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Rule

Olives Grown in California; Increased Assessment Rate

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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 which increased the assessment rate established for the California Olive Committee (Committee) for the 2001 and subsequent fiscal years from $21.73 to $27.90 per ton of olives handled. The Committee locally administers the marketing order which regulates the handling of olives grown in California. Authorization to assess olive handlers enables the Committee to incur expenses that are reasonable and necessary to administer the program. The fiscal year began January 1 and ends December 31. The assessment rate will remain in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

July 6, 2001.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Rose Aguayo, 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, 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, P.O. Box 96456, room 2525-S, Washington, DC 20090-6456; telephone (202) 720-2491, Fax: (202) 720-8938, or E-mail: Jay.Guerber@usda.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This rule is issued under Marketing Agreement No. 148 and Order No. 932, both as amended (7 CFR part 932), regulating the handling of olives grown in California, hereinafter referred to as the “order.” The marketing agreement and order are 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 marketing order now in effect, California olive 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 olives beginning on January 1, 2001, 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 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. Such 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 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 to increase the assessment rate established for the Committee for the 2001 and subsequent fiscal years from $21.73 per ton to $27.90 per ton of olives handled.

The California olive marketing order provides authority for the Committee, with the approval of the Department, 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 California olives. 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 2000 and subsequent fiscal years, the Committee recommended, and the Department approved, an assessment rate that would continue in effect from fiscal year to fiscal year unless modified, suspended, or terminated by the Secretary upon recommendation and information submitted by the Committee or other information available to the Secretary.

The Committee met on December 12, 2000, and unanimously recommended fiscal year 2001 expenditures of $1,348,242 and an assessment rate of $27.90 per ton of olives. In comparison, last year's budgeted expenditures were $2,472,235 and the assessment rate was $21.73. Assessable tonnage for 2001 was estimated at 46,374, significantly below last year's 113,750 tons. Although the Committee reduced expenditures in marketing development and research, the significant decrease in tonnage necessitates a higher assessment rate. The reduced research expenditures will fund: (1) Continued research and development of the mechanical olive harvester and (2) scientific studies to develop chemical and scientific defenses to counteract a potential threat from the olive fruit fly in the California production area. Market development expenditures are significantly lower because handlers have taken more responsibility for market development.

The following table compares major budget expenditure recommendations for the 2001 fiscal year with those from last year. Start Printed Page 30290

Budget expenditure20002001
Administration$356,190$343,490
Research868,550408,337
Market Development1,212,495596,415

The assessment rate recommended by the Committee was derived by considering anticipated expenses, actual tonnage, and additional pertinent factors. The significant tonnage decrease in 2001, due in large part to the alternate-bearing nature of olives, has made it necessary for the Committee to increase the assessment rate from $21.73 to $27.90 per ton, an increase of $6.17. Income derived from handler assessments, interest, and reserve funds will be adequate to cover budgeted expenses. Funds in the reserve will continue to be less than the maximum permitted by § 932.40 of the order (approximately one fiscal year's expenses) by the end of 2001.

The assessment rate will continue in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated by the Secretary 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 year to recommend a budget of expenses and consider recommendations for modification of the assessment rate. The dates and times of Committee meetings are available from the Committee or the Department. Committee meetings are open to the public and interested persons may express their views at these meetings. The Department 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 2001 budget and those for subsequent fiscal years will be reviewed and, as appropriate, approved by the Department.

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 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 1,200 producers of olives in the production area and 2 handlers subject to regulation under the marketing order. Small agricultural producers are defined by the Small Business Administration (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts less than $500,000, and small agricultural service firms are defined as those whose annual receipts are less than $5,000,000. None of the olive handlers may be classified as small entities, while the majority of olive producers may be classified as small entities.

This rule continues to increase the assessment rate established for the Committee and collected from handlers for the 2001 and subsequent fiscal years from $21.73 per ton to $27.90 per ton of olives. The Committee unanimously recommended 2001 expenditures of $1,348,242 and an assessment rate of $27.90 per ton. The assessment rate of $27.90 is $6.17 higher than the 2000 rate. The estimated quantity of assessable olives for the 2001 fiscal year is 46,374 tons. Thus, the $27.90 rate should generate enough funds to meet this year's budgeted expenses, when combined with funds from the authorized reserve and interest income.

The following table compares major budget expenditure recommendations for the 2001 fiscal year with those from last year.

Budget expenditure20002001
Administration$356,190$343,490
Research868,550408,337
Market Development1,212,495596,415

The reduced research expenditures will fund: 1) Continued research and development of the mechanical olive harvester and 2) scientific studies to develop chemical and scientific defenses to counteract a potential threat from the olive fruit fly in the California production area. Market development expenditures are significantly lower because handlers have taken more responsibility for market development.

A higher assessment rate was recommended for 2001 because the 2001 fiscal year assessable tonnage is approximately 59 percent smaller than last fiscal year's tonnage, due in large part to the alternate bearing nature of the crop:

199920002001
67,900113,75046,374

The Committee reviewed and unanimously recommended 2001 expenditures of $1,348,242, which reflects decreases in the research, market development and administrative budgets. Prior to arriving at this budget, the Committee considered information from various sources, such as the Committee's Executive Subcommittee, the Research Subcommittee, and the Marketing Subcommittee. Alternate spending levels were discussed by these groups, based upon potential reductions in the funding of various research and market development projects. The Committee determined it was necessary to increase the assessment rate to cover these expenses because the significant decrease in tonnage will not provide sufficient funds to cover anticipated expenses. The assessment rate of $27.90 per ton of assessable olives was derived by considering anticipated expenses, the Committee's estimate of assessable olives, and additional pertinent factors.

A review of historical and preliminary information pertaining to the upcoming fiscal year indicates that the grower revenue for the 2000-2001 crop year is estimated to be approximately $36,068,864. With an assessment rate of $27.90 per ton, the estimated assessment revenue to the Committee will be $1,293,834 for the 2001 fiscal year, or approximately 3.59 percent of grower revenue.

This action continues to increase the assessment obligation imposed on handlers for fiscal year 2001 by $286,128 ($6.17 difference between the new and past rate x 46,374 assessable tonnage estimate for 2001). Assessments are applied uniformly on all handlers, and some of the costs may be passed on to producers. However, increasing the assessment rate increases the burden on handlers, and may increase the burden on producers. In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the California olive industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the December 12, 2000, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express views on this issue. Finally, interested persons were invited to submit information on the regulatory and informational impacts of this action on small businesses.

This action imposes no additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on California olive handlers. As with all Start Printed Page 30291Federal marketing order programs, reports and forms are periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and duplication by industry and public sector agencies.

The Department 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 March 6, 2001 (66 FR 13389). Copies of that rule were also mailed or sent via facsimile to all olive handlers. Finally, the interim final rule was made available through the Internet by 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 May 7, 2001, and 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 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.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 932

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PART 932—OLIVES GROWN IN CALIFORNIA

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Accordingly, the interim final rule amending

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Dated: June 1, 2001.

Kenneth C. Clayton,

Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. 01-14270 Filed 6-5-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P