, the rule was made available through the internet by USDA and the Office of the Federal Register. A 60-day comment period was provided for interested persons to respond to the interim final rule. The comment period ended on August 2, 2005. One response was received, but it was not relevant to the assessment rate decrease.

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/fv/moab.html. Any questions about the compliance guide should be sent to Jay Guerber 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.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 958 Back to Top

begin regulatory text

PART 958—ONIONS GROWN IN CERTAIN DESIGNATED COUNTIES IN IDAHO, AND MALHEUR COUNTY, OREGON Back to Top

end regulatory text

Accordingly, the interim final rule amending 7 CFR part 958 which was published at 70 FR 32481 on June 3, 2005, is adopted as a final rule without change.

Dated: August 25, 2005.

Lloyd C. Day,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

[FR Doc. 05-17269 Filed 8-30-05; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P

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