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Proposed Rule

Almonds Grown in California; Hearing on Proposed Amendment of Marketing Order No. 981

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Notice of hearing on proposed rulemaking.

SUMMARY:

Notice is hereby given of a public hearing to receive evidence on proposed amendments to Marketing Order No. 981 (order), which regulates the handling of almonds grown in California. Two amendments are proposed by the Almond Board of California (Board), which is responsible for local administration of the order. The proposed amendments would authorize establishment of container marking and labeling requirements and authorize establishment of different outgoing quality regulations for different markets. In addition, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) proposes to make any such changes as may be necessary to the order or its administrative rules and regulations to conform to any amendment that may result from the hearing. The proposals are intended to provide additional flexibility in administering the quality control provisions of the order and provide the industry with additional tools to aid in the marketing of almonds.

DATES:

The hearing date is: August 2, 2007, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and continuing on August 3, 2007, at 9 a.m., if necessary, in Modesto, California.

ADDRESSES:

The hearing location is: Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, 1201 L Street, Modesto, California 95353.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Martin Engeler, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 2202 Monterey Street, Suite 102-B, Fresno, California 93721; Telephone: (559) 487-5110, Fax: (559) 487-5906, or E-mail: Martin.Engeler@usda.gov; or Kathleen M. Finn, 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: Kathy.Finn@usda.gov.

Small businesses may request information on this proceeding 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 administrative action is instituted pursuant to the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601-674), hereinafter referred to as the “Act.” This action 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.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) seeks to ensure that within the statutory authority of a program, the regulatory and informational requirements are tailored to the size and nature of small businesses. Interested persons are invited to present evidence at the hearing on the possible regulatory and informational impacts of the proposals on small businesses.

The amendments proposed herein have been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. They are not intended to have retroactive effect. If adopted, the proposed amendments would not preempt any State or local laws, regulations, or policies, unless they present an irreconcilable conflict with the proposals.

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. 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.

The hearing is called pursuant to the provisions of the Act and the applicable rules of practice and procedure governing the formulation of marketing agreements and orders (7 CFR part 900).

The proposed amendments were recommended by the Board and submitted to USDA on March 12, 2007. After reviewing the proposals and other information submitted by the Board, USDA made a determination to schedule this matter for hearing.

The proposed amendments to the order recommended by the Board are summarized as follows:

1. Amend the order by adding a new § 981.43 to authorize establishment of container marking or labeling requirements.

2. Amend the order by revising § 981.42(b) of the order to authorize establishment of different outgoing quality requirements for different markets.

The Board works with USDA in administering the order. These proposals submitted by the Board have not received the approval of USDA. The Board believes that the proposed changes would provide additional flexibility in administering the quality control provisions of the order, and would enable the Board to establish regulations that would address current and future industry needs for appropriate container markings and quality standards. The proposed amendments are intended to aid in the marketing of almonds and improve the operation and administration of the order.

In addition to the proposed amendments to the order, AMS proposes to make any such changes as may be necessary to the order or its administrative rules and regulations to conform to any amendment that may result from the hearing.

The public hearing is held for the purpose of: (i) Receiving evidence about Start Printed Page 36901the economic and marketing conditions which relate to the proposed amendments of the order; (ii) determining whether there is a need for the proposed amendments to the order; and (iii) determining whether the proposed amendments or appropriate modifications thereof will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

Testimony is invited at the hearing on all the proposals and recommendations contained in this notice, as well as any appropriate modifications or alternatives.

All persons wishing to submit written material as evidence at the hearing should be prepared to submit four copies of such material at the hearing and should have prepared testimony available for presentation at the hearing.

From the time the notice of hearing is issued and until the issuance of a final decision in this proceeding, USDA employees involved in the decisional process are prohibited from discussing the merits of the hearing issues on an ex parte basis with any person having an interest in the proceeding. The prohibition applies to employees in the following organizational units: Office of the Secretary of Agriculture; Office of the Administrator, AMS; Office of the General Counsel, except any designated employee of the General Counsel assigned to represent the Board in this proceeding; and the Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS.

Procedural matters are not subject to the above prohibition and may be discussed at any time.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 981

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PART 981—ALMONDS GROWN IN CALIFORNIA

1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 981 continues to read as follows:

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

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2. Testimony is invited on the following proposals or appropriate alternatives or modifications to such proposals.

Proposals submitted by the Almond Board of California:

Proposal Number 1

3. Add § 981.43 to read as follows:

Marking or labeling of containers.

The Board may, with the approval of the Secretary, recommend regulations to require handlers to mark or label the containers that are used in packaging or handling almonds. Container means a box, bin, bag, carton, or any other type of receptacle used in the packaging or handling of almonds.

Proposal Number 2

4. Revise § 981.42 by adding a new sentence at the end of paragraph (b) to read as follows:

Quality control.
* * * * *

(b) * * * The Board may, with the approval of the Secretary, recommend different outgoing quality requirements for different markets. Proposal submitted by USDA:

Proposal Number 3

Make such changes as may be necessary to the order or its administrative rules and regulations to conform with any amendment that may result from the hearing.

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Dated: June 29, 2007.

Lloyd C. Day,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. E7-13073 Filed 7-5-07; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P