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Raisins Produced From Grapes Grown In California; Final Free and Reserve Percentages for 1999-2000 Crop Natural (Sun-Dried) Seedless and Zante Currant Raisins

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Agriculture (Department) is adopting, as a final rule, without change, the provisions of an interim final rule that established final volume regulation percentages for 1999-2000 crop Natural (sun-dried) Seedless raisins (Naturals) and Zante Currant raisins (Zantes) covered under the Federal marketing order for California raisins (order). The volume regulation percentages are 85 percent free and 15 percent reserve for Naturals and 51 percent free and 49 percent reserve for Zantes. The order regulates the handling of raisins produced from grapes grown in California and is administered locally by the Raisin Administrative Committee (Committee). The volume regulation percentages are intended to help stabilize raisin supplies and prices, and strengthen market conditions.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

August 2, 2000.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Maureen T. Pello, Marketing Specialist, California Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 2202 Monterey Street, suite 102B, Fresno, California 93721; telephone: (559) 487-5901, Fax: (559) 487-5906; or George Kelhart, Technical Advisor, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, room 2525-S, P.O. Box 96456, Washington, DC 20090-6456; telephone: (202) 720-2491, or Fax: (202) 720-5698.

Small businesses may request information on complying with this regulation by contacting Jay Guerber, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, P.O. Box 96456, room 2525-S, Washington, DC 20090-6456; telephone: (202) 720-2491, Fax: (202) 720-5698, or E-mail: Jay.Guerber@usda.gov.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This rule is issued under Marketing Agreement and Order No. 989 (7 CFR part 989), Start Printed Page 40976both as amended, regulating the handling of raisins produced from grapes grown in 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 is issuing this rule in conformance with Executive Order 12866.

This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. Under the order provisions now in effect, final free and reserve percentages may be established for raisins acquired by handlers during the crop year. This rule continues in effect final free and reserve percentages for Naturals and Zantes for the 1999-2000 crop year, which began August 1, 1999, and ends July 31, 2000. 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 the Secretary 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, the Secretary 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 in equity to review the Secretary'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 final volume regulation percentages for 1999-2000 crop Naturals and Zantes covered under the order. The volume regulation percentages are 85 percent free and 15 percent reserve for Naturals and 51 percent free and 49 percent reserve for Zantes. Free tonnage raisins may be sold by handlers to any market. Reserve raisins must be held in a pool for the account of the Committee and are disposed of through various programs authorized under the order. For example, reserve raisins may be sold by the Committee to handlers for free use or to replace part of the free tonnage raisins they exported; used in diversion programs; carried over as a hedge against a short crop the following year; or disposed of in other outlets not competitive with those for free tonnage raisins, such as government purchase, distilleries, or animal feed.

The volume regulation percentages are intended to help stabilize raisin supplies and prices, and strengthen market conditions. Final percentages for Zantes were recommended by the Committee on January 13, 2000, and for Naturals on February 11, 2000.

Computation of Trade Demands

Section 989.54 of the order prescribes the procedures and time frames to be followed in establishing volume regulation. This includes methodology used to calculate percentages. Pursuant to § 989.54(a) of the order, the Committee met on August 12, 1999, to review shipment and inventory data, and other matters relating to the supplies of raisins of all varietal types. The Committee computed a trade demand for each varietal type for which a free tonnage percentage might be recommended. Trade demand is computed using a formula specified in the order and, for each varietal type, is equal to 90 percent of the prior year's shipments of free tonnage and reserve tonnage raisins sold for free use into all market outlets, adjusted by subtracting the carryin on August 1 of the current crop year and by adding the desirable carryout at the end of that crop year. As specified in § 989.154(a), the desirable carryout for each varietal type is equal to the shipments of free tonnage raisins of the prior crop year during the months of August, September, and one-half of October. In accordance with these provisions, the Committee computed and announced 1999-2000 trade demands for Naturals and Zantes at 254,475 and 1,855 tons, respectively, as shown below.

Computed Trade Demands

[Natural condition tons]

NaturalsZantes
Prior year's shipments1 314,0133,542
Multiplied by 90 percent0.900.90
Equals adjusted base282,6123,188
Minus carryin inventory101,9461,906
Plus desirable carryout73,809573
Equals computed trade demand254,4751,855
1 Pursuant to § 989.54(a), 1996-97 shipments were utilized to compute trade demand because 1998-99 shipments were limited.

Computation of Preliminary Volume Regulation Percentages

As required under § 989.54(b) of the order, the Committee met on October 1, 1999, and announced a preliminary crop estimate of 294,519 tons for Naturals. This estimate was almost 15 percent lower than the 10-year average of 346,325 tons. Naturals are the major varietal type of California raisins. Combining the carryin inventory of 101,946 tons with the 294,519-ton crop estimate resulted in a total available supply of 396,465 tons, which was much higher than the 254,475-ton trade demand. Thus, the Committee determined that volume regulation for Naturals was warranted. The Committee announced preliminary free and reserve percentages for Naturals which released 65 percent of the computed trade demand since the field price had not yet been established. The preliminary percentages were 56 percent free and 44 percent reserve. The Committee authorized its staff to modify the preliminary percentages to release 85 percent of the trade demand once the field price was established. The field price was established on October 22, 1999, and the preliminary percentages were thus modified to 73 percent free and 27 percent reserve.

Also at its October 1, 1999, meeting, the Committee announced a preliminary crop estimate for Zantes at 4,187 tons, which is comparable to the 10-year average of 4,463 tons. Combining the carryin inventory of 1,906 tons with the 4,187-ton crop estimate resulted in a total available supply of 6,093 tons, which is significantly greater the 1,855-ton trade demand. Thus, the Committee determined that volume regulation for Zantes was warranted. The Committee Start Printed Page 40977announced preliminary free and reserve percentages for Zantes which released 65 percent of the computed trade demand since field price had not yet been established. The preliminary percentages were 29 percent free and 71 percent reserve. Like Naturals, the Committee authorized its staff to modify the preliminary percentages to release 85 percent of the trade demand once the field price was established. The field price was established on October 12, 1999, and the preliminary percentages were thus modified to 38 percent free and 62 percent reserve. As in past seasons, the Committee submitted its marketing policy to the Department for review. In addition, the Committee determined that volume regulation was not warranted for the other varietal types of raisins covered under the order.

Computation of Final Volume Regulation Percentages

Pursuant to 989.54(c) and (d) of the order, the Committee met on January 12, 2000, and announced interim percentages for Zantes at 50.75 percent free and 49.25 percent reserve. These interim percentages were based on a revised Zante crop estimate of 3,650 tons. At that meeting, the Committee also computed final percentages for Zantes which, when applied to the final 3,650-ton crop estimate, tend to release the full Zante trade demand. Final percentages compute to 51 percent free and 49 percent reserve.

The Committee met on February 11, 2000, and announced interim percentages for Naturals at 84.75 percent free and 15.25 percent reserve. These interim percentages were based on a revised crop estimate of 298,477 tons. The Committee also computed final percentages for Naturals which, when applied to the final 298,477-ton crop estimate, tend to release the full trade demand. Final percentages compute to 85 percent free and 15 percent reserve. The Committee's calculations to arrive at final percentages for Naturals and Zantes are shown in the table below.

Final Volume Regulation Percentages

[Tonnage as natural condition weight]

NaturalsZantes
Trade demand254,4751,855
Divided by crop estimate298,4773,650
Equals free percentage8551
100 minus free percentage equals reserve percentage1549

In addition, the Department's “Guidelines for Fruit, Vegetable, and Specialty Crop Marketing Orders” (Guidelines) specify that 110 percent of recent years' sales should be made available to primary markets each season for marketing orders utilizing reserve pool authority. This goal was met for Naturals and Zantes by the establishment of final percentages that released 100 percent of the trade demand and the offer of additional reserve raisins for sale to handlers under the “10 plus 10 offers.” As specified in § 989.54(g), the 10 plus 10 offers are two offers of reserve pool raisins that are made available to handlers during each season. For each such offer, a quantity of reserve raisins equal to 10 percent of the prior year's shipments is made available for free use. Handlers may sell their 10 plus 10 raisins to any market.

For Naturals, both 10 plus 10 offers were held in May 2000 where a total of about 44,000 tons of raisins were made available to handlers. This quantity is less than the amount specified in the order. As previously stated, the Committee utilized 1996-97 shipments of 314,013 tons as a base to compute trade demand because 1998-99 shipments were limited. Similarly, as specified in § 989.54(g), 1996-97 shipments were used as a base to compute the amount of tonnage to be made available in the 10 plus 10 offers. Thus, 31,402 tons should have been made available in each of the 10 plus 10 offers (62,804 tons total). However, this amount was not available in the reserve. Thus, all of the reserve pool raisins were made available to handlers for free use through the 10 plus 10 offers. A total of 265 tons of reserve Naturals were purchased in the offers.

Adding the 265 tons of 10 plus 10 raisins to the 254,475-ton trade demand figure, plus 101,946 tons of 1998-99 carryin inventory equates to about 356,686 tons natural condition raisins, or 334,835 tons packed raisins, made available for free use, or to the primary market thus far this season. This is 121 percent of the quantity of Naturals shipped during the 1998-99 crop year (295,401 natural condition tons or 277,305 packed tons).

For Zantes, both Zante 10 plus 10 offers were made available simultaneously in early February 2000 and 708 tons of raisins were purchased by handlers. Adding the 708 tons of 10 plus 10 raisins to the 1,855 ton trade demand figure, plus 1,906 tons of 1998-99 carryin inventory equates to 4,469 tons natural condition raisins, or about 3,985 tons packed raisins, made available for free use, or to the primary market. This is 126 percent of the quantity of Zantes shipped during the 1998-99 crop year (3,542 natural condition tons or 3,158 packed tons).

In addition to the 10 plus 10 offers, § 989.67(j) of the order provides authority for sales of reserve raisins to handlers under certain conditions such as a national emergency, crop failure, change in economic or marketing conditions, or if free tonnage shipments in the current crop year exceed shipments of a comparable period of the prior crop year. Such reserve raisins may be sold by handlers to any market. When implemented, these additional offers of reserve raisins make even more raisins available to primary markets, which is consistent with the Department's Guidelines.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Pursuant to requirements set forth in the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has considered the economic impact of this action 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 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 20 handlers of California raisins who are subject to regulation under the order and approximately 4,500 raisin producers in the regulated area. Small agricultural service firms are defined by the Small Business Administration (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts Start Printed Page 40978of less than $5,000,000, and small agricultural producers are defined as those having annual receipts of less than $500,000. Thirteen of the 20 handlers subject to regulation have annual sales estimated to be at least $5,000,000, and the remaining 7 handlers have sales less than $5,000,000, excluding receipts from any other sources. No more than 7 handlers, and a majority of producers, of California raisins may be classified as small entities, excluding receipts from other sources.

Pursuant to § 989.54(d) of the order, this rule continues in effect final volume regulation percentages for 1999-2000 crop Natural and Zante raisins. The volume regulation percentages are 85 percent free and 15 percent reserve for Naturals and 51 percent free and 49 percent reserve for Zantes. Free tonnage raisins may be sold by handlers to any market. Reserve raisins must be held in a pool for the account of the Committee and are disposed of through certain programs authorized under the order.

Volume regulation is warranted this season for Naturals because the final crop estimate of 298,477 tons combined with the carryin inventory of 101,946 tons results in a total available supply of 400,423 tons, which is about 57 percent higher than the 254,475-ton trade demand. Volume regulation is warranted for Zantes this season because the crop estimate of 3,650 tons combined with the carryin inventory of 1,906 tons results in a total available supply of 5,556 tons which is about 200 percent higher than the 1,855-ton trade demand. The volume regulation percentages are intended to help stabilize raisin supplies and prices, and strengthen market conditions.

Many years of marketing experience led to the development of the current volume regulation procedures. These procedures have helped the industry address its marketing problems by keeping supplies in balance with domestic and export market needs, and strengthening market conditions. The current volume regulation procedures fully supply the domestic and export markets, provide for market expansion, and help prevent oversupplies in the domestic market.

Raisin-variety grapes can be marketed as fresh grapes, crushed for use in the production of wine or juice concentrate, or dried into raisins. Annual fluctuations in the fresh grape, wine, and concentrate markets, as well as weather-related factors, cause fluctuations in raisin supply. These supply fluctuations can cause producer price instability and disorderly market conditions. Volume regulation is helpful to the raisin industry because it lessens the impact of such fluctuations and contributes to orderly marketing. For example, excluding the 1997-98 season for which complete data is not yet available, producer prices for Naturals have remained fairly steady between the 1992-93 through the 1998-99 seasons, although production has varied. As shown in the table below, production has varied from a low of 240,469 tons in 1998-99 to a high of 387,007 tons in 1993-94, or 61 percent. According to Committee data, during years of Natural volume regulation, the total producer return per ton, which includes proceeds from both free tonnage plus reserve pool raisins, has varied from a low of $901 in 1992-93 to a high of $1,049 in 1996-97, or 16 percent.

Natural Seedless Producer Prices

Crop yearProduction (natural condition tons)Producer prices
1998-99240,4691 $1,290
1997-98382,4482 925.50
1996-97272,0631,049
1995-96325,9111,007
1994-95378,427928
1993-94387,007904
1992-93371,516901
1 No volume regulation.
2 Return to date, reserve pool still open.

In addition, the Committee is implementing an export program for Naturals. Through this program, the Committee hopes to export more Naturals thereby helping to build and maintain export markets, and ultimately improve producer returns. Volume regulation helps the industry not only to manage its supply of raisins, but also maintain market stability.

Regarding Zantes, Zante production is much smaller than that of Naturals. Volume regulation has been implemented for Zantes during the 1994-95, 1995-96, 1997-98, and 1998-99 seasons. Various programs to utilize reserve Zantes were implemented when volume regulation was in effect during those seasons. As shown in the table following this paragraph, although production varied during those years, volume regulation helped to reduce inventories, and helped to strengthen total producer prices (free tonnage plus reserve Zantes) from $412.56 per ton in 1994-95 to an estimated high of $730 per ton in 1997-98. The Committee is implementing an export program for Zantes, in addition to Naturals. Through this program, the Committee hopes to export more Zantes, thereby continuing to reduce the industry's oversupply, helping to build export markets, and ultimately improve producer returns. Volume regulation helps the industry not only to manage oversupplies of raisins, but also maintain market stability.

Zante Currant Inventories and Producer Prices During Years of Volume Regulation

[*Natural condition tons]

Crop yearProduction*Inventory*Total season average producer price (per ton)
DesirablePhysical
1998-993,8805731,906(1)
Start Printed Page 40979
1997-984,8266941,1882 $730.00
1996-974,4919875493 1,150.00
1995-963,2947822,890711.32
1994-955,3778374,364412.56
1 Data not yet available, reserve pool open.
2 Estimate.
3 No volume regulation.

Free and reserve percentages are established by variety, and usually in years when the supply exceeds the trade demand by a large enough margin that the Committee believes volume regulation is necessary to maintain market stability. However, volume regulation may also be utilized in short crop years so that the industry may utilize its export program as described to maintain its export markets and provide stability in the domestic market. Accordingly, in assessing whether to apply volume regulation or, as an alternative, not to apply such regulation, the Committee recommended only two of the nine raisin varieties defined under the order for volume regulation this season.

The free and reserve percentages release the full trade demands and apply uniformly to all handlers in the industry, regardless of size. For Naturals, with the exception of the 1998-99 crop year, small and large raisin producers and handlers have been operating under volume regulation percentages every year since 1983-84. There are no known additional costs incurred by small handlers that are not incurred by large handlers. All handlers are regulated based on the quantity of raisins that they acquire from producers. While the level of benefits of this rulemaking are difficult to quantify, the stabilizing effects of the volume regulations impact both small and large handlers positively by helping them maintain and expand markets even though raisin supplies fluctuate widely from season to season. Likewise, price stability positively impacts small and large producers by allowing them to better anticipate the revenues their raisins will generate.

There are some reporting, recordkeeping and other compliance requirements under the order. The reporting and recordkeeping burdens are necessary for compliance purposes and for developing statistical data for maintenance of the program. The requirements are the same as those applied in past seasons. Thus, this action will not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping burdens on either small or large handlers. The forms require information that is readily available from handler records and which can be provided without data processing equipment or trained statistical staff. The information collection and recordkeeping requirements have been previously approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control No. 0581-0178. As with other, similar marketing order programs, reports and forms are periodically studied to reduce or eliminate duplicate information collection burdens by industry and public sector agencies. In addition, the Department has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this rule.

Further, Committee and subcommittee meetings are widely publicized in advance and are held in a location central to the production area. The meetings are open to all industry members, including small business entities, and other interested persons who are encouraged to participate in the deliberations and voice their opinions on topics under discussion.

An interim final rule concerning this action was published in the Federal Register on April 10, 2000 (65 FR 18871). Copies of the rule were mailed by the Committee staff to all Committee members and alternates, the Raisin Bargaining Association, handlers, and dehydrators. In addition, the rule was made available through the Internet by the Office of the Federal Register. That rule provided for a 60-day comment period, which ended June 9, 2000. No comments were received.

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 Committee's recommendation, and other information, it is found that this final rule, as hereinafter set forth, will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 989

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PART 989—RAISINS PRODUCED FROM GRAPES GROWN IN CALIFORNIA

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Accordingly, the interim final rule amending

End Amendment Part Start Signature

Dated: June 27, 2000

Robert C. Keeney,

Deputy Administrator, Fruit and Vegetable Programs.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 00-16739 Filed 6-30-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P