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Rule

Milk in the Pacific Northwest Marketing Area; Interim Order Amending the Order

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Interim final rule.

SUMMARY:

This order amends the Producer milk provision of the Pacific Northwest milk marketing order to eliminate the ability to simultaneously pool the same milk on the order and on a State-operated order that provides for marketwide pooling. More than the required number of producers on the Pacific Northwest order have approved the issuance of the interim order as amended.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

February 1, 2004.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Gino M. Tosi, Marketing Specialist, Stop 0231, Room 2971, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs, Order Formulation and Enforcement Branch, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250-0231, (202) 690-1366, e-mail address gino.tosi@usda.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This administrative rule is governed by the provisions of sections 556 and 557 of title 5 of the United States Code and, therefore, is excluded from the requirements of Executive Order 12866.

This interim 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 the rule.

The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601-674), 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 request modification or exemption from such order by filing with the Department 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 the law. A handler is afforded the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. After a hearing, the Department 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 its principal place of business, has jurisdiction in equity to review the Department's ruling on the petition, provided a bill in equity is filed not later than 20 days after the date of the entry of the ruling.

Small Business Consideration

In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), the Agricultural Marketing Service has considered the economic impact of this action on small entities and has certified that this interim rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. For the purpose of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a dairy farm is considered a “small business” if it has an annual gross revenue of less than $750,000, and a dairy products manufacturer is a “small business” if it has fewer than 500 employees.

For the purposes of determining which dairy farms are “small businesses”, the $750,000 per year criterion was used to establish a production guideline of 500,000 pounds per month. Although this guideline does not factor in additional monies that may be received by dairy producers, it should be an inclusive standard for most “small” dairy farmers. For purposes of determining a handler's size, if the plant is part of a larger company operating multiple plants that collectively exceed the 500-employee limit, the plant will be considered a large business even if the local plant has fewer than 500 employees.

In the Pacific Northwest Federal milk order, 805 of the 1,164 dairy producers (farmers), or about 69 percent, whose milk was pooled under the Pacific Northwest Federal milk order at the time of the hearing, April 2002, would meet the definition of small businesses. On the processing side, 9 of the 20 milk plants associated with the Pacific Northwest milk order during April 2002 would qualify as “small businesses,” constituting about 45 percent of the total.

Based on these criteria, at least 69 percent of the producers in the order would be considered as small businesses. The adoption of the proposed pooling standard serves to Start Printed Page 1655revise established criteria that determine the producer milk that has a reasonable association with—and consistently serves the fluid needs of—the Pacific Northwest milk marketing area and is not associated with other marketwide pools concerning the same milk. Criteria for pooling are established on the basis of performance levels that are considered adequate to meet the Class I fluid needs and by doing so determine those that are eligible to share in the revenue that arises from the classified pricing of milk. Criteria for pooling are established without regard to the size of any dairy industry organization or entity. The established criteria are applied in an identical fashion to both large and small businesses and do not have any different economic impact on small entities as opposed to large entities. Therefore, the proposed amendment will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

Prior documents in this proceeding:

Notice of Hearing: Issued February 26, 2002; published March 4, 2002 (67 FR 9622).

Correction to Notice of Hearing: Issued March 14, 2002; published March 19, 2002 (67 FR 12488).

Tentative Final Decision: Issued August 8, 2003; published August 18, 2003 (68 FR 49375).

Findings and Determinations

The findings and determinations hereinafter set forth supplement those that were made when the Pacific Northwest order was first issued and when it was amended. The previous findings and determinations are hereby ratified and confirmed, except where they may conflict with those set forth herein.

The following findings are hereby made with respect to the Mideast order:

(a) Findings upon the basis of the hearing record. Pursuant to the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601-674), and the applicable rules of practice and procedure governing the formulation of marketing agreements and marketing orders (7 CFR part 900), a public hearing was held upon certain proposed amendments to the tentative marketing agreement and to the order regulating the handling of milk in the Pacific Northwest marketing area.

Upon the basis of the evidence introduced at such hearing and the record thereof it is found that:

(1) The Pacific Northwest order, as hereby amended on an interim basis, and all of the terms and conditions thereof, will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act;

(2) The parity prices of milk, as determined pursuant to section 2 of the Act, are not reasonable in view of the price of feeds, available supplies of feeds, and other economic conditions which affect market supply and demand for milk in the marketing area, and the minimum prices specified in the order, as hereby amended on an interim basis, are such prices as will reflect the aforesaid factors, insure a sufficient quantity of pure and wholesome milk, and be in the public interest; and

(3) The Pacific Northwest order, as hereby amended on an interim basis, regulates the handling of milk in the same manner as, and is applicable only to persons in the respective classes of industrial and commercial activity specified in, a marketing agreement upon which a hearing has been held.

(b) Additional Findings. It is necessary and in the public interest to make these interim amendments to the Pacific Northwest order effective February 1, 2004. Any delay beyond that date would tend to disrupt the orderly marketing of milk in the aforesaid marketing area.

The interim amendments to this order are known to handlers. The final decision containing the proposed amendments to this order was issued on August 8, 2003.

The changes that result from these interim amendments will not require extensive preparation or substantial alteration in the method of operation for handlers. In view of the foregoing, it is hereby found and determined that good cause exists for making these interim order amendments effective on February 1, 2004. It would be contrary to the public interest to delay the effective date of these amendments for 30 days after their publication in the Federal Register. (Sec. 553(d), Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551-559.)

(c) Determinations. It is hereby determined that:

(1) The refusal or failure of handlers (excluding cooperative associations specified in § 8c(9) of the Act) of more than 50 percent of the milk, which is marketed within the specified marketing area, to sign a proposed marketing agreement, tends to prevent the effectuation of the declared policy of the Act;

(2) The issuance of this interim order amending the Pacific Northwest order is the only practical means pursuant to the declared policy of the Act of advancing the interests of producers as defined in the order as hereby amended;

(3) The issuance of the interim order amending the Pacific Northwest order is favored by at least two-thirds of the producers who were engaged in the production of milk for sale in the marketing area.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1124

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Order Relative to Handling

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The authority citation for 7 CFR part 1124 reads as follows:

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

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PART 1124—MILK IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST MARKETING AREA

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1. Section 1124.13 is amended by:

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a. Revising the introductory text; and

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b. Adding a new paragraph (f).

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The revision and addition read as follows:

Producer milk.

Except as provided for in paragraph (f) of this section, Producer milk means the skim milk (or skim milk equivalent of components of skim milk), including nonfat components, and butterfat in milk of a producer that is:

* * * * *

(f) Producer milk shall not include milk of a producer that is subject to inclusion and participation in a marketwide equalization pool under a milk classification and pricing program imposed under the authority of a State government maintaining marketwide pooling of returns.

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Dated: January 5, 2004.

Kenneth C. Clayton,

Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. 04-399 Filed 1-9-04; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P