Skip to Content

Proposed Rule

Cranberries Grown in the States of Massachusetts, et al.; Increased Assessment Rate

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:

Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

This rule would increase the assessment rate established for the Cranberry Marketing Committee (Committee) for the 2006-2007 fiscal year and subsequent fiscal years from $0.18 to $0.28 per barrel. Authorization to assess cranberry handlers enables the Committee to incur expenses that are reasonable and necessary to administer the program. The Committee locally administers the marketing order which regulates the handling of cranberries grown in the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Long Island in the State of New York. The fiscal year began September 1, 2006, and ends August 31, 2007. The assessment rate will remain in effect indefinitely unless modified, suspended, or terminated.

DATES:

Comments must be received by February 15, 2007.

ADDRESSES:

Interested persons are invited to submit written comments concerning this action. Comments must be sent to the Docket Clerk, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237; Fax: (202) 720-8938, E-mail: moabdocket.clerk@usda.gov; or Internet: http://www.regulations.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:

Patricia A. Petrella or Kenneth G. Johnson, DC Marketing Field Office, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, Unit 155, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, Maryland 20737; telephone: (301) 734-5243, Fax: (301) 734-5275, or E-mail at Patricia.Petrella@usda.gov or Kenneth.Johnson@usda.gov.

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 Agreement and Order No. 929, as amended (7 CFR part 929), regulating the handling of cranberries produced in the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Start Printed Page 1679Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Long Island in the State of New York, 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, cranberries are subject to assessments. Funds to administer the order are derived from such assessments. It is intended that the assessment rate as proposed herein would be applicable to all assessable cranberries beginning September 1, 2006, 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 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 the 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 the 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 increase the assessment rate established for the 2006-2007 and subsequent fiscal years from $0.18 to $0.28 per pound of cranberries.

The cranberry marketing order provides authority for the Committee, with 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 and handlers of cranberries. 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.

Authority to fix the rate of assessment to be paid by each handler and to collect such assessment appears in § 929.41 of the order. In addition, § 929.45 of the order provides that the Committee, with the approval of the USDA, may establish or provide for the establishment of production research, marketing research, and market development projects designed to assist, improve, or promote the marketing, distribution, consumption, or efficient production of cranberries. The expense of such projects is paid from funds collected pursuant to § 929.41 (Assessments), or from such other funds as approved by the USDA.

For the 2001-2002 fiscal year, the Committee recommended, and USDA approved, an assessment rate of $0.18 per barrel of cranberries handled 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 August 28, 2006, and recommended 2006-2007 expenditures of $3,522,062 and an assessment rate of $0.28 per pound of cranberries. The Committee passed the assessment rate increase by a vote of 12 to 2. Those not supporting the recommendation wanted a lesser increase. In comparison, last year's budgeted expenses were $2,612,265. The assessment rate of $0.28 is $0.10 higher than the rate currently in effect.

The Committee recommended the $0.10 per barrel increase to cover increased costs. The Committee has expanded its contributions to the export market development program from $50,000 in 1999 to $480,000 in 2006. The Committee has increased funding of the export market development program as target markets have expanded from two in 1999 (Japan and Germany), to five in 2006 (Japan, Germany, Mexico, France and Australia) with contingency plans to expand activities regionally within Europe and in South Korea. According to the Committee, cranberries and cranberry products going into export markets have steadily increased from 10 percent of the annual cranberry production during the 1999-2000 fiscal period to approximately 24 percent of the annual production in the 2005-2006 fiscal period.

In order to expand and maintain activities within the target markets, the Committee has used funds from its reserve account to meet the costs of educating consumers and the trade industry.

Since the last increase published in the Federal Register on February 14, 2002, at 67 FR 6843, the assessment rate has not been increased to compensate for increases in the costs of goods and services, costs contributable to increasing the Committee membership and to pay back funds taken from the reserve for the expanding export market development program. As a result, the reserve has continued to decrease until it is at a point where the Committee is unable to meet the order's reserve funding requirements or balance its budget without an increase in assessments and/or cutback in program activities. The Committee recommended the assessment rate increase to continue to expand the generic export market development program and have sufficient funding to meet its operational expenses. Without this increase, the Committee would have to curtail expansion of the export market development program.

All cranberry handlers regulated under the marketing order would pay the proposed assessment rate. However, certain organic handlers may be exempt from paying assessments for market promotion activities pursuant to 7 CFR 900.700.

The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2006-2007 fiscal year include $500,000 for domestic promotion, $480,000 for export promotion, $154,116 for personnel, $103,500 for meetings, and $107,527 for administrative expenses. Budgeted expenses for major items in 2005-2006 were $488,225 for domestic promotion, $147,420 for personnel, $105,500 for meetings, and $116,542 for administrative expenses. The Committee recommended an increased assessment rate to generate larger revenue to meet its operational and export promotion expenses and keep its reserves at an acceptable level.

In deriving the recommended assessment rate, the Committee determined assessable cranberry production for the upcoming fiscal period at 6,506,000 barrels. Therefore, total assessment income for the 2006-2007 fiscal year is estimated at $1,821,680 (6,506,000 barrels × $0.28). This amount plus $1,767,600 from USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service's Market Access Program and adequate funds in the reserve and interest income would be adequate to cover budgeted expenses. Funds in the reserve (approximately $541,122) would be kept within the approximately one fiscal period's expenses as recommended by Start Printed Page 1680the Committee consistent with § 929.42(a) of the order.

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

Although the assessment rate would be effective for an indefinite period, the Committee would 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 the 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 would be undertaken as necessary. The Committee's 2006-2007 budget and those for subsequent fiscal periods would be reviewed and, as appropriate, approved by the USDA.

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 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 50 handlers of cranberries who are subject to regulation under the cranberry marketing order and approximately 1250 producers of cranberries in the regulated area. Small agricultural service firms, which includes handlers, are defined by the Small Business Administration (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts of less than $6,500,000, and small agricultural producers are defined as those having annual receipts of less than $750,000. The majority of producers and handlers of cranberries under the order are considered small entities under SBA's standards.

The principal demand for cranberries is in the form of processed products. Cranberries are dried, frozen, canned, and juiced. During the 2001-2002 fiscal year through the 2005-2006 fiscal year, approximately 91 percent of the U.S. cranberry crop, or 5.4 million barrels, was processed annually.

Based on National Agricultural Statistics Service data, acreage in the United States devoted to cranberry production has leveled off over the last several crop years. Bearing acres have declined slightly from a high of 39,600 acres in the 2003-2004 fiscal year to 39,100 in the 2005-2006 fiscal year. Wisconsin and Massachusetts lead the nation in cranberry acreage, with approximately 81 percent of the total, and production also at approximately 81 percent of the total U.S. cranberry crop each year.

This rule would increase the assessment rate established for the Committee and collected from handlers for the 2006-2007 fiscal period and subsequent periods from $0.18 to $0.28 per barrel of cranberries.

The Committee discussed continuing the existing assessment rate, but concluded that it needed the additional funds to devote to its export market development and promotion program and replenish its financial reserve which would be funded through assessments.

This action would increase the assessment obligation imposed on handlers. While assessments impose some additional costs on handlers, the costs are 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 cranberry industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, 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.

This proposed rule would impose no additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large cranberry 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.

The AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.

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

A small business guide on complying with fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop marketing agreements and orders may be viewed at the following Web site: 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 30-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to respond to this proposed rule. Thirty days is deemed appropriate because: (1) The 2006-2007 fiscal period began September 1, 2006, and the marketing order requires that the rate of assessment for each fiscal year apply to all assessable cranberries handled during such period; (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 recommended by the Committee at a public meeting.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 929

End List of Subjects

For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 929 is proposed to be amended as follows:

Start Part

PART 929—CRANBERRIES GROWN IN THE STATES OF MASSACHUSETTS, RHODE ISLAND, CONNECTICUT, NEW JERSEY, WISCONSIN, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, OREGON, WASHINGTON, AND LONG ISLAND IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK

1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 929 continues to read as follows:

Start Authority

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

End Authority

2. Section 929.236 is revised to read as follows:

Assessment rate.

On and after September 1, 2006, an assessment rate of $.28 per barrel is established for cranberries.

Start Signature
Start Printed Page 1681

Dated: January 10, 2007.

Lloyd C. Day,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

End Signature End Part End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. E7-428 Filed 1-12-07; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P