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Grapes Grown in a Designated Area of Southeastern California and Imported Table Grapes; Relaxation of Handling Requirements

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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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:

Affirmation of interim rule as final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim rule that relaxed the handling requirements prescribed under the California table grape marketing order (order) and the table grape import regulation. The interim rule relaxed the one-quarter pound minimum bunch size requirement for the 2010 and subsequent seasons for grapes packed in consumer packages holding 2 pounds net weight or less. Under the relaxation, up to 20 percent of the weight of such containers may consist of single clusters of at least five berries each. This action continues the relaxation that was prescribed on a one-year test basis in 2009 and provides California desert grape handlers and importers the flexibility to respond to an ongoing marketing opportunity to meet consumer needs.

DATES:

Effective June 18, 2010.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jerry L. Simmons, Marketing Specialist, or Kurt J. Kimmel, Regional Manager, California Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (559) 487-5901, Fax: (559) 487-5906, or E-mail: Jerry.Simmons@ams.usda.gov or Kurt.Kimmel@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 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 rule is issued under Marketing Order No. 925, as amended (7 CFR part 925), regulating the handling of grapes grown in a designated area of southeastern California, 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.”

This rule is also issued under section 8e of the Act, which provides that whenever certain specified commodities, including table grapes, are regulated under a Federal marketing order, imports of these commodities into the United States are prohibited Start Printed Page 34344unless they meet the same or comparable grade, size, quality, or maturity requirements as those in effect for the domestically produced commodities.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing this rule in conformance with Executive Order 12866.

The shipping of table grapes produced in a designated area of southeastern California is regulated by 7 CFR part 925. The regulations specify that bunches of grapes must weigh a minimum of one-quarter pound to meet requirements of U.S. No. 1 Table grade grapes. In response to a marketing opportunity, the industry experimented with a new container during the 2009 season. The experimental container's small capacity makes it difficult to completely fill with grape bunches of one-quarter pound or larger. Therefore, for the 2009 season, the minimum bunch size requirement was relaxed for U.S. No. 1 table grade grapes packed in these containers. The 2009 experimental period was successful and the Committee recommended continuing these handling requirements for the 2010 and subsequent seasons.

Imported table grapes are subject to regulations specified in 7 CFR part 944. Under those regulations, imported grapes must meet the same minimum size requirement as specified for domestic grapes under the order. Therefore, the minimum bunch size requirement was also relaxed for imported grapes packed in small consumer packages containing 2 pounds net weight or less.

In an interim rule published in the Federal Register on April 5, 2010, and effective on April 8, 2010, (75 FR 17031, Doc. No. AMS-FV-09-0085, FV10-925-1 IFR), §§ 925.304 and 944.503 were amended by relaxing the one-quarter pound minimum bunch size requirement for the 2010 and subsequent seasons for U.S. No. 1 Table grade grapes packed in small consumer packages containing 2 pounds net weight or less. Under the relaxation, up to 20 percent of the weight of each clamshell container (individual consumer packages) may consist of single clusters weighing less than one-quarter pound, but with at least five berries each.

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 about 15 handlers of southeastern California grapes who are subject to regulation under the order and about 50 grape producers in the production area. In addition, there are about 100 importers of grapes. 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 whose annual receipts are less than $750,000. Four of the 15 handlers subject to regulation have annual grape sales of more than $7,000,000. Based on data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and the committee, the crop value for 2009 was about $55,000,000. Dividing this figure by the number of producers (50) yields an average annual producer revenue estimate of $1,100,000, this is above the SBA threshold of $750,000. Based on the foregoing, it may be concluded that a majority of grape handlers and none of the producers may be classified as small entities. It is estimated that the average importer receives $3,200,000 in revenue from the sale of grapes. Therefore, it may be concluded that the majority of importers may be classified as small entities.

This rule continues in effect the action that revised § 925.304(a) of the rules and regulations of the California desert grape order and § 944.503(a)(1) of the table grape import regulation. This rule continues in effect the action that relaxed the one-quarter pound minimum bunch size requirement for the 2010 and subsequent seasons for U.S. No. 1 Table grade grapes packed in small consumer packages containing 2 pounds net weight or less. Under the relaxation, up to 20 percent of the weight of each consumer package weighing two pounds or less may consist of single clusters weighing less than one-quarter pound, but with at least five berries each. Authority for the change to the California desert grape order is provided in §§ 925.52(a)(1) and 925.53. Authority for the change to the table grape import regulation is provided in section 8e of the Act.

There is general agreement in the industry for the need to continue to relax the minimum bunch size requirement for grapes packed in these consumer packages to allow for more packaging options. No additional alternatives were considered because the 2009 one-year test relaxation produced the desired results with no identified problems. The committee unanimously agreed that the relaxation for grapes packed in consumer packages containing 2 pounds net weight or less was appropriate to prescribe for the 2010 and subsequent seasons.

Regarding the impact of this rule on affected entities, this rule provides both California desert grape handlers and importers the flexibility to continue to respond to an ongoing marketing opportunity to meet consumer needs. This marketing opportunity initially existed in the 2009 season, and the minimum bunch size regulations were relaxed accordingly for one year on a test basis. As in 2009, handlers and importers will be able to provide buyers in the retail sector more packaging choices. The relaxation may result in increased shipments of consumer-sized grape packages, which would have a positive impact on producers, handlers, and importers.

This rule will not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements on either small or large grape handlers or importers. 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. In addition, USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap or conflict with this rule.

Further, the committee's meeting was widely publicized throughout the grape industry and all interested persons were invited to attend the meeting and participate in committee deliberations. Like all committee meetings, the November 12, 2009, meeting was a public meeting and all entities, both large and small, were able to express their views on this issue. Also, the World Trade Organization, the Chilean Technical Barriers to Trade inquiry point for notifications under the U.S-Chile Free Trade Agreement, the embassies of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and South Africa, and known grape importers were also notified of this action.

Comments on the interim rule were required to be received on or before May 5, 2010. One comment was received. That comment was in support of the relaxation of the handling requirements providing a larger tolerance margin for Start Printed Page 34345smaller bunches in consumer packages holding 2 pounds net weight or less. Therefore, for the reasons given in the interim rule, we are adopting the interim rule as a final rule, without change.

To view the interim rule, go to: http://www.regulations.gov/​search/​Regs/​home.html#documentDetail?​R=​0900006480acfcb7.

This action also affirms information contained in the interim 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).

In accordance with section 8e of the Act, the United States Trade Representative has concurred with the issuance of this final rule.

After consideration of all relevant material presented, it is found that finalizing the interim rule, without change, as published in the Federal Register (75 FR 17031, April 5, 2010) will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act.

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List of Subjects

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PARTS 925 and 944—[AMENDED]

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Accordingly, the interim rule that amended

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Dated: June 11, 2010.

David R. Shipman,

Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.

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[FR Doc. 2010-14572 Filed 6-16-10; 8:45 am]

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