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Proposed Rule

Irish Potatoes Grown in Colorado; Reduction of Membership on the Area No. 3 Colorado Potato Administrative Committee

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

This rule invites comments on reducing the number of members on the Area No. 3 Colorado Potato Administrative Committee (Committee) established under the Colorado potato marketing order (order). The order regulates the handling of Irish potatoes grown in Colorado and is administered locally by the Committee. This rule would decrease the number of positions on the Committee from five producer and four handler members to three producer and two handler members, respectively. The number of producers and handlers in Area No. 3 has decreased significantly in recent years and the industry has been unable to fill several positions on the Committee. Reducing Committee membership would allow the Committee to function more effectively while still providing equitable representation for producers and handlers.

DATES:

Comments must be received by September 26, 2002.

ADDRESSES:

Interested persons are invited to submit written comments concerning this proposal. Comments must be sent to the Docket Clerk, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237; Fax: (202) 720-8938, or E-mail: moab.docketclerk@usda.gov. All comments should reference the docket number and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and will be made available for public inspection in the Office of the Docket Clerk during regular business hours, or can be viewed at http://www.ams.usda.gov/​fv/​moab.html.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Teresa Hutchinson, Northwest Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1220 SW Third Avenue, suite 385, Portland, Oregon 97204; telephone: (503) 326-2724, Fax: (503) 326-7440; or George Kelhart, Technical Advisor, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237; telephone: (202) 720-2491, Fax: (202) 720-8938.

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

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This proposal is issued under Marketing Agreement No. 97 and Order No. 948, both as amended (7 CFR part 948), regulating the handling of Irish potatoes grown in Colorado, 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 of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing this rule in conformance with Executive Order 12866.

This proposal has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. This rule is not intended to have retroactive effect. This proposal will not preempt any State or local laws, regulations, or policies, unless they present an irreconcilable conflict with this rule.

The Act provides that administrative proceedings must be exhausted before parties may file suit in court. Under section 608c(15)(A) of the Act, any handler subject to an order may file with USDA a petition stating that the order, any provision of the order, or any obligation imposed in connection with the order is not in accordance with law and request a modification of the order or to be exempted therefrom. A handler is afforded the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. After the hearing USDA would rule on the petition. The Act provides that the district court of the United States in any district in which the handler is an inhabitant, or has his or her principal place of business, has jurisdiction to review USDA's ruling on the petition, provided an action is filed not later than 20 days after the date of the entry of the ruling.

This rule would decrease the number of positions on the Committee from five producer and four handler members to three producer and two handler members, respectively. Each position would continue to have an alternate. The Committee has been unable to fill several positions on the Committee and has been unable to conduct business at some meetings because of the lack of a quorum. Reducing Committee membership would allow the Committee to function more effectively while still providing equitable representation for producers and handlers.

Section 948.50 of the order establishes three areas within the State of Colorado and provides authority for the establishment of a committee to be the administrative agency for each area. This section further provides that each area committee shall be comprised of members and alternates as set forth in that section or as reestablished by § 948.53. Section 948.53 provides authority for the reestablishment of each area committee.

Section 948.150 of the order's administrative rules and regulations prescribes the current membership on each area committee. For Area No. 3, the Committee currently consists of five producers and four handlers. Three producers and two handlers are from Start Printed Page 57538Weld County, and two producers and two handlers are from all other counties in Area No. 3.

At its meeting on June 13, 2002, the Committee did not have enough members in attendance to constitute a quorum. Those members present recommended that a mail vote be held by the Committee to reduce the number of positions on the Committee from five producer and four handler members to three producer and two handler members, respectively. In addition, they recommended the removal of all requirements that positions be filled from nominees from certain counties. A subsequent mail vote to all Committee members and alternates was conducted. Seven Committee members voted in favor of this change and one member voted against it. The member who voted against the motion supported suspension of regulations because of the decline in the size of the industry. One handler member and alternate position was not voted as both positions are vacant.

The number of Area No. 3 potato producers and handlers has decreased significantly in recent years. Reasons for this decline include low potato prices, water shortages, and increasing production costs. With a total of only 13 producers and handlers (several producers are also handlers), the Committee has been unable to fill the 18 positions (nine members and nine alternates) on the Committee. One member and six alternate positions are currently vacant. This has resulted in the Committee being unable to conduct business at certain meetings because of the lack of a quorum. The Committee does not believe that the current requirement that only producers and handlers from specific counties may be nominated to certain positions serves any useful purpose. They believe that these requirements may, in some instances, have contributed to the difficulty the Committee has had in filling positions. Reducing Committee membership would allow the Committee to function more effectively while still providing equitable representation for producers and handlers.

Initial 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 initial 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.

Based on Committee data, there are 12 producers, (9 of whom are also handlers) and 10 handlers (9 of whom are also producers) in the production area subject to regulation under the order. Small agricultural producers are defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts of less than $750,000, and small agricultural firms are defined as those whose annual receipts are less than $5,000,000.

Based on Committee data, the production of Area No. 3 Colorado potatoes for the 2001-2002 marketing year was 773,053 hundredweight. Based on National Agricultural Statistics Service data, the average producer price for Colorado summer potatoes for the 2001-2002 marketing year was $7.63 per hundredweight. The average annual producer revenue for the 12 Colorado Area No. 3 potato producers is therefore calculated to be approximately $491,533. Using Committee data regarding each individual handler's total shipments during the 2001-2002 marketing year and a Committee estimated average F.O.B. average price during the 2001-2002 marketing year of $9.83 per hundredweight ($7.63 per hundredweight plus estimated packing and handling costs of $2.10 per hundredweight), all of the Colorado Area No. 3 potato handlers ship under $5,000,000 worth of potatoes. In view of the foregoing, it can be concluded that the majority of the Colorado Area No. 3 potato producers and handlers may be classified as small entities.

This rule would decrease the number of positions on the Committee from five producer and four handler members to three producer and two handler members, respectively. Each position would continue to have an alternate.

The number of Area No. 3 potato producers and handlers has decreased significantly in recent years. Reasons for this decline include low potato prices, water shortages, and increasing production costs. With a total of only 13 producers and handlers, the Committee has been unable to fill the 18 positions (nine members and nine alternates) on the Committee. One member and six alternate positions are currently vacant. This has resulted in the Committee being unable to conduct business at certain meetings because of the lack of a quorum. Reducing Committee membership would allow the Committee to function more effectively while still providing equitable representation for producers and handlers.

This rule is expected to slightly decrease the costs of administering the order. With a smaller Committee, meeting costs should decline slightly and the ability of the Committee to obtain a quorum and conduct business should increase. The benefits for this rule are not expected to be disproportionately greater or less for small producers or handlers than for larger entities.

The Committee discussed alternatives to this change, including not reducing the Committee membership. The Committee considered suspension of all regulations and activities under Area No. 3. However, the Committee believes that the regulations issued under the order are beneficial to the Colorado Area No. 3 potato industry and the benefits of the program outweigh the costs.

This proposed rule would decrease the number of positions on the Committee. Accordingly, this action would not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large Area No. 3 Colorado potato handlers. As with all Federal marketing order programs, reports and forms are periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and duplication by industry and public sector agencies.

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

In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the Area No. 3 Colorado potato industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the June 13, 2002, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express views on this issue. Finally, interested persons are invited to submit information on the regulatory and informational impacts of this action on small businesses.

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.

A 15-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to respond to this proposal. Fifteen days is deemed appropriate because this rule would Start Printed Page 57539need to be in place as soon as possible so that the Committee can nominate members and alternates to the new Committee as soon as possible. All written comments timely received will be considered before a final determination is made on this matter.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 948

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 948 is proposed to be amended as follows:

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PART 948—IRISH POTATOES GROWN IN COLORADO

1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 948 continues to read as follows:

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

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2. Section 948.150 is amended by revising paragraph (b) to read as follows:

Reestablishment of committee membership.
* * * * *

(b) Area No. 3: Three producers and two handlers selected as follows: Three (3) producers and two (2) handlers from any county in Area No. 3.

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Dated: September 4, 2002.

A.J. Yates,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. 02-23034 Filed 9-10-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P