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Rule

Sweet Onions Grown in the Walla Walla Valley of Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon; Changes to Reporting and Assessment Due Dates

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

This rule changes the reporting and assessment date requirements prescribed under the marketing order regulating the handling of sweet onions grown in the Walla Walla Valley of southeast Washington and northeast Oregon. The marketing order is administered locally by the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”). This rule revises the submission due date for certain handler reports and assessment payments from September 1 to September 30. This change allows handlers additional time to compile requisite information and submit it to the Committee. It is expected that this action will improve handler compliance with the administrative requirements of the marketing order.

DATES:

Effective Date: July 19, 2010.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Barry Broadbent, Marketing Specialist, or Gary Olson, Regional Manager, Northwest Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (503) 326-2724, Fax: (503) 326-7440, or E-mail: Barry.Broadbent@ams.usda.gov or GaryD.Olson@ams.usda.gov.

Small businesses may request information on complying with this regulation by contacting Antoinette Carter, 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: Antoinette.Carter@ams.usda.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This final rule is issued under Marketing Agreement and Order No. 956, both as amended (7 CFR part 956), regulating the handling of sweet onions in the Walla Walla Valley of southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, 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 final rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. This rule is not intended to have retroactive effect.

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 final rule revises the due date prescribed in the order's administrative rules for certain reports and assessment payments. Specifically, the submission due date for handler shipment statements and assessment payments for Walla Walla sweet onions shipped prior to September 1 (hereinafter referred to as “regular season”) is changed from September 1 to September 30. The due date change will allow handlers the needed time to compile information, file reports, and pay assessments. It is expected that this action will improve handler compliance with the order's reporting and assessment requirements. The rule was unanimously recommended by the Committee at its February 2, 2010, meeting.

Section 956.80 of the order provides that, upon request of the Committee, with the approval of the Secretary, each handler shall furnish to the Committee, in such manner and at such time as it may prescribe, such reports and other information as may be necessary for the Committee to perform its duties. In addition, § 956.42(a) provides that each person who first handles Walla Walla sweet onions shall pay assessments to the Committee upon demand.

Section 956.180(b) of the order's administrative rules prescribes that each handler shall furnish to the Committee a Handler's Statement of Walla Walla Sweet Onion Shipments. Prior to this final rule, for Walla Walla sweet onions handled prior to September 1, such report was required to be furnished to the Committee by September 1. In addition, § 956.142 of the order provided that, for Walla Walla Sweet Onions handled prior to September 1, annual assessment payments were also due September 1.

At its meeting on February 2, 2010, the Committee recommended that the order's reporting and assessment due date for regular season shipments be changed from September 1 to September 30 to allow handlers additional time to Start Printed Page 34346fulfill their reporting and assessment requirements. At the time the order was promulgated in 1995, the Walla Walla sweet onion shipping season typically concluded at the end of July or early in August. As such, the Committee established a September 1 deadline for submitting reports and paying assessments for Walla Walla sweet onions handled during the regular season, which gave handlers most of the month of August to accumulate information and prepare their reports and assessment payments.

Recently, however, handlers have indicated to the Committee that advancements in Walla Walla sweet onion production and storage techniques have extended the regular season for the shipment of such onions until the end of August. As a result, it has become more difficult for handlers to gather the information required in time to meet the September 1 deadline for reporting shipments and paying assessments. Changing the due date for submission of the handler's shipment statement and assessment payment for regular season shipments from September 1 to September 30 allows handlers the needed time to complete the requirements and submit them to the Committee.

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 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 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 28 handlers of Walla Walla sweet onions who are subject to regulation under the marketing order and approximately 37 Walla Walla sweet onion producers in the regulated 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 $7,000,000, and small agricultural producers are defined as those having annual receipts of less than $750,000.

Based on information from the Committee for the 2009 shipping season, handlers shipped 621,218 50-pound equivalents of Walla Walla sweet onions. At an average price of $11.50 per 50-pound equivalent, total handler revenue was approximately $7,144,000 and average revenue per handler was approximately $255,100. Also based on information from the Committee, producers harvested an average of 24 acres of Walla Walla sweet onions, with an average production of 699 50-pound equivalents per acre. With an average farm gate value of $8.75 per 50-pound equivalent, Walla Walla sweet onion producers averaged approximately $146,800 in gross receipts for the year. Based on this information, the majority of handlers and producers of Walla Walla sweet onions may be classified as small entities under SBA's standards.

This final rule revises the due date contained in §§ 956.180 and 956.142 of the order for the submission of regular season handler reports and assessment payments for Walla Walla sweet onions handled from June 1 through August 31. The deadline for submitting reports and assessment payments for such regular season onion shipments is revised from September 1 to September 30. This change does not affect the reporting and assessment payment due dates for late season Walla Walla sweet onions shipped during the September 1 through May 31 period, which continues to be 30 days after the end of the month in which the onions were handled. The due date change allows handlers the needed time to compile information, file reports and pay assessments. Authority for this action is provided in §§ 956.42(f) and 956.80.

At its February 2, 2010, meeting, the Committee discussed whether the due date for certain reports and assessment payments needed to be changed to allow more time for handlers to comply with the order's requirements. Handlers stated at the meeting that advancements in both the production and storage of Walla Walla sweet onions had extended the marketability of their product well into August, whereas, traditionally, their primary marketing season ended around the end of July. As such, the handlers explained that there is now less time between the end of their shipping period and the reporting deadline to compile information, complete reports and pay their assessments. The Committee staff indicated that compliance with the order's reporting and assessment requirements would likely improve if handlers were given additional time to fulfill them.

At the meeting, the Committee discussed alternatives to this change, including extending the due dates even further; requiring submission of reports and assessments monthly instead of at the end of the regular season; changing the due dates, but adding a late penalty; and not making any changes. However, the Committee believed that changing the due date for reports and assessment payments on regular season onion shipments from September 1 to September 30 adequately addressed the concerns of the handlers while maintaining sufficient consequences for noncompliance and reasonable timelines for the administration of the order.

This final rule is not expected to have any economic impact on handlers or producers of any size. The benefits of this rule are not expected to be disproportionately greater or less for small handlers or producers than for larger entities.

Information collected under this order is currently approved under OMB No. 0581-0178. This action will not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large Walla Walla sweet onion handlers. As stated above, information collected will not change with this rule; only the date on which the collection is required to be submitted will be revised. 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.

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

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.

In addition, the Committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the Walla Walla sweet onion industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in Committee deliberations on all issues. Like all Committee meetings, the February 2, 2010, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express views on this issue.

A proposed rule concerning this action was published in the Federal Register on April 12, 2010 (75 FR 18428). Copies of the rule were mailed or sent via facsimile to all Committee members and Walla Walla sweet onion handlers. Finally, the rule was made Start Printed Page 34347available through the Internet by USDA and the Office of the Federal Register. A 30-day comment period ending May 12, 2010, was provided to allow interested persons to respond to the proposal. No comments were received during the comment period in response to the proposal. Accordingly, no changes will be made to the rule as proposed.

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/​AMSv1.0/​ams.fetchTemplateData.do?​template=​TemplateN&​page=​MarketingOrdersSmallBusinessGuide. Any questions about the compliance guide should be sent to Antoinette Carter at the previously mentioned address in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section.

After consideration of all relevant material presented, including the information and recommendation submitted by the Committee and other available information, it is hereby found that this rule, as hereinafter set forth, will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

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List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 956

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble,

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PART 956—SWEET ONIONS GROWN IN THE WALLA WALLA VALLEY OF SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON AND NORTHEAST OREGON

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1. The authority citation for

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

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2. Revise § 956.142 to read as follows:

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Interest charges.

For Walla Walla Sweet Onions handled prior to September 1, the Committee shall impose an interest charge on any handler who fails to pay his or her annual assessments within thirty (30) days of the due date of September 30. For Walla Walla Sweet Onions handled during the period September 1 through May 31, the Committee shall impose an interest charge on any handler who fails to pay his or her assessments within thirty (30) days of the last day of the month in which such shipments are made. The interest charge shall be 11/2 percent of the unpaid assessment balance. In the event the handler fails to pay the delinquent assessment amount within 60 days following the due date, the 11/2 percent interest charge shall be applied monthly thereafter to the unpaid balance, including any accumulated interest. Any amount paid by a handler as an assessment, including any charges imposed pursuant to this paragraph, shall be credited when the payment is received in the Committee office.

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3. Revise § 956.180(b) introductory text to read as follows:

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Reports.
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(b) Each handler shall furnish to the Committee a Handler's Statement of Walla Walla Sweet Onion Shipments containing the information in paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(3) of this section, except that gift box and roadside stand sales shall be exempt from paragraph (a)(2) of this section: Provided, That for Walla Walla Sweet Onions handled prior to September 1, such report shall be furnished to the Committee by September 30, and that for Walla Walla Sweet Onions handled during the period September 1 through May 31, such report shall be furnished to the Committee no later than thirty (30) days after the end of the month in which such onions were handled:

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Dated: June 11, 2010.

Rayne Pegg,

Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. 2010-14569 Filed 6-16-10; 8:45 am]

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