Skip to Content

Rule

Grapes Grown in a Designated Area of Southeastern California; Establishment of Safeguards and Procedures for Suspension of Packing Holidays

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim final rule which established safeguards and procedures for the suspension of packing holidays prescribed under the California grape marketing order (order). The order regulates the handling of grapes grown in a designated area of Southeastern California and is administered locally by the California Desert Grape Administrative Committee (Committee). The procedures and safeguards will be used by the Committee when considering and making decisions on packing holiday suspension requests. Additionally, this rule continues in effect the clarification of existing maturity requirements for Flame Seedless variety grapes and the correction of errors in the regulatory text regarding references to the California Code of Regulations (CCR).

EFFECTIVE DATE:

August 14, 2003.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Rose Aguayo, 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, 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.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This rule is issued under Marketing Order No. 925 (7 CFR part 925), regulating the handling of grapes grown in California, hereinafter referred to as the “order.” The order is effective under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601-674), hereinafter referred to as the “Act.”

USDA is issuing this rule in conformance with Executive Order 12866.

This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. This rule is not intended to have retroactive effect. 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. 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 continues in effect established safeguards and procedures for suspension of packing holidays prescribed under the California grape order. The explicitly stated procedures and safeguards will be used for all requests received to suspend packing holidays. Additionally, this rule continues in effect the clarification of existing maturity requirements for Flame Seedless variety grapes and the correction of errors in the regulatory text regarding references to the CCR.

Establishment of Safeguards and Procedures for Suspension of Packing Holidays

Section 925.52(a)(5) of the order's rules and regulations provides authority to establish holidays by prohibiting the packing of all varieties of grapes during a specified period or periods.

Previously, § 925.304(e) of the order's rules and regulations provided that the Committee may suspend the prohibition against packing or repacking grapes on any Saturday, Sunday, or on the Memorial Day or Independence Day holidays of each year, to permit the handling of grapes provided such Start Printed Page 41684handling complies with procedures and safeguards specified by the Committee.

A decision by an Administrative Law Judge on November 7, 2002, invalidated the authority for the Committee to suspend or modify packing holidays, because there were no safeguards or procedures established for the Committee to follow when it makes its decisions on whether to suspend packing holidays.

As a result, the Committee met on December 12, 2002, and recommended specifying the following safeguards and procedures, including USDA approval, for the suspension of packing holidays to § 925.304(e) of the order's rules and regulations: (1) All requests for suspension of a packing holiday shall be in writing, shall state the reasons the suspension is being requested, and shall be submitted to the Committee manager by noon on Wednesday or at least 3 days prior to the requested suspension date; (2) Upon receipt of a written request, the Committee manager shall promptly give reasonable notice to producers and handlers and to USDA that an assembled Committee meeting will be held to discuss the request(s). A USDA representative shall attend the Committee meeting via speakerphone or in person, and all votes of the Committee members shall be cast in person; (3) The Committee members shall consider marketing conditions (i.e., supplies of competing commodities including quantities in inventory, the expected demand conditions for grapes in different markets, and any pertinent documents which provide data on market conditions), weather conditions, labor shortages, the size of the crop remaining to be marketed, and other pertinent factors in reaching a decision on whether or not to suspend packing holidays; (4) Once a vote is taken, any documents utilized during the meeting will be forwarded immediately to the USDA representative and a summary of the Committee's action and reasons for recommending approval or disapproval will be prepared and also forwarded by the Committee; and (5) The USDA representative shall notify the Committee manager of approval or disapproval of the request prior to commencement of the suspended packing holiday and the Committee manager shall notify handlers and producers of USDA's decision.

In previous seasons, the Committee used informal safeguards and procedures when processing and considering requests to suspend packing holidays. The established safeguards and procedures, and USDA approval, are intended to address the concerns expressed in the administrative action. The Committee vote was 8 in favor, 0 opposed, and 1 abstained. The specific safeguards and procedures were added to § 925.304(e) of the order's administrative rules and regulations (68 FR 19708, April 22, 2003). These revisions do not impact the grape import regulation.

Clarification/Removal of Section Numbers

Section 925.52(a)(2) of the grape order provides authority to limit the handling of any grade, size, quality, maturity, or pack of grapes differently for different varieties, or any combination of the foregoing during any period or periods.

Prior to issuance of the interim final rule, § 925.304(a)(2) of the grape order's administrative rules and regulations provided that grapes of the Flame Seedless variety shall be considered mature if the juice contains not less than 15 percent soluble solids and the soluble solids are equal to or in excess of 20 parts to every part acid contained in the juice in accordance with applicable sampling and testing procedures specified in sections 1436.3, 1436.5, 1436.6, 1436.7, 1436.12, and 1436.17 of the CCR. These provisions did not, but should have, specified that this variety of grapes also is considered mature under the grape marketing order if the juice meets or exceeds 16.5 percent soluble solids. To correct this oversight, the interim final rule added language to § 925.304(a)(2) indicating that Flame Seedless variety grapes shall be considered mature if the juice meets or exceeds 16.5 percent soluble solids.

Prior to issuance of the interim final rule, § 925.304(b)(4) of the grape order's rules and regulations required containers of grapes to be plainly marked with the lot stamp number corresponding to the lot inspection conducted by an authorized inspector, and specified that such requirement shall not apply to containers in the center tier of a 3 box by 3 box pallet configuration, as provided in §§ 1460.30 and 1359 of the CCR. The references to §§ 1460.30 and 1359 were incorrectly added to § 925.304(b)(4) on August 23, 2002 (67 FR 54567). This rule continues in effect the removal of these references from § 925.304(b)(4) and continues the addition of references to §§ 1436.30 and 1359 of the CCR to § 925.304(b)(3), as should have been done last August.

Section 925.304(f) states that certain container and pack requirements cited in the grape order are specified in the CCR and are incorporated by reference and that a notice of any change in these materials will be published in the Federal Register.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Pursuant to requirements set forth in the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has considered the economic impact of this action on small entities. Accordingly, AMS has prepared this final regulatory flexibility analysis.

The purpose of the RFA is to fit regulatory actions to the scale of business subject to such actions in order that small businesses will not be unduly or disproportionately burdened. Marketing orders issued pursuant to the Act, and 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 20 handlers of California grapes who are subject to regulation under the order and about 50 producers of grapes in the production area. Small agricultural service firms are defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts of less than $5,000,000 and small agricultural producers are defined as those having annual receipts of less than $750,000. Eight of the 20 handlers subject to regulation have annual grape sales of $5,000,000. In addition, 10 of the 50 producers have annual sales of at least $750,000. Therefore, a majority of handlers and producers are classified as small entities.

This rule continues in effect the establishment of safeguards and procedures for suspension of packing holidays prescribed under the California grape order. The specification of procedures and safeguards for suspending packing holidays are expected to facilitate the Committee's discussions and decision-making on such requests received from handlers. Additionally, this rule continues in effect the clarification of existing maturity requirements for Flame Seedless variety grapes and the correction of errors in regulatory text regarding references to the CCR.

Establishment of Safeguards and Procedures for Suspension of Packing Holidays

Prior to issuance of the interim final rule, § 925.304(e) of the order's rules and regulations provided that the Committee may suspend the prohibition against packing or repacking grapes on any Saturday, or Sunday, or on the Memorial Day or Independence Day holidays of each year, to permit the handling of grapes provided such Start Printed Page 41685handling complies with procedures and safeguards specified by the Committee.

A decision issued by an Administrative Law Judge on November 7, 2002, invalidated the authority for the Committee to suspend or modify packing holidays, because there were no safeguards or procedures established for the Committee to follow when it makes its decisions on whether to suspend packing holidays.

As a result, the Committee met on December 12, 2002, and recommended specifying the following safeguards and procedures, including USDA approval, for suspension of packing holidays to § 925.304(e) of the order's rules and regulations to the handling of such requests: (1) All requests for suspension of a packing holiday shall be in writing, shall state the reasons the suspension is being requested, and shall be submitted to the Committee manager by noon on Wednesday or at least 3 days prior to the requested suspension date; (2) upon receipt of a written request, the Committee manager shall promptly give reasonable notice to producers and handlers and to USDA that an assembled Committee meeting will be held to discuss the request(s). A USDA representative shall attend via speakerphone or in person, and all votes of the Committee members on whether or not to approve the request shall be cast in person; (3) the Committee members shall consider marketing conditions (i.e., supplies of competing commodities including quantities in inventory, the expected demand conditions for grapes in different markets, and any pertinent documents which provide data on market conditions), weather conditions, labor shortages, the size of the crop remaining to be marketed, and other pertinent factors in reaching a decision to suspend or not suspend packing holidays; (4) once a vote is taken, any documents utilized during the meeting will be forwarded immediately to the USDA representative and a summary of the Committee's action and reasons for recommending approval or disapproval will be prepared and also forwarded by the Committee; and (5) the USDA representative shall notify the Committee manager of approval or disapproval of the requested prior to commencement of the suspended packing holiday and the Committee manager shall notify handlers and producers of USDA's decision.

In previous seasons, the Committee used informal safeguards and procedures when processing and considering requests to suspend packing holidays. The established safeguards and procedures, including USDA approval, are intended to address the concerns expressed in the administrative action. The Committee discussed alternatives to this change, including not making any changes, but determined that safeguards and procedures were needed to address the concerns expressed in the administrative action and to facilitate the handling of packing holiday suspension requests. The Committee vote was 8 in favor, 0 opposed, and 1 abstained. The specific safeguards and procedures were added to § 925.304(e) of the order's administrative rules and regulations (68 FR 19708, April 22, 2003). Imported grapes will not be affected by this action.

Clarification/Removal of Section Numbers

Section 925.52(a)(2) of the grape order provides authority to limit the handling of any grade, size, quality, maturity, or pack of grapes differently for different varieties, or any combination of the foregoing during any period or periods.

Previously, § 925.304(a)(2) of the grape order's administrative rules and regulations provided that grapes of the Flame Seedless variety shall be considered mature if the juice contains not less than 15 percent soluble solids and the soluble solids are equal to or in excess of 20 parts to every part acid contained in the juice in accordance with applicable sampling and testing procedures specified in sections 1436.3, 1436.5, 1436.6, 1436.7, 1436.12, and 1436.17 of the Title 3: California Code of Regulations (CCR). These provisions did not, but should have, specified that this variety of grapes also is considered mature under the grape marketing order if the juice meets or exceeds 16.5 percent soluble solids. To correct this oversight, the interim final rule added language to § 925.304(a)(2) indicating that Flame Seedless variety grapes shall be considered mature if the juice meets or exceeds 16.5 percent soluble solids.

Prior to issuance of the interim final rule, § 925.304(b)(4) of the grape order's rules and regulations required containers of grapes to be plainly marked with the lot stamp number corresponding to the lot inspection conducted by an authorized inspector, and specified that such requirement shall not apply to containers in the center tier of a 3 box by 3 box pallet configuration, as provided in §§ 1460.30 and 1359 of the CCR. The references to §§ 1460.30 and 1359 were incorrectly added to § 925.304(b)(4) on August 23, 2002 (67 FR 54567). This rule continues in effect the removal of these references from § 925.304(b)(4) and continues the addition of references to §§ 1436.30 and 1359 of the CCR to § 925.304(b)(3), as should have been done last August.

Section 925.304(f) states that certain container and pack requirements cited in the grape order are specified in the CCR and are incorporated by reference and that a notice of any change in these materials will be published in the Federal Register.

This rule is in the interest of handlers, producers and consumers. These revisions do not impact the grape import regulation.

The information collection requirements for the safeguards and procedures for the suspension of packing holidays have been previously approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB No. 0581-0189. 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.

In addition, as noted in the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap or conflict with this rule.

Further, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the grape industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in the Committee's deliberations. The interim final rule (68 FR 19708, April 22, 2003) stated that this issue was discussed at Committee meetings held on November 14, 2002, and December 12, 2002. As this issue was not discussed at the November 14, 2002, meeting, that date has been deleted. Like all Committee meetings, the December 12, 2002, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express their views on this issue.

An interim final rule concerning this action was published in the Federal Register on April 22, 2003. Copies of the rule were mailed by the Committee's staff to all Committee members and grape handlers. In addition, the rule was made available through the Internet by the Office of the Federal Register and USDA. That rule provided for a 60-day comment period, which ended June 23, 2003. 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 Start Printed Page 41686Committee's recommendation, and other information, it is found that finalizing the interim final rule, without change, as published in the Federal Register (68 FR 19708, April 22, 2003) will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 925

End List of Subjects Start Part

PART 925—GRAPES GROWN IN A DESIGNATED AREA OF SOUTHEASTERN CALIFORNIA

End Part Start Amendment Part

Accordingly, the interim final rule amending

End Amendment Part Start Signature

Dated: July 9, 2003.

A.J. Yates,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 03-17798 Filed 7-14-03; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P