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Rule

Kiwifruit Grown in California; Increased Assessment Rate

Document Details

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 increases the assessment rate established for the Kiwifruit Administrative Committee (Committee) for the 2002-03 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.03 to $0.045 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit. The Committee locally administers the marketing order which regulates the handling of kiwifruit grown in California. Authorization to assess kiwifruit handlers enables the Committee to incur expenses that are reasonable and necessary to administer the program. The fiscal period began August 1 and ends July 31. The assessment rate will remain in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

October 8, 2002.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Toni Sasselli, Marketing Assistant, or Rose M. Aguayo, Marketing Specialist, California Marketing Field Office, 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 Start Printed Page 62321Vegetable 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 rule is issued under Marketing Order No. 920, as amended (7 CFR part 920), regulating the handling of kiwifruit 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 of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing this rule in conformance with Executive Order 12866.

This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. Under the marketing order now in effect, California kiwifruit 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 kiwifruit beginning on August 1, 2002, and continue until amended, suspended, or terminated. This rule will not preempt any State or local laws, regulations, or policies, unless they present an irreconcilable conflict with this rule.

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

This rule increases the assessment rate established for the Committee for the 2002-03 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.03 to $0.045 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit.

The California kiwifruit marketing order provides authority for the Committee, with the approval of USDA, to formulate an annual budget of expenses and collect assessments from handlers to administer the program. The members of the Committee are producers of California kiwifruit. They are familiar with the Committee's needs and 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 at a public meeting. Thus, all directly affected persons have an opportunity to participate and provide input.

For the 2000-01 and subsequent fiscal periods, the Committee recommended, and USDA approved, an assessment rate that would continue in effect from fiscal period to fiscal period unless modified, suspended, or terminated by USDA upon recommendation and information submitted by the Committee or other information available to USDA.

The Committee met on July 10, 2002, and unanimously recommended 2002-03 expenditures of $80,760 and an assessment rate of $0.045 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit. In comparison, last year's budgeted expenditures were $78,000. The assessment rate of $0.045 is $0.015 higher than the rate currently in effect. The higher assessment rate is needed to offset the 2002-03 increase in salaries and vehicle expenses, and to keep the operating reserve at an adequate level.

The following table compares major budget expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2002-03 and 2001-02 fiscal periods:

Budget expense categories2002-032001-02
Administrative Staff & Field Salaries$55,500$50,000
Travel5,0009,500
Office Costs/Annual Audit14,50014,500
Vehicle Expense Account5,7604,000

The assessment rate recommended by the Committee was derived using the following formula: Anticipated expenses ($80,760), plus the desired 2003 ending reserve ($36,287), minus the 2002 beginning reserve ($23,979), divided by the total estimated 2002-03 shipments (2,068,182 22-pound volume fill containers). This calculation resulted in the $0.045 assessment rate. This rate will provide sufficient funds to meet the anticipated expenses of $80,760 and result in a July 2003 ending reserve of $36,287, which is acceptable to the Committee. The July 2003 ending reserve funds (estimated to be $36,287) will be within the maximum permitted by the order, approximately one fiscal period's expenses (§ 920.41).

The assessment rate established in this rule will continue in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated by USDA upon recommendation and information submitted by the Committee or other available information.

Although this assessment rate will be in effect for an indefinite period, the Committee will continue to meet prior to or during each fiscal period to recommend a budget of expenses and consider recommendations for modification of the assessment rate. The dates and times of Committee meetings are available from the Committee or USDA. Committee meetings are open to the public and interested persons may express their views at these meetings. USDA will evaluate Committee recommendations and other available information to determine whether modification of the assessment rate is needed. Further rulemaking will be undertaken as necessary. The Committee's 2002-03 budget and those for subsequent fiscal periods would be reviewed and, as appropriate, approved by USDA.

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 326 producers of kiwifruit in the production area and approximately 52 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 $750,000, and small agricultural service firms are defined as Start Printed Page 62322those whose annual receipts are less than $5,000,000.

None of the 52 handlers subject to regulation have annual kiwifruit sales of at least $5,000,000. Two of the 326 producers subject to regulation have annual sales of at least $750,000. Thus, the majority of handlers and producers of kiwifruit may be classified as small entities.

This rule increases the assessment rate established for the Committee and collected from handlers for the 2002-03 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.03 to $0.045 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit. The Committee unanimously recommended 2002-03 expenditures of $80,760 and an assessment rate of $0.045 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit. The assessment rate of $0.045 is $0.015 higher than the 2001-02 rate. The quantity of assessable kiwifruit for the 2002-03 fiscal period is estimated at 2,068,182 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit. Thus, the $0.045 rate should provide $93,068 in assessment income and be adequate to meet this year's expenses.

The following table compares major budget expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2002-03 and 2001-02 fiscal years:

Budget expense categories2002-032001-02
Administrative Staff & Field Salaries$55,500$50,000
Travel5,0009,500
Office Costs/Annual Audit14,50014,500
Vehicle Expense Account5,7604,000

The Committee reviewed and unanimously recommended 2002-03 expenditures of $80,760, which included increases in administrative salaries and vehicle expenses. Prior to arriving at this budget, the Committee considered alternative expenditure levels, but ultimately decided that the recommended levels were reasonable to properly administer the order. The assessment rate recommended by the Committee was derived using the following formula: Anticipated expenses ($80,760), plus the desired 2003 ending reserve ($36,287), minus the 2002 beginning reserve ($23,979), divided by the total estimated 2002-03 shipments (2,068,182 22-pound volume fill containers). This calculation resulted in the $0.045 assessment rate. This rate will provide sufficient funds to meet the anticipated expenses of $80,760 and result in a July 2003 ending reserve of $36,287, which is acceptable to the Committee. The July 2003 ending reserve funds (estimated to be $36,287) will be within the maximum permitted by the order, approximately one fiscal period's expenses (§ 920.41).

A review of historical information and preliminary information pertaining to the upcoming fiscal period indicates that the grower price for the 2002-03 season could range between $9.50 and $13.00 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit. Therefore, the estimated assessment revenue for the 2002-03 fiscal period as a percentage of total grower revenue could range between 0.5 and 0.3 percent.

This action increases the assessment obligation imposed on handlers. While assessments impose some additional costs on handlers, the costs are minimal and uniform on all handlers. Some of the additional costs may be passed on to producers. However, these costs will be offset by the benefits derived by the operation of the marketing order. In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the California kiwifruit industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the July 10, 2002, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express views on this issue.

This rule imposes no additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large California kiwifruit handlers. As with all Federal marketing order programs, reports and forms are periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and duplication by industry and public sector agencies.

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

A proposed rule concerning this action was published in the Federal Register on August 15, 2002 (67 FR 53322). Copies of the proposed rule were also mailed or sent via facsimile to all California kiwifruit handlers. Finally, the proposal was made available through the Internet by the Office of the Federal Register and USDA. A 30-day comment period ending September 16, 2002, was provided for interested persons to respond to the proposal. 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.

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553, it also found and determined that good cause exists for not postponing the effective date of this rule until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register because: (1) Handlers are already receiving the 2002-03 kiwifruit crop and the marketing order requires that the rate of assessment apply to all assessable kiwifruit handled during the 2002-03 and subsequent seasons; (2) the Committee needs to have sufficient funds to pay its expenses which are incurred on a continuous basis; and (3) handlers are aware of this action which was unanimously recommended by the Committee at a public meeting and is similar to other assessment rate actions issued in past years. Also, a 30-day comment period was provided for in the proposed rule, and no comments were received.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 920

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble,

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PART 920—KIWIFRUIT GROWN IN CALIFORNIA

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1. The authority citation for

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

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2. Section 920.213 is revised to read as follows:

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Assessment rate.

On and after August 1, 2002, an assessment rate of 0.045 per 22-pound volume fill container or equivalent of kiwifruit is established for kiwifruit grown in California.

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Dated: October 1, 2002.

A.J. Yates,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. 02-25428 Filed 10-4-02; 8:45 am]

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