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Rule

Onions Grown in South Texas; Decreased 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.

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AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Affirmation of interim final rule as final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim final rule that decreased the assessment rate established for the South Texas Onion Committee (Committee) for the 2009-10 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.03 to $0.025 per 50-pound equivalent of onions handled. The Committee locally administers the marketing order which regulates the handling of onions grown in South Texas. The interim final rule was necessary to reduce the Committee's reserve fund to a desirable level.

DATES:

Effective Date: Effective November 25, 2009.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Belinda G. Garza, Regional Manager, Start Printed Page 61264Texas Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (956) 682-2833, Fax: (956) 682-5942, or E-mail: Belinda.Garza@ams.usda.gov.

Small businesses may obtain information on complying with this and other marketing order regulations by viewing a guide at the following Web site: http://www.ams.usda.gov/​AMSv1.0/​ams.fetchTemplateData.do?​template=​TemplateN&​page=​MarketingOrdersSmallBusinessGuide;​ or 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@ams.usda.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This rule is issued under Marketing Order No. 959, as amended (7 CFR part 959), regulating the handling of onions grown in South Texas, 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.

Under the order, South Texas onion handlers are subject to assessments, which provide funds to administer the order. Assessment rates issued under the order are intended to be applicable to all assessable onions for the entire fiscal period, and continue indefinitely until amended, suspended, or terminated. The Committee's fiscal period begins on August 1 and ends on July 31.

In an interim final rule published in the Federal Register on August 4, 2009, and effective on August 5, 2009 (74 FR 38505, Doc. No. AMS-FV-09-0044; FV09-959-2 IFR), § 959.237 was amended by decreasing the assessment rate established for the Committee for the 2009-10 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.03 to $0.025 per 50-pound equivalent of onions handled. The decrease in the per-unit assessment rate was possible due to a higher than desired reserve fund coupled with adequate anticipated assessment revenue and interest income.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Pursuant to requirements set forth in the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) (5 U.S.C. 601-612), 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.

There are approximately 84 producers of onions in the production area and approximately 31 handlers who are subject to regulation under the order. Small agricultural producers are defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) (13 CFR 121.201) as those having annual receipts less than $750,000, and small agricultural service firms are defined as those whose annual receipts are less than $7,000,000.

Most of the South Texas handlers are vertically integrated corporations involved in producing, shipping, and marketing onions. For the 2007-08 marketing year, the industry's 31 handlers shipped onions produced on 10,978 acres with the average and median volume handled being 202,245 and 176,551 fifty-pound equivalents, respectively. In terms of production value, total revenues for the 31 handlers were estimated to be $174.7 million, with average and median revenues being $5.64 million and $4.92 million, respectively.

The South Texas onion industry is characterized by producers and handlers whose farming operations generally involve more than one commodity, and whose income from farming operations is not exclusively dependent on the production of onions. Alternative crops provide an opportunity to utilize many of the same facilities and equipment not in use when the onion production season is complete. For this reason, typical onion producers and handlers either produce multiple crops or alternate crops within a single year.

Based on the SBA's definition of small entities, the Committee estimates that all of the 31 handlers regulated by the order would be considered small entities if only their onion revenues are considered. However, revenues from other farming enterprises could result in a number of these handlers being above the $7,000,000 annual receipt threshold. All of the 84 producers may be classified as small entities based on the SBA definition if only their revenue from onions is considered.

This rule continues in effect the action that decreased the assessment rate established for the Committee and collected from handlers for the 2009-10 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.03 to $0.025 per 50-pound equivalent of onions. The Committee unanimously recommended 2009-10 expenditures of $184,705.12 and an assessment rate of $0.025 per 50-pound equivalent. The assessment rate of $0.025 is $0.005 lower than the rate previously in effect. The quantity of assessable onions for the 2009-10 fiscal period is estimated at 6 million 50-pound equivalents. Thus, the $0.025 rate should provide $150,000 in assessment income. Income derived from handler assessments, along with interest income and funds from the Committee's authorized reserve will be adequate to cover budgeted expenses.

The major expenditures recommended by the Committee for the 2009-10 fiscal period include $73,705 for management, administrative, and rent expenses; $45,000 for promotion expenses; and $44,000 for compliance. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2008-09 (previous year) were $66,695, $45,000, and $48,000, respectively.

The Committee reviewed and unanimously recommended 2009-10 expenditures of $184,705.12, which included a decrease in compliance expenses due to a shortened regulatory period. The assessment rate of $0.025 per 50-pound equivalent of assessable onions recommended by the Committee was determined by considering anticipated expenses and production levels of South Texas onions. As stated earlier, the Committee utilized an estimate of 6 million 50-pound equivalents of assessable onions for the 2009-10 fiscal period, which, if realized will provide estimated assessment revenue of $150,000 from all handlers. In addition, it is anticipated that $34,705 will be provided by interest income and reserve funds. When combined, revenue from these sources will be adequate to cover budgeted expenses.

The Committee discussed alternative expenditure levels, but determined that the recommended expenses were reasonable and necessary to adequately cover program operations. Other assessment rates were not considered because the Committee believed decreasing the rate by $0.005 was sufficient to reduce their current reserve fund to a desirable level.

A review of historical information and preliminary information pertaining to the upcoming fiscal period indicates that the season average f.o.b. price for the 2009-10 fiscal period could range between $10.00 and $28.00 per 50-Start Printed Page 61265pound equivalent of onions. Therefore, the estimated assessment revenue for the 2009-10 fiscal period as a percentage of total f.o.b. revenue could range between 0.1 and 0.25 percent.

This rule continues in effect the action that decreased the assessment obligation imposed on handlers. Assessments are applied uniformly on all handlers, and some of the costs may be passed on to producers. However, decreasing the assessment rate reduces the burden on handlers, and may reduce the burden on producers. In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the South Texas onion production area and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the June 9, 2009, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express views on this issue.

This action imposes no additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large South Texas onion 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.

Comments on the interim final rule were required to be received on or before October 5, 2009. No comments were received. Therefore, for the reasons given in the interim final rule, we are adopting the interim final rule as a final rule, without change.

To view the interim final rule, go to http://www.regulations.gov/​search/​Regs/​home.html#documentDetail?​R=​0900006480a0086c.

This action also affirms information contained in the interim final rule concerning Executive Orders 12866 and 12988, the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), and the E-Gov Act (44 U.S.C. 101).

After consideration of all relevant material presented, it is found that finalizing the interim final rule, without change, as published in the Federal Register (74 FR 38505, August 4, 2009) will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 959

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PART 959—ONIONS GROWN IN SOUTH TEXAS

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Accordingly, the interim final rule amending

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Dated: November 17, 2009.

Rayne Pegg,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. E9-28144 Filed 11-23-09; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-02-P