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Blueberry Promotion, Research, and Information Order

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

This rule establishes a Blueberry Promotion, Research, and Information Order (Order) under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996. Under the Order, cultivated blueberry producers and importers will pay an assessment of $12 per ton, which will be paid to the U.S.A. Blueberry Council (USABC). Producers and importers of less than 2,000 pounds of fresh and processed cultivated blueberries annually will be exempt from the assessment. First handlers will remit the assessments to the USABC. The USABC will use the funds collected to conduct a generic program of promotion, research, consumer information, and industry information to maintain and expand markets for cultivated blueberries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA or the Department) conducted a referendum among eligible producers and importers of cultivated blueberries to determine whether they favor the implementation of the Order. The Order was approved by a majority of those voting who also represented a majority of the pounds of cultivated blueberries represented in the referendum.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

August 16, 2000.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Oliver L. Flake, Research and Promotion Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, Stop 0244, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 2535-S, Washington, DC 20250-0244; telephone (202) 720-5976, fax (202) 205-2800, or e-mail at oliver.flake@usda.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This Order is issued pursuant to the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 (Act) [7 U.S.C. 7401-7425; Public Law 104-127].

Previous documents in this proceeding: Proposed Rule Number 1 (July 1999 proposed rule) on the Order published in the July 22, 1999, issue of the Federal Register [64 FR 39790]; a proposed rule on referendum procedures published in the July 22, 1999, issue of the Federal Register [64 FR 39803]; Proposed Rule Number 2 (February 2000 proposed rule) on the Order, which included a Referendum Order, published in the February 15, 2000, issue of the Federal Register [65 FR 7657]; a final rule on referendum procedures published in the February 15, 2000, issue of the Federal Register [65 FR 7652].

Question and Answer Overview

Why Is a Final Rule Being Published?

In a recent referendum, eligible producers and importers of cultivated blueberries voted in favor of implementing the Order. This final rule, which will become effective in 30 days, completes the implementation process.

What Is the Purpose of the Program?

The purpose of the program is to develop and finance an effective and coordinated program of promotion, research, and information to maintain and expand the markets for fresh and processed cultivated blueberries.

Who Is Covered by This Rule?

Cultivated blueberry producers who grow and importers who import 2,000 pounds or more of cultivated blueberries annually will be subject to this rule and pay an assessment.

What Is the Assessment Rate?

The assessment rate is $12 per ton.

When Will the Assessment Be Due?

Domestic assessments for the 2001 crop year will be due by November 30, 2001. Assessments for the subsequent crop years will be due by November 30 of the crop year. The U.S. Customs Service will collect assessments on imports at the time of entry into the United States, starting on January 2, 2001.

Will I Have To Pay the Assessment Forever?

Assessments will be due as long as the Order is in effect. However, every five years, USDA will conduct a referendum to determine whether producers and importers of cultivated blueberries want the program to continue. The program will continue if a majority of the voters in the referendum vote for approval and those voters represent a majority of the pounds of cultivated blueberries produced and imported by the voters in the referendum.

Who Will Administer This Order?

The USABC will administer the Order with supervision from USDA. The USABC members will be appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) from nominations received from the blueberry industry.

Who Will Be on the USABC?

The USABC will consist of 13 members: One producer member from each of four producer regions; one producer member from each of the top five cultivated-blueberry-producing states; one importer; one exporter (a foreign producer who ships cultivated blueberries into the United States from the largest foreign cultivated blueberry production area); one first handler; and one public member. Each member will have an alternate. Currently, the top five states (in descending order) are Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Georgia, and North Carolina.

When Will USABC Members Be Appointed?

The nomination process for the producer members and alternates will begin soon after the Order becomes effective. The North American Blueberry Council (NABC) will assist USDA in this process for the initial nominations. Future nominations will be managed by the USABC.

It is expected that the producer members and alternates will be appointed by the Secretary in time for the USABC to hold its organizational meeting in Washington, DC, in late 2000. The USABC will nominate persons to serve as the importer, exporter, handler, and public member Start Printed Page 43962and alternates after it is appointed and has met.

I Am a Producer of Cultivated Blueberries, and I Would Like To Serve on the USABC. How Can I Get Nominated?

The NABC will notify all producers of cultivated blueberries when the nomination process will begin. Voting for nominees will be by mail ballot. In states where there is a state commission or marketing order committee for cultivated blueberries, the commission or committee will have the opportunity to nominate members and alternates to serve on the USABC. The commissions and committees must submit two nominees for each member and two nominees for each alternate. Producers in these states should contact their state commission or committee to express interest in being nominated.

In states where no commission or committee exists, the NABC will seek nominations from the cultivated blueberry producers in those states, place the names on a ballot for each state and region, and send the ballot to the producers in the appropriate states and regions to vote on the nominees of their choice. The person receiving the highest number of votes cast for each seat on the USABC will be the first choice nominee for the member. The person receiving the second highest number of votes cast will be the first choice nominee for the alternate member. The persons with the third and fourth highest number of votes cast will be designated as additional nominees for the member and alternate positions. Each nominee will complete and submit to the NABC a background form. The NABC will then submit the nominees and their background forms to the Secretary for consideration.

Executive Orders 12988 and 12866

This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order (E.O.) 12988, Civil Justice Reform. It is not intended to have retroactive effect. Section 524 of the Act provides that the Act shall not affect or preempt any other Federal or state law authorizing promotion or research relating to an agricultural commodity.

Under Section 519 of the Act, a person subject to the Order may file a petition with the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) stating that the Order, any provision of the Order, or any obligation imposed in connection with the Order, is not established in accordance with the law, and requesting a modification of the Order or an exemption from the Order. Any petition filed challenging the Order, any provision of the Order, or any obligation imposed in connection with the Order, shall be filed within two years after the effective date of the Order, provision, or obligation subject to challenge in the petition. The petitioner will have the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. Thereafter, the Secretary will issue a ruling on a petition. The Act provides that the district court of the United States for any district in which the petitioner resides or conducts business shall have the jurisdiction to review a final ruling on the petition, if the petitioner files a complaint for that purpose not later than 20 days after the date of the entry of the Secretary's final ruling.

This rule has been determined “not significant” for purposes of E.O. 12866 and therefore has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork Reduction Act

In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) [5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.], the Agency examined the impact of this rule on small entities and prepared a final regulatory flexibility analysis that was included in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on February 15, 2000. The analysis indicates that the agency minimized the economic impacts of the Order provisions on small entities to the fullest extent reasonably possible while adhering to the program's objectives.

In addition, the Order's provisions were carefully reviewed, and every effort was made to minimize any unnecessary information collection and recordkeeping costs or requirements. In accordance with the OMB regulation [5 CFR Part 1320] which implements the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 [44 U.S.C. Chapter 35], the information collection and recordkeeping requirements that are imposed by this Order were submitted to OMB and approved under OMB control numbers 0505-0001 and 0581-0093.

Copies of the final regulatory flexibility analysis and the discussion of the information collection and recordkeeping requirements contained in this rulemaking can be obtained from Oliver Flake at the address listed above or by e-mail at oliver.flake@usda.gov.

Background

In December 1998, the North American Blueberry Council, Inc. (proponent or NABC) submitted a proposal for a national promotion, research, and information order for cultivated blueberries pursuant to the Act. The Department published the proponent's proposal, with modifications, for public comment in the July 1999 proposed rule. Eight comments were received by the September 20, 1999, deadline. These comments, and related changes to the Order, were discussed in the February 15, 1999 proposed rule, which included a Referendum Order. A referendum was conducted from March 13 to April 14, 2000. In the referendum, producers and importers of 2,000 pounds of cultivated blueberries voted to implement the program.

Under the program, producers and importers of 2,000 pounds or more of cultivated blueberries will pay an assessment of $12 per ton annually. The producer assessment will be collected by first handlers, and the importer assessment will be collected by the U.S. Customs Service.

The program will be administered by the USABC under USDA supervision. The USABC will have 13 members: one producer member from each of four producer regions; one producer member from each of the top five cultivated-blueberry-producing states; one importer; one exporter (a foreign producer who ships cultivated blueberries into the United States from the largest foreign cultivated blueberry production area); one first handler; and one public member. Each member will have an alternate.

The USABC will conduct a generic program of promotion, research, consumer information, and industry information to maintain and expand markets for cultivated blueberries.

The Order is summarized as follows: Sections 1218.1 through 1218.23 of the Order define certain terms, such as blueberries, producer, and importer, which are used in the Order.

Sections 1218.40 through 1218.48 include provisions relating to the USABC. These provisions cover establishment and membership, nominations and appointments, term of office, vacancies, alternate members, procedures for conducting USABC business, compensation and reimbursement, powers and duties of the USABC, and prohibited activities. The USABC is the governing body authorized to administer the Order through the implementation of programs, plans, projects, budgets, and contracts to promote and disseminate information about blueberries, subject to oversight of the Secretary.

Sections 1218.50 through 1218.56 cover budget review and approval; financial statements; authorize the collection of assessments; specify how assessments will be used, including reimbursement of necessary expenses Start Printed Page 43963incurred by the USABC for the performance of its duties and expenses incurred for USDA's oversight responsibilities; specify who pays the assessment and how; authorize the imposition of a late-payment charge on past-due assessments; outline exemption procedures; address programs, plans, and projects; require the USABC to periodically conduct an independent review of its overall program; and address patents, copyrights, trademarks, information, publications, and product formulations developed through the use of assessment funds.

There will be an assessment rate of $12 per ton for domestic cultivated blueberries and imported fresh and processed cultivated blueberries. The assessment rate may be raised or lowered after the initial continuance referendum which will be conducted after the program has been in operation five years. The assessment rate may be raised or lowered without a referendum.

The federal debt collection procedures referenced above and in § 1218.52(f) include those set forth in 7 CFR §§ 3.1 through 3.36 for all research and promotion programs administered by AMS [60 FR 12533, March 7, 1995].

Sections 1218.60 through 1218.62 concern reporting and recordkeeping requirements for persons subject to the Order and protect the confidentiality of information from such books, records, or reports.

Sections 1218.70 through 1218.78 describe the right of the Secretary; address referenda; authorize the Secretary to suspend or terminate the Order when deemed appropriate; prescribe proceedings after termination; address personal liability, separability, and amendments; and provide OMB control numbers.

General Findings

The Department conducted a referendum among producers and importers of cultivated blueberries from March 13 through April 14, 2000, to determine whether the Order would become effective. The representative period for establishing voter eligibility was from January 1 through December 31, 1999. Producers and importers who produced or imported 2,000 pounds or more of cultivated blueberries during the representative period were eligible to vote.

It is determined that a majority of the eligible producers and importers voting who also represent a majority of the pounds of cultivated blueberries represented in the referendum favored implementation of the Order. After consideration of all relevant material presented, including the initial proposal, comments received, and the referendum results, it is found that the Order is consistent with and effectuates the declared policy and purpose of the Act.

The effective date of this action will be 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1218

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble, title 7 of chapter XI of the Code of Federal Regulations is amended as follows:

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PART 1218—BLUEBERRY PROMOTION, RESEARCH, AND INFORMATION ORDER

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1. The authority citation for part 1218 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7401-7425.

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2. Subpart A is added to part 1218 to read as follows:

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Subpart A—Blueberry Promotion, Research, and Information Order Definitions
1218.1
Act.
1218.2
Blueberries.
1218.3
Conflict of interest.
1218.4
Crop year.
1218.5
Department.
1218.6
Exporter.
1218.7
First handler.
1218.8
Fiscal period.
1218.9
Importer.
1218.10
Information.
1218.11
Market or marketing.
1218.12
Order.
1218.13
Part and subpart.
1218.14
Person.
1218.15
Processed blueberries.
1218.16
Producer.
1218.17
Promotion.
1218.18
Research.
1218.19
Secretary.
1218.20
Suspend.
1218.21
Terminate.
1218.22
United States.
1218.23
USABC.
U.S.A. Blueberry Council
1218.40
Establishment and membership.
1218.41
Nominations and appointments.
1218.42
Term of office.
1218.43
Vacancies.
1218.44
Alternate members.
1218.45
Procedure.
1218.46
Compensation and reimbursement.
1218.47
Powers and duties.
1218.48
Prohibited activities.
Expenses and Assessments
1218.50
Budget and expenses.
1218.51
Financial statements.
1218.52
Assessments.
1218.53
Exemption procedures.
1218.54
Programs, plans, and projects.
1218.55
Independent evaluation.
1218.56
Patents, copyrights, trademarks, information, publications, and product formulations.
Reports, Books, and Records
1218.60
Reports.
1218.61
Books and records.
1218.62
Confidential treatment.
Miscellaneous
1218.70
Right of the Secretary.
1218.71
Referenda.
1218.72
Suspension and termination.
1218.73
Proceedings after termination.
1218.74
Effect of termination or amendment.
1218.75
Personal liability.
1218.76
Separability.
1218.77
Amendments.
1218.78
OMB control numbers.

Subpart A—Blueberry Promotion, Research, and Information Order

Definitions

Act.

Act means the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7401-7425; Pub. L. 104-127; 110 Stat. 1029), or any amendments thereto.

Blueberries.

Blueberries means cultivated blueberries grown in or imported into the United States of the genus Vaccinium Corymbosum and Ashei, including the northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbit eye varieties, and any hybrid, and excluding the lowbush (native) blueberry Vaccinium Angustifolium.

Conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest means a situation in which a member or employee of the U.S.A. Blueberry Council has a direct or indirect financial interest in a person who performs a service for, or enters into a contract with, the USABC for anything of economic value.

Crop year.

Crop year means the 12-month period from November 1 through October 31 of the following year or such other period approved by the Secretary.

Department.

Department means the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Exporter.

Exporter means a person involved in exporting blueberries from another country to the United States.

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First handler.

First handler means any person, (excluding a common or contract carrier), receiving blueberries from producers and who as owner, agent, or otherwise ships or causes blueberries to be shipped as specified in the Order. This definition includes those engaged in the business of buying, selling and/or offering for sale; receiving; packing; grading; marketing; or distributing blueberries in commercial quantities. This definition includes a retailer, except a retailer who purchases or acquires from, or handles on behalf of any producer, blueberries. The term first handler includes a producer who handles or markets blueberries of the producer's own production.

Fiscal period.

Fiscal period means a calendar year from January 1 through December 31, or such other period as approved by the Secretary.

Importer.

Importer means any person who imports fresh or processed blueberries into the United States as a principal or as an agent, broker, or consignee of any person who produces or handles fresh or processed blueberries outside of the United States for sale in the United States, and who is listed in the import records as the importer of record for such blueberries.

Information.

Information means information and programs that are designed to increase efficiency in processing and to develop new markets, marketing strategies, increase market efficiency, and activities that are designed to enhance the image of blueberries on a national or international basis. These include:

(a) Consumer information, which means any action taken to provide information to, and broaden the understanding of, the general public regarding the consumption, use, nutritional attributes, and care of blueberries; and

(b) Industry information, which means information and programs that will lead to the development of new markets, new marketing strategies, or increased efficiency for the blueberry industry, and activities to enhance the image of the blueberry industry.

Market or marketing.

(a) Marketing means the sale or other disposition of blueberries in any channel of commerce.

(b) To market means to sell or otherwise dispose of blueberries in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce.

Order.

Order means an order issued by the Secretary under section 514 of the Act that provides for a program of generic promotion, research, and information regarding agricultural commodities authorized under the Act.

Part and subpart.

Part means the Blueberry Promotion, Research, and Information Order and all rules, regulations, and supplemental orders issued pursuant to the Act and the Order. The Order shall be a subpart of such part.

Person.

Person means any individual, group of individuals, partnership, corporation, association, cooperative, or any other legal entity.

Processed blueberries.

Processed blueberries means blueberries which have been frozen, dried, pureed, or made into juice.

Producer.

Producer means any person who grows blueberries in the United States for sale in commerce, or a person who is engaged in the business of producing, or causing to be produced for any market, blueberries beyond the person's own family use and having value at first point of sale.

Promotion.

Promotion means any action taken to present a favorable image of blueberries to the general public and the food industry for the purpose of improving the competitive position of blueberries both in the United States and abroad and stimulating the sale of blueberries. This includes paid advertising and public relations.

Research.

Research means any type of test, study, or analysis designed to advance the image, desirability, use, marketability, production, product development, or quality of blueberries, including research relating to nutritional value, cost of production, new product development, varietal development, nutritional value, health research, and marketing of blueberries.

Secretary.

Secretary means the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, or any officer or employee of the Department to whom authority has heretofore been delegated, or to whom authority may hereafter be delegated, to act in the Secretary's stead.

Suspend.

Suspend means to issue a rule under section 553 of title 5, U.S.C., to temporarily prevent the operation of an order or part thereof during a particular period of time specified in the rule.

Terminate.

Terminate means to issue a rule under section 553 of title 5, U.S.C., to cancel permanently the operation of an order or part thereof beginning on a date certain specified in the rule.

United States.

United States means collectively the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories and possessions of the United States.

USABC.

USABC, or U.S.A. Blueberry Council, means the administrative body established pursuant to § 1218.40.

U.S.A. Blueberry Council

Establishment and membership.

(a) Establishment of the U.S.A. Blueberry Council. There is hereby established a U.S.A. Blueberry Council, hereinafter called the USABC, composed of no more than 13 members and alternates, appointed by the Secretary from the nominations as follows:

(1) One producer member and alternate from each of the following regions:

(i) Region #1 Western Region (all states from the Pacific east to the Rockies): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

(ii) Region #2 Midwest Region (all states east of the Rockies to the Great Lakes and south to the Kansas/Missouri/Kentucky state line): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

(iii) Region #3 Northeast Region (all states east of the Great Lakes and North of the North Carolina/Tennessee state line): Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

(iv) Region #4 Southern Region (all states south of the Virginia/Kentucky/Missouri/Kansas state line and east of the Rockies): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Start Printed Page 43965

(2) One producer member and alternate from each of the top five blueberry producing states, based upon the average of the total tons produced over the previous three years. Average tonnage will be based upon North American Blueberry Council production figures for the initial election and production and assessment figures generated by the USABC thereafter.

(3) One importer and alternate.

(4) One exporter and alternate shall be filled by foreign blueberry producers currently shipping blueberries into the United States from the largest foreign blueberry production area, based on a three-year average.

(5) One first handler member and alternate shall be filled by a United States based independent or cooperative organization which is a producer/shipper of domestic blueberries.

(6) One public member and alternate.

(b) Adjustment of membership. At least once every five years, the USABC will review the geographical distribution of United States production of blueberries and the quantity of imports. The review will be conducted through an audit of state crop production figures and USABC assessment receipts. If warranted, the USABC will recommend to the Secretary that membership on the USABC be altered to reflect any changes in geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and the quantity of imports. If the level of imports increases, importer members and alternates may be added to the USABC.

Nominations and appointments.

(a) Voting for regional and state representatives will be made by mail ballot.

(b) In a case where a state has a state blueberry commission or marketing order in place, the state commission or committee will nominate members and alternates to serve on the USABC. At least two nominees shall be submitted to the Secretary for each member and for each alternate.

(c) Nomination and election of regional, and state representatives where no commission or order is in place will be handled by the USABC, provided that the initial nominations will be handled by the North American Blueberry Council. The USABC will seek nominations for members and alternates from the specific states and/or regions. Nominations will be returned to the USABC and placed on a ballot which will then be sent to producers in the state and/or region for vote. The final nominee for member will have received the highest number of votes cast. The person with the second highest number of votes cast will be the final nominee for alternate. The persons with the third and fourth place highest number of votes cast will be designated as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary.

(d) Nominations for the importer, exporter, first handler, and public member positions will be made by the USABC. Two nominees for each member and each alternate position will be submitted to the Secretary for consideration.

(e) From the nominations, the Secretary shall select the members of the USABC and alternates for each position on the USABC.

Term of office.

USABC members and alternates will serve for a term of three years and be able to serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. A USABC member may serve as an alternate during the years the member is ineligible for a member position. When the USABC is first established, the state representatives, first handler member, and their respected alternates will be assigned initial terms of three years. Regional representatives, the importer member, the exporter member, public member, and their alternates will serve an initial term of two years. Thereafter, each of these positions will carry a full three-year term. USABC nominations and appointments will take place in two out of every three years. Each term of office will end on December 31, with new terms of office beginning on January 1.

Vacancies.

(a) In the event that any member of the USABC ceases to be a member of the category of members from which the member was appointed to the USABC, such position shall automatically become vacant.

(b) If a member of the USABC consistently refuses to perform the duties of a member of the USABC, or if a member of the USABC engages in acts of dishonesty or willful misconduct, the USABC may recommend to the Secretary that the member be removed from office. If the Secretary finds the recommendation of the USABC shows adequate cause, the Secretary shall remove such member from office.

(c) Should any member position become vacant, the alternate of that member shall automatically assume the position of said member. Should the positions of both a member and such member's alternate become vacant, successors for the unexpired terms of such member and alternate shall be appointed in the manner specified in § 1218.40 and § 1218.41, except that said nomination and replacement shall not be required if said unexpired terms are less than six months.

Alternate members.

An alternate member of the USABC, during the absence of the member for whom the person is the alternate, shall act in the place and stead of such member and perform such duties as assigned. In the event of death, removal, resignation, or disqualification of any member, the alternate for that member shall automatically assume the position of said member. In the event that both a producer member of the USABC and the alternate are unable to attend a meeting, the USABC may not designate any other alternate to serve in such member's or alternate's place and stead for such a meeting.

Procedure.

(a) At a USABC meeting, it will be considered a quorum when a minimum of seven members, or their alternates serving in the absence, are present.

(b) At the start of each fiscal period, the USABC will select a chairperson and vice chairperson who will conduct meetings throughout that period.

(c) All USABC members and alternates will receive a minimum of 10 days advance notice of all USABC and committee meetings.

(d) Each member of the USABC will be entitled to one vote on any matter put to the USABC, and the motion will carry if supported by one vote more than 50 percent of the total votes represented by the USABC members present.

(e) It will be considered a quorum at a committee meeting when at least one more than half of those assigned to the committee are present. Alternates may also be assigned to committees as necessary. Committees may also consist of individuals other than USABC members and such individuals may vote in committee meetings. These committee members shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses, as approved by the USABC.

(f) In lieu of voting at a properly convened meeting and, when in the opinion of the chairperson of the USABC such action is considered necessary, the USABC may take action if supported by one vote more than 50 percent of the members by mail, telephone, electronic mail, facsimile, or any other means of communication, and all telephone votes shall be confirmed promptly in writing. In that event, all members must be notified and provided the opportunity to vote. Any action so taken shall have the same force and Start Printed Page 43966effect as though such action had been taken at a properly convened meeting of the USABC. All votes shall be recorded in USABC minutes.

(g) There shall be no voting by proxy.

(h) The chairperson shall be a voting member.

(i) The organization of the USABC and the procedures for the conducting of meetings of the USABC shall be in accordance with its bylaws, which shall be established by the USABC and approved by the Secretary.

Compensation and reimbursement.

The members of the USABC, and alternates when acting as members, shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses, as approved by the USABC, incurred by them in the performance of their duties as USABC members.

Powers and duties.

The USABC shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) To administer the Order in accordance with its terms and conditions and to collect assessments;

(b) To develop and recommend to the Secretary for approval such bylaws as may be necessary for the functioning of the USABC, and such rules as may be necessary to administer the Order, including activities authorized to be carried out under the Order;

(c) To meet, organize, and select from among the members of the USABC a chairperson, other officers, committees, and subcommittees, as the USABC determines to be appropriate;

(d) To employ persons, other than the members, as the USABC considers necessary to assist the USABC in carrying out its duties and to determine the compensation and specify the duties of such persons;

(e) To develop programs and projects, and enter into contracts or agreements, which must be approved by the Secretary before becoming effective, for the development and carrying out of programs or projects of research, information, or promotion, and the payment of costs thereof with funds collected pursuant to this subpart. Each contract or agreement shall provide that any person who enters into a contract or agreement with the USABC shall develop and submit to the USABC a proposed activity; keep accurate records of all of its transactions relating to the contract or agreement; account for funds received and expended in connection with the contract or agreement; make periodic reports to the USABC of activities conducted under the contract or agreement; and make such other reports available as the USABC or the Secretary considers relevant. Any contract or agreement shall provide that:

(1) The contractor or agreeing party shall develop and submit to the USABC a program, plan, or project together with a budget or budgets that shall show the estimated cost to be incurred for such program, plan, or project;

(2) The contractor or agreeing party shall keep accurate records of all its transactions and make periodic reports to the USABC of activities conducted, submit accounting for funds received and expended, and make such other reports as the Secretary or the USABC may require;

(3) The Secretary may audit the records of the contracting or agreeing party periodically; and

(4) Any subcontractor who enters into a contract with a USABC contractor and who receives or otherwise uses funds allocated by the USABC shall be subject to the same provisions as the contractor.

(f) To prepare and submit for approval of the Secretary fiscal year budgets in accordance with § 1218.50;

(g) To maintain such records and books and prepare and submit such reports and records from time to time to the Secretary as the Secretary may prescribe; to make appropriate accounting with respect to the receipt and disbursement of all funds entrusted to it; and to keep records that accurately reflect the actions and transactions of the USABC;

(h) To cause its books to be audited by a competent auditor at the end of each fiscal year and at such other times as the Secretary may request, and to submit a report of the audit directly to the Secretary;

(i) To give the Secretary the same notice of meetings of the USABC as is given to members in order that the Secretary's representative(s) may attend such meetings, and to keep and report minutes of each meeting of the USABC to the Secretary;

(j) To act as intermediary between the Secretary and any producer, first handler, importer, or exporter;

(k) To furnish to the Secretary any information or records that the Secretary may request;

(l) To receive, investigate, and report to the Secretary complaints of violations of the Order;

(m) To recommend to the Secretary such amendments to the Order as the USABC considers appropriate; and

(n) To work to achieve an effective, continuous, and coordinated program of promotion, research, consumer information, evaluation, and industry information designed to strengthen the blueberry industry's position in the marketplace; maintain and expand existing markets and uses for blueberries; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the blueberry industry.

Prohibited activities.

The USABC may not engage in, and shall prohibit the employees and agents of the USABC from engaging in:

(a) Any action that would be a conflict of interest; and

(b) Using funds collected by the USABC under the Order to undertake any action for the purpose of influencing legislation or governmental action or policy, by local, state, national, and foreign governments, other than recommending to the Secretary amendments to the Order.

Expenses and Assessments

Budget and expenses.

(a) At least 60 days prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, and as may be necessary thereafter, the USABC shall prepare and submit to the Secretary a budget for the fiscal year covering its anticipated expenses and disbursements in administering this subpart. Each such budget shall include:

(1) A statement of objectives and strategy for each program, plan, or project;

(2) A summary of anticipated revenue, with comparative data or at least one preceding year (except for the initial budget);

(3) A summary of proposed expenditures for each program, plan, or project; and

(4) Staff and administrative expense breakdowns, with comparative data for at least on preceding year (except for the initial budget).

(b) Each budget shall provide adequate funds to defray its proposed expenditures and to provide for a reserve as set forth in this subpart.

(c) Subject to this section, any amendment or addition to an approved budget must be approved by the Secretary, including shifting funds from one program, plan, or project to another. Shifts of funds which do not cause an increase in the USABC's approved budget and which are consistent with governing bylaws need not have prior approval by the Secretary.

(d) The USABC is authorized to incur such expenses, including provision for a reasonable reserve, as the Secretary finds are reasonable and likely to be incurred by the USABC for its maintenance and functioning, and to enable it to exercise its powers and perform its duties in accordance with the provisions of this subpart. Such Start Printed Page 43967expenses shall be paid from funds received by the USABC.

(e) With approval of the Secretary, the USABC may borrow money for the payment of administrative expenses, subject to the same fiscal, budget, and audit controls as other funds of the USABC. Any funds borrowed by the USABC shall be expended only for startup costs and capital outlays and are limited to the first year of operation of the USABC.

(f) The USABC may accept voluntary contributions, but these shall only be used to pay expenses incurred in the conduct of programs, plans, and projects. Such contributions shall be free from any encumbrance by the donor and the USABC shall retain complete control of their use.

(g) The USABC may also receive funds provided through the Department's Foreign Agricultural Service or from other sources, with the approval of the Secretary, for authorized activities.

(h) The USABC shall reimburse the Secretary for all expenses incurred by the Secretary in the implementation, administration, and supervision of the Order, including all referendum costs in connection with the Order.

(i) The USABC may not expend for administration, maintenance, and functioning of the USABC in any fiscal year an amount that exceeds 15 percent of the assessments and other income received by the USABC for that fiscal year. Reimbursements to the Secretary required under paragraph (h) are excluded from this limitation on spending.

(j) The USABC may establish an operating monetary reserve and may carry over to subsequent fiscal periods excess funds in any reserve so established: Provided that the funds in the reserve do not exceed one fiscal period's budget. Subject to approval by the Secretary, such reserve funds may be used to defray any expenses authorized under this part.

Financial statements.

(a) As requested by the Secretary, the USABC shall prepare and submit financial statements to the Secretary on a periodic basis. Each such financial statement shall include, but not be limited to, a balance sheet, income statement, and expense budget. The expense budget shall show expenditures during the time period covered by the report, year-to-date expenditures, and the unexpended budget.

(b) Each financial statement shall be submitted to the Secretary within 30 days after the end of the time period to which it applies.

(c) The USABC shall submit annually to the Secretary an annual financial statement within 90 days after the end of the fiscal year to which it applies.

Assessments.

(a) The funds to cover the Council's expenses shall be paid from assessments on producers and importers, donations from any person not subject to assessments under this Order, and other funds available to the Board including those collected pursuant to § 1218.56 and subject to the limitations contained therein.

(b) The collection of assessments on domestic blueberries will be the responsibility of the first handler receiving the blueberries. In the case of the producer acting as its own first handler, the producer will be required to collect and remit its individual assessments.

(c) Such assessments shall be levied at a rate of $12 per ton on all blueberries. The assessment rate will be reviewed, and may be modified with the approval of the Secretary, after the first referendum is conducted as stated in § 1218.71(b).

(d) Each importer of fresh and processed blueberries shall pay an assessment to the USABC on blueberries imported for marketing in the United States, through the U.S. Customs Service.

(1) The assessment rate for imported fresh and processed blueberries shall be the same or equivalent to the rate for fresh blueberries produced in the United States.

(2) The import assessment shall be uniformly applied to imported fresh and frozen blueberries that are identified by the numbers 0810.40.0028 and 0811.90.2028, respectively, in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States or any other numbers used to identify fresh and frozen blueberries. Assessments on other types of imported processed blueberries, such as dried blueberries, puree, and juice, may be added at the recommendation of the USABC with the approval of the Secretary.

(3) The assessments due on imported fresh and processed blueberries shall be paid when they enter or are withdrawn for consumption in the United States.

(e) All assessment payments and reports will be submitted to the office of the USABC. All final payments for a crop year are to be received no later than November 30 of that year. A late payment charge shall be imposed on any handler who fails to remit to the USABC, the total amount for which any such handler is liable on or before the due date established by the USABC. In addition to the late payment charge, an interest charge shall be imposed on the outstanding amount for which the handler is liable. The rate of interest shall be prescribed in regulations issued by the Secretary.

(f) Persons failing to remit total assessments due in a timely manner may also be subject to actions under federal debt collection procedures.

(g) The USABC may authorize other organizations to collect assessments on its behalf with the approval of the Secretary.

Exemption procedures.

(a) Any producer who produces less than 2,000 pounds of blueberries annually who desires to claim an exemption from assessments during a fiscal year as provided in § 1218.42 shall apply to the USABC, on a form provided by the USABC, for a certificate of exemption. Such producer shall certify that the producer's production of blueberries shall be less than 2,000 pounds for the fiscal year for which the exemption is claimed. Any importer who imports less than 2,000 pounds of fresh and processed blueberries annually who desires to claim an exemption from assessments during a fiscal year as provided in § 1218.52 shall apply to the USABC, on a form provided by the USABC, for a certificate of exemption. Such importer shall certify that the importer's importation of fresh and processed blueberries shall not exceed 2,000 pounds, for the fiscal year for which the exemption is claimed.

(b) On receipt of an application, the USABC shall determine whether an exemption may be granted. The USABC then will issue, if deemed appropriate, a certificate of exemption to each person who is eligible to receive one. Each producer who is exempt from assessment must provide an exemption number to the first handler in order to be exempt from the collection of an assessment on blueberries. First handlers and importers, except as otherwise authorized by the USABC, shall maintain records showing the exemptee's name and address along with the exemption number assigned by the USABC.

(c) Importers who are exempt from assessment shall be eligible for reimbursement of assessments collected by the U.S. Customs Service and shall apply to the USABC for reimbursement of such assessments paid. No interest will be paid on assessments collected by the U.S. Customs Service. Requests for reimbursement shall be submitted to the USABC within 90 days of the last day of the year the blueberries were actually imported. Start Printed Page 43968

(d) Any person who desires an exemption from assessments for a subsequent fiscal year shall reapply to the USABC, on a form provided by the USABC, for a certificate of exemption.

(e) The USABC may require persons receiving an exemption from assessments to provide to the USABC reports on the disposition of exempt blueberries and, in the case of importers, proof of payment of assessments.

Programs, plans, and projects.

(a) The USABC shall receive and evaluate, or on its own initiative develop, and submit to the Secretary for approval any program, plan, or project authorized under this subpart. Such programs, plans, or projects shall provide for:

(1) The establishment, issuance, effectuation, and administration of appropriate programs for promotion, research, and information, including producer and consumer information, with respect to fresh and processed blueberries; and

(2) The establishment and conduct of research with respect to the use, nutritional value, sale, distribution, and marketing of fresh and processed blueberries, and the creation of new products thereof, to the end that the marketing and use of blueberries may be encouraged, expanded, improved, or made more acceptable and to advance the image, desirability, or quality of fresh and processed blueberries.

(b) No program, plan, or project shall be implemented prior to its approval by the Secretary. Once a program, plan, or project is so approved, the USABC shall take appropriate steps to implement it.

(c) Each program, plan, or project implemented under this subpart shall be reviewed or evaluated periodically by the USABC to ensure that it contributes to an effective program of promotion, research, or information. If it is found by the USABC that any such program, plan, or project does not contribute to an effective program of promotion, research, or information, then the USABC shall terminate such program, plan, or project.

(d) No program, plan, or project including advertising shall be false or misleading or disparaging another agricultural commodity. Blueberries of all origins shall be treated equally.

Independent evaluation.

The USABC shall, not less often than every five years, authorize and fund, from funds otherwise available to the USABC, an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the Order and other programs conducted by the USABC pursuant to the Act. The USABC shall submit to the Secretary, and make available to the public, the results of each periodic independent evaluation conducted under this paragraph.

Patents, copyrights, trademarks, information, publications, and product formulations.

Patents, copyrights, trademarks, information, publications, and product formulations developed through the use of funds received by the USABC under this subpart shall be the property of the U.S. Government as represented by the USABC and shall, along with any rents, royalties, residual payments, or other income from the rental, sales, leasing, franchising, or other uses of such patents, copyrights, trademarks, information, publications, or product formulations, inure to the benefit of the USABC; shall be considered income subject to the same fiscal, budget, and audit controls as other funds of the USABC; and may be licensed subject to approval by the Secretary. Upon termination of this subpart, § 1218.73 shall apply to determine disposition of all such property.

Reports, Books, and Records

Reports.

(a) Each first handler subject to this subpart may be required to provide to the USABC periodically such information as may be required by the USABC, with the approval of the Secretary, which may include but not be limited to the following:

(1) Number of pounds handled;

(2) Number of pounds on which an assessment was collected;

(3) Name and address of person from whom the first handler has collected the assessments on each pound handled; and

(4) Date collection was made on each pound handled. All reports are due to the USABC 30 days after the end of the crop year.

(b) Each producer and importer subject to this subpart may be required to provide to the USABC periodically such information as may be required by the USABC, with the approval of the Secretary, which may include but not be limited to the following:

(1) Number of pounds produced;

(2) Number of pounds on which an assessment was paid;

(3) Name and address of the producer;

(4) Date collection was made on each pound produced. All reports are due to the USABC 30 days after the end of the crop year.

Books and records.

Each first handler, producer, and importer subject to this subpart shall maintain and make available for inspection by the Secretary such books and records as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this subpart and the regulations issued thereunder, including such records as are necessary to verify any reports required. Such records shall be retained for at least 2 years beyond the fiscal period of their applicability.

Confidential treatment.

All information obtained from books, records, or reports under the Act, this subpart, and the regulations issued thereunder shall be kept confidential by all persons, including all employees and former employees of the USABC, all officers and employees and former officers and employees of contracting and subcontracting agencies or agreeing parties having access to such information. Such information shall not be available to USABC members, producers, importers, exporters, or first handlers. Only those persons having a specific need for such information to effectively administer the provisions of this subpart shall have access to such information. Only such information so obtained as the Secretary deems relevant shall be disclosed by them, and then only in a judicial proceeding or administrative hearing brought at the direction, or on the request, of the Secretary, or to which the Secretary or any officer of the United States is a party, and involving this subpart. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit:

(a) The issuance of general statements based upon the reports of the number of persons subject to this subpart or statistical data collected therefrom, which statements do not identify the information furnished by any person; and

(b) The publication, by direction of the Secretary, of the name of any person who has been adjudged to have violated this subpart, together with a statement of the particular provisions of this subpart violated by such person.

Miscellaneous

Right of the Secretary.

All fiscal matters, programs, plans, or projects, rules or regulations, reports, or other substantive actions proposed and prepared by the USABC shall be submitted to the Secretary for approval.

Referenda.

(a) Initial referendum. The Order shall not become effective unless:

(1) The Secretary determines that the Order is consistent with and will effectuate the purposes of the Act; and

(2) The Order is approved by a majority of producers and importers Start Printed Page 43969voting for approval who also represent a majority of the volume of blueberries represented in the referendum who, during a representative period determined by the Secretary, have been engaged in the production or importation of blueberries.

(b) Subsequent referenda. Every five years, the Secretary shall hold a referendum to determine whether blueberry producers and importers favor the continuation of the Order. The Order shall continue if it is favored by a majority of producers and importers voting for approval who also represent a majority of the volume of blueberries represented in the referendum who, during a representative period determined by the Secretary, have been engaged in the production or importation of blueberries. The Secretary will also conduct a referendum if 10 percent or more of all eligible blueberry producers and importers request the Secretary to hold a referendum. In addition, the Secretary may hold a referendum at any time.

Suspension and termination.

(a) The Secretary shall suspend or terminate this part or subpart or a provision thereof if the Secretary finds that the subpart or a provision thereof obstructs or does not tend to effectuate the purposes of the Act, or if the Secretary determines that this subpart or a provision thereof is not favored by persons voting in a referendum conducted pursuant to the Act.

(b) The Secretary shall suspend or terminate this subpart at the end of the marketing year whenever the Secretary determines that its suspension or termination is approved or favored by a majority of producers and importers voting for approval who also represent a majority of the volume of blueberries represented in the referendum who, during a representative period determined by the Secretary, have been engaged in the production or importation of blueberries.

(c) If, as a result of a referendum the Secretary determines that this subpart is not approved, the Secretary shall:

(1) Not later than 180 days after making the determination, suspend or terminate, as the case may be, collection of assessments under this subpart; and

(2) As soon as practical, suspend or terminate, as the case may be, activities under this subpart in an orderly manner.

Proceedings after termination.

(a) Upon the termination of this subpart, the USABC shall recommend not more than three of its members to the Secretary to serve as trustees for the purpose of liquidating the affairs of the USABC. Such persons, upon designation by the Secretary, shall become trustees of all of the funds and property then in the possession or under control of the USABC, including claims for any funds unpaid or property not delivered, or any other claim existing at the time of such termination.

(b) The said trustees shall:

(1) Continue in such capacity until discharged by the Secretary;

(2) Carry out the obligations of the USABC under any contracts or agreements entered into pursuant to the Order;

(3) From time to time account for all receipts and disbursements and deliver all property on hand, together with all books and records of the USABC and the trustees, to such person or persons as the Secretary may direct; and

(4) Upon request of the Secretary execute such assignments or other instruments necessary and appropriate to vest in such persons title and right to all funds, property and claims vested in the USABC or the trustees pursuant to the Order.

(c) Any person to whom funds, property or claims have been transferred or delivered pursuant to the Order shall be subject to the same obligations imposed upon the USABC and upon the trustees.

(d) Any residual funds not required to defray the necessary expenses of liquidation shall be turned over to the Secretary to be disposed of, to the extent practical, to the blueberry producer organizations in the interest of continuing blueberry promotion, research, and information programs.

Effect of termination or amendment.

Unless otherwise expressly provided by the Secretary, the termination of this subpart or of any regulation issued pursuant thereto, or the issuance of any amendment to either thereof, shall not:

(a) Affect or waive any right, duty, obligation or liability which shall have arisen or which may thereafter arise in connection with any provision of this subpart or any regulation issued thereunder; or

(b) Release or extinguish any violation of this subpart or any regulation issued thereunder; or

(c) Affect or impair any rights or remedies of the United States, or of the Secretary or of any other persons, with respect to any such violation.

Personal liability.

No member, alternate member, or employee of the USABC shall be held personally responsible, either individually or jointly with others, in any way whatsoever, to any person for errors in judgment, mistakes, or other acts, either of commission or omission, as such member, alternate, or employee, except for acts of dishonesty or willful misconduct.

Separability.

If any provision of this subpart is declared invalid or the applicability thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, the validity of the remainder of this subpart or the applicability thereof to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

Amendments.

Amendments to this subpart may be proposed from time to time by the USABC or by any interested person affected by the provisions of the Act, including the Secretary.

OMB control numbers.

The control number assigned to the information collection requirements by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. Chapter 35, is OMB control number 0581-0093, except for the USABC nominee background statement form which is assigned OMB control number 0505-001.

Start Signature

Dated: July 11, 2000.

Kathleen A. Merrigan,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 00-17956 Filed 7-14-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P