Milk in the Central Marketing Area; Recommended Decision and Opportunity To File Written Exceptions on Proposed Amendments to Tentative Marketing Agreement and to Order, 9015-9033 [06-1584]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules General Findings § 1030.13 The findings and determinations hereinafter set forth supplement those that were made when the UMW order was first issued and when it was amended. The previous findings and determinations are hereby ratified and confirmed, except where they may conflict with those set forth herein. (a) The tentative marketing agreement and the order, as hereby proposed to be amended, and all of the terms and conditions thereof, will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act; (b) The parity prices of milk as determined pursuant to section 2 of the Act are not reasonable in view of the price of feeds, available supplies of feeds, and other economic conditions which affect market supply and demand for milk in the marketing area, and the minimum prices specified in the tentative marketing agreement and the order, as hereby proposed to be amended, are such prices as will reflect the aforesaid factors, insure a sufficient quantity of pure and wholesome milk, and be in the public interest; and (c) The tentative marketing agreement and the order, as hereby proposed to be amended, will regulate the handling of milk in the same manner as, and will be applicable only to persons in the respective classes of industrial and commercial activity specified in, the marketing agreement upon which a hearing has been held. * Recommended Marketing Agreement and Order Amending the Order The recommended marketing agreement is not included in this decision because the regulatory provisions thereof would be the same as those contained in the order, as hereby proposed to be amended. The following order amending the order, as amended, regulating the handling of milk in the UMW marketing area is recommended as the detailed and appropriate means by which the foregoing conclusions may be carried out. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1030 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Milk marketing orders. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 1030, is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 1030—MILK IN THE UPPER MIDWEST MARKETING AREA 1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 1030 continues to read as follows: Authority: 7 U.S.C. 601–674. 2. Section 1030.13 is amended by adding a new paragraph (f), to read as follows: VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 Producer milk. * * * * (f) The quantity of milk reported by a handler pursuant to § 1030.30(a)(1) and/ or § 1030.30(c)(1) for April through February may not exceed 125 percent, and March may not exceed 135 percent of the producer milk receipts pooled by the handler during the prior month. Milk diverted to nonpool plants reported in excess of this limit shall be removed from the pool. Milk in excess of this limit received at pool plants, other than pool distributing plants, shall be classified pursuant to § 1000.44(a)(3)(v) and § 1000.44(b)(3)(v) of this title. The handler must designate, by producer pick-up, which milk is to be removed from the pool. If the handler fails to provide this information, the market administrator will make the determination. The following provisions apply: (1) Milk shipped to and physically received at pool distributing plants shall not be subject to the 125 or 135 percent limitation; (2) Producer milk qualified pursuant to ll.13 of any other Federal Order and continuously pooled in any Federal Order for the previous six months shall not be included in the computation of the 125 or 135 percent limitation; (3) The market administrator may waive the 125 or 135 percent limitation: (i) For a new handler on the order, subject to the provisions of § 1030.13(f)(3), or (ii) For an existing handler with significantly changed milk supply conditions due to unusual circumstances; (4) A bloc of milk may be considered ineligible for pooling if the market administrator determines that handlers altered the reporting of such milk for the purpose of evading the provisions of this paragraph (f). 3. Section 1030.85 is revised, to read as follows: § 1030.85 Assessment for order administration. On or before the payment receipt date specified under § 1030.71, each handler shall pay to the market administrator its pro rata share of the expense of administration of the order at a rate specified by the market administrator that is no more than 8 cents per hundredweight with respect to: (a) Receipts of producer milk (including the handler’s own production) other than such receipts by a handler described in § 1000.9(c) that were delivered to pool plants of other handlers; (b) Receipts from a handler described in § 1000.9(c) of this title; PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9015 (c) Receipts of concentrated fluid milk products from unregulated supply plants and receipts of nonfluid milk products assigned to Class I use pursuant to § 1000.43(d) of this title and other source milk allocated to Class I pursuant to § 1000.44(a)(3) and (8) of this title and the corresponding steps of § 1000.44(b) of this title, except other source milk that is excluded from the computations pursuant to § 1030.60(h) and (i); and (d) Route disposition in the marketing area from a partially regulated distributing plant that exceeds the skim milk and butterfat subtracted pursuant to § 1000.76(a)(1)(i) and (ii) of this title. Dated: February 15, 2006. Lloyd C. Day, Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service. [FR Doc. 06–1585 Filed 2–21–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 1032 [Docket No. AO–313–A48; DA–04–06] Milk in the Central Marketing Area; Recommended Decision and Opportunity To File Written Exceptions on Proposed Amendments to Tentative Marketing Agreement and to Order Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA. ACTION: Proposed rule; recommended decision. AGENCY: SUMMARY: This decision recommends adoption of proposals that would amend certain features of the Central Federal milk marketing order. Specifically, this decision recommends adoption of proposals that would increase supply plant performance standards, amend features of the ‘‘touch-base’’ provision, amend certain features of the ‘‘split plant’’ provision and decrease the diversion limit standards of the order. This decision also recommends adoption of a proposal that would limit the volume of milk a handler can pool in a month to 125 percent of the total volume of milk pooled in the previous month. DATES: Comments should be submitted on or before April 24, 2006. ADDRESSES: Comments (6 copies) should be filed with the Hearing Clerk, STOP 9200-Room 1031, United States Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250–9200. E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9016 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules Comments may also be submitted at the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: https:// www.regulations.gov or by submitting comments by e-mail: amsdairycomments@usda.gov. Reference should be made to the title of action and docket number. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Rower, Marketing Specialist, Order Formulation and Enforcement Branch, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs, STOP 0231-Room 2971, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250– 0231, (202) 720–2357, e-mail address: jack.rower@usda.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This decision recommends adoption of amendments that would: (1) Increase supply plant performance standards to 25 percent for the months of August through February and to 20 percent for the months of March through July; (2) Require the non-pool side of a split plant to maintain nonpool status for 12 months; (3) Amend the ‘‘touch-base’’ feature of the order to require that at least one day’s production of the milk of a dairy farmer be received at a pool plant in each of the months of January, February, and August through November, to be eligible for diversion to non-pool plants; (4) Lower the diversion limit standards by five percentage points, from 80 percent to 75 percent, for the months of August through February, and by five percentage points, from 85 percent to 80 percent for the months of March through July; and (5) Establish provisions that would limit the volume of milk a handler may pool in a month to 125 percent of the volume of milk pooled in the prior month. This administrative 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 amendments to the rules proposed herein have been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. It is not intended to have a retroactive effect. If adopted, the proposed rule would not preempt any state or local laws, regulations, or policies, unless they present an irreconcilable conflict with this rule. The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (the Act), as amended (7 U.S.C. 601–674), 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 request modification or exemption from such order by filing with the Department of Agriculture (Department) a petition stating that the order, any provision of the order, or any obligation VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 imposed in connection with the order is not in accordance with the law. A handler is afforded the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. After a hearing, the Department 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 its principal place of business, has jurisdiction in equity to review the Department’s ruling on the petition, provided a bill in equity is filed not later than 20 days after the date of the entry of the ruling. Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork Reduction Act In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), the Agricultural Marketing Service has considered the economic impact of this action on small entities and has certified that this proposed rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. For the purpose of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a dairy farm is considered a ‘‘small business’’ if it has an annual gross revenue of less than $750,000, and a dairy products manufacturer is a ‘‘small business’’ if it has fewer than 500 employees. For the purposes of determining which dairy farms are ‘‘small businesses,’’ the $750,000 per year criterion was used to establish a production guideline of 500,000 pounds per month. Although this guideline does not factor in additional monies that may be received by dairy producers, it should be an inclusive standard for most ‘‘small’’ dairy farmers. For purposes of determining a handler’s size, if the plant is part of a larger company operating multiple plants that collectively exceed the 500-employee limit, the plant will be considered a large business even if the local plant has fewer than 500 employees. During January 2005, there were 5,778 dairy producers pooled on, and 23 handlers regulated by, the Central order. Approximately 5,365 producers, or 92.9 percent, were considered ‘‘small businesses’’ based on the above criteria. Of the 23 handlers regulated by the Central order during January 2005, 11 handlers, or 47.8 percent, were considered ‘‘small businesses.’’ The recommended amendments regarding the pooling standards serve to revise established criteria that determine those producers, producer milk, and plants that have a reasonable association with and consistently serve the fluid needs of the Central milk marketing area. Criteria for pooling are established on the basis of performance levels that are considered adequate to PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 meet the Class I fluid needs of the market and, by doing so, determine those producers who are eligible to share in the revenue that arises from the classified pricing of milk. Criteria for pooling are established without regard to the size of any dairy industry organization or entity. Therefore, the proposed amendments will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. A review of reporting requirements was completed under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35). It was determined that these proposed amendments would have no impact on reporting, record keeping, or other compliance requirements because they would remain identical to the current requirements. No new forms are proposed and no additional reporting requirements would be necessary. This recommended decision does not require additional information collection that requires clearance by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) beyond currently approved information collection. The primary sources of data used to complete the forms are routinely used in most business transactions. Forms require only a minimal amount of information which can be supplied without data processing equipment or a trained statistical staff. Thus, the information collection and reporting burden is relatively small. Requiring the same reports for all handlers does not significantly disadvantage any handler that is smaller than the industry average. No other burdens are expected to fall on the dairy industry as a result of overlapping Federal rules. This rulemaking proceeding does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any existing Federal rules. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the probable regulatory and informational impact of this proposed rule on small entities. Also, parties may suggest modifications of this proposal for the purpose of tailoring their applicability to small businesses. Prior Documents in This Proceeding Notice of Hearing: Issued September 17, 2004; published September 22, 2004 (69 FR 56725). Notice of Hearing Delay: Issued October 18, 2004; published October 13, 2004 (69 FR 61323). Preliminary Statement Notice is hereby given of the filing with the Hearing Clerk of this E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules recommended decision with respect to the proposed amendments to the tentative marketing agreement and the order regulating the handling of milk in the Central marketing area. This notice is issued pursuant to the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) and the applicable rules of practice and procedure governing the formulation of marketing agreements and marketing orders (7 CFR part 900). Interested parties may file written exceptions to this decision with the Hearing Clerk, United States Department of Agriculture, Room 1031– Stop 9200, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250–9200, by the [insert date 60 days after publication of this decision in the Federal Register.] Six (6) copies of the exceptions should be filed. All written submissions made pursuant to this notice will be made available for public inspection at the office of the Hearing Clerk during regular business hours (7 CFR 1.27(b)). The hearing notice specifically invited interested persons to present evidence concerning the probable regulatory and informational impact of the proposals on small businesses. Some evidence was received that specifically addressed these issues, and some of the evidence encompassed entities of various sizes. A public hearing was held upon proposed amendments to the marketing agreement and the order regulating the handling of milk in the Central marketing area. The hearing was held, pursuant to the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601–674), and the applicable rules of practice and procedure governing the formulation of marketing agreements and marketing orders (7 CFR part 900). The proposed amendments set forth below are based on the record of a public hearing held in Kansas City, Missouri, on December 6–8, 2004, pursuant to a notice of hearing issued September 17, 2004, published September 22, 2004 (69 FR 56725), and a notice of a hearing delay issued October 13, 2004, published October 18, 2004, (69 FR 61323). The material issues on the hearing record relate to: 1. Pooling Standards. A. Performance standards for supply plants. B. The ‘‘Split plant’’ provision. C. System pooling for supply plants. D. Elimination of the supply plant provision. E. Standards for producer milk. 2. Establishing pooling limits. 3. Transportation and assembly credits. VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 Findings and Conclusions The following findings and conclusions on the material issues are based on evidence presented at the hearing and the record thereof: 1. Pooling Standards A. Performance Standards for Supply Plants A portion of a proposal, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 1, seeking to increase supply plant performance standards by five percentage points, from 20 percent to 25 percent, for the months of August through February, and from 15 percent to 20 percent for the months of March through July, is recommended for adoption. A portion of another similar proposal, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 5, seeking to increase supply plant performance standards by 20 percentage points, from 15 percent to 35 percent, for the month of July, by 15 percentage points, from 20 percent to 35 percent, for the months of August through January and by 10 percentage points, from 15 percent to 25 percent, for the month of March is not recommended for adoption. Currently, the Central order requires a supply plant to ship 20 percent of its total receipts to a distributing plant during the months of August through February, and 15 percent of its total receipts during the months of March through July, in order for the total receipts of the supply plant to be pooled. Proposal 1 was offered jointly by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., (DFA), and Prairie Farms Cooperative (PF), hereafter referred to as DFA/PF. DFA/PF are member-owned Capper-Volstead cooperatives that pool milk on the Central order. Proposal 1 would increase the amount of milk a supply plant would be required to ship to a distributing plant by five percentage points, from 20 percent to 25 percent, for the months of August through February, and from 15 percent to 20 percent for the months of March through July, in order to pool all of its receipts on the Central order. The proponents are of the opinion that current supply plant performance standards enable milk that does not demonstrate a consistent and reliable service to the Class I market to be pooled on the order. The proponents contend that the pooling of this additional milk is causing an unwarranted lowering of the order’s blend price. A witness appearing on behalf of DFA/PF testified in support of Proposal 1. The DFA/PF witness stated that increasing the volume of milk a supply plant is required to ship to a pool PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9017 distributing plant in order to have all the receipts of the supply plant pooled, combined with other proposed changes to the Central order pooling provisions, will better identify milk ready, willing and able to service the fluid milk needs of the Central marketing area. The DFA/PF witness testified that the proposed increase in the performance standards for supply plants would increase the blend price received by dairy farmers whose milk is pooled and priced on the Central order. The witness was of the opinion that an increase in the blend price will serve to attract and retain milk supplies that are otherwise shipped from the Central order area to neighboring marketing areas. The witness asserted that increasing supply plant performance standards will ensure that the Class I needs of the Central marketing area are being met. The DFA/PF witness testified that current supply plant performance standards allow far more milk to be pooled on the Central order than is necessary. Relying on market administrator data, the witness noted that the projected Class I utilization of 50.1 percent, anticipated during Federal order reform for the consolidated marketing area, was not achieved. The witness added that the average Class I utilization in the Central marketing area has ranged from a low of 26 percent in 2002 to nearly 33 percent in 2003. The witness was of the opinion that these average Class I utilization levels demonstrate that reserve supplies of milk in the marketing area of 74 and 67 percent, respectively, for 2002 and 2003, far exceed the 49–50 percent reserve levels projected during Federal order reform. In addition, the witness noted that increased supply plant performance standards implemented in 2001 have not been effective in reducing the excess reserve supply of milk in the marketing area. The witness concluded that this data confirms that the current performance standards of the Central order provide opportunities for milk not regularly and consistently serving the Class I market to be pooled on the order. The DFA/PF witness described concerns regarding the geography of the Central marketing area and explained that higher prices are received for milk in the bordering Southeast and Appalachian marketing areas. According to the witness, higher milk prices in the Appalachian and Southeast orders tend to attract milk from the Central marketing area and create localized supply imbalances within the eastern portion of the marketing area. The witness testified that increasing supply plant performance standards would deter milk originating from E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9018 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules within the Central order boundaries from pooling on the Appalachian and Southeast orders. According to the witness this would tend to increase the blend price paid to dairy farmers whose milk is pooled on the Central order. A number of DFA member dairy farmers whose milk is pooled on the Central order testified in support of the portion of Proposal 1 that would increase supply plant performance standards. The dairy farmer witnesses were of the opinion that increasing supply plant performance standards will raise the level of Class I utilization and in turn, increase the blend price. A witness from National All-Jersey (NAJ) representing AMPI, et al., (Associated Milk Producers Inc., Central Equity Cooperative, Land O’’ Lakes, Inc., First District Association, Foremost Farms USA, joined by Wells Dairy, Inc., Milnot Holdings and National AllJersey), testified in opposition to the portion of Proposal 1 that would increase supply plant performance standards. NAJ is a national organization whose mission is to promote milk pricing equity and increase the value and demand for the milk produced by the Jersey breed. The NAJ witness was of the opinion that increasing supply plant performance standards would result in inefficient movements of milk and pass the costs of regulatory inefficiencies to consumers. In their post hearing brief, DFA/PF reiterated their support for Proposal 1. The brief asserted that adoption of the portion of Proposal 1 that would increase supply plant performance standards would more accurately identify the milk of producers servicing the fluid needs of the market. According to the brief, increasing supply plant performance standards will increase the blend price for the producers who provide regular and consistent service to the Class I market. The DFA/PF brief reiterated support for not pooling milk which does not provide regular and consistent service to the fluid milk needs of the Central marketing area. A brief from Select Milk Producers, Inc. (Select) and Continental Dairy Products, Inc. (Continental) supported adoption of the higher performance standard features of Proposal 1. Select and Continental are member-owned Capper-Volstead cooperatives whose milk is pooled on the Central order. The brief noted that adoption of higher performance standards would deter the pooling of milk on the order not servicing the fluid needs of the market. A portion of Proposal 5, advanced by Dean Foods (Dean) (who described themselves as the largest processor and VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 distributor of fluid milk in the United States, owning and operating nine distributing plants regulated by the Central order,) would increase supply plant performance standards by 20 percentage points, from 15 percent to 35 percent, for the month of July, by 15 percentage points, from 20 percent to 35 percent, for the months of August through January and by 10 percentage points, from 15 percent to 25 percent, for the month of March. These proposed changes to supply plant performance standards are not recommended for adoption. Two witnesses appeared on behalf of Dean in support of increasing supply plant performance standards. The witnesses were of the opinion that current supply plant performance standards are inadequate to assure a reasonable supply of fluid milk to the order’s distributing plants. The witnesses were of the opinion that increasing supply plant performance standards as they proposed to the levels advanced would better attract an adequate milk supply for Class I use to the marketing area. The first Dean witness testified that marketwide pooling and classified pricing are built on the assumption that Class I milk is the highest priced class and that pool revenues generated from Class I sales will attract a regular and consistent milk supply. The witness was of the opinion that current supply plant performance standards allow handlers to pool milk on the Central order that does not regularly and consistently serve the Class I market. According to the witness, low supply plant performance standards reduce the blend price paid to producers who consistently serve the needs of the Central order fluid market by allowing lower-valued milk to be pooled on the order. The first Dean witness was of the opinion that adoption of higher performance standards would increase the volume of milk available to the Class I market. The witness further testified that if the USDA adopted higher performance standards for supply plants, adoption of Proposals 9 and 10, or Proposals 11, 12, and 13 would also be necessary. (Proposals 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 are discussed later in this decision.) The second Dean witness also was of the opinion that increasing supply plant performance standards would help to ensure that the fluid milk needs of the marketing area are being met. According to the witness, increasing supply plant performance standards would decrease the volumes of milk in lower-valued uses pooled on the order, thereby PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 increasing the order’s blend price. The witness testified that increasing supply plant performance standards would assist fluid milk handlers located in St. Louis and southern Illinois, who compete with handlers located in the Appalachian and Southeast orders, obtain needed milk supplies. A brief submitted on behalf of DFA/ PF opposed adoption of the level of performance standards for supply plants offered by Dean. DFA/PF noted that increasing supply plant performance standards to the levels advanced in Proposal 5 are unnecessarily high and are more restrictive than current market conditions could reasonably justify. A brief submitted by AMPI, et. al., reiterated the group’s opposition to increased performance standards for supply plants as advanced by both Dean and DFA/PF. The brief highlighted the contention that increased performance standards for supply plants would unfairly penalize reserve suppliers of the marketing area by restricting their ability to share in the benefits of the marketwide pool. B. The ‘‘Split Plant’’ Provision A proposal from Dean, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 10, seeking to require the nonpool side of a split plant to maintain nonpool status for 12 months, is recommended for adoption. Another Dean proposal, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 9, seeking to eliminate the split plant provision is not recommended for adoption. The current split plant provision provides for designating a portion of a pool plant as a nonpool plant provided that the nonpool portion of the plant is physically separate and operated separately from the regulated or ‘‘pool’’ side of the plant. Current provisions afford handlers operating a split plant the option of maintaining nonpool status or qualifying the nonpool side of the plant for pooling on a monthly basis. The Dean witness testified that the nonpool side of a split plant can facilitate the pooling of milk that does not demonstrate a regular and consistent service to the fluid milk needs of the Central marketing area. The witness stated that if Proposal 10 was adopted, then Proposal 4, a proposal to eliminate all supply plant provisions, and Proposal 9, a proposal to eliminate split plants, would not be needed. The Dean witness testified that Proposal 10 would require the nonpool side of a split plant to maintain nonpool status for a 12-month interval. According to the witness, adoption of this provision would deter pooling milk that does not regularly and consistently E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS serve the Class I market. The witness added that Proposal 10 was advanced as an alternative to Proposal 9. The witness testified that as advanced in Proposal 9, a split plant plant could either be a pool plant or a nonpool plant but not both. The witness stated that if USDA did not eliminate split plants then Dean would seek the adoption of Proposal 10. In a post hearing brief, Select and Continental supported adoption of Proposal 10. The brief stated that Proposal 10 would deter the pooling of milk that does not regularly and consistently serve the Class I market. According to the brief, split plants should be prohibited from using milk receipts in the nonpool side of the plant from being pooled without demonstrating actual service to the Class I market. The brief expressed the opinion that reducing the volume of milk that a split plant could pool on the order from its nonpool side would tend to increase the Central order blend price. The Select and Continental brief however, opposed the elimination of split plants as advanced in Proposal 9. The brief stated that requiring a split plant to elect non-pool status for 12 months for its nonpool side would provide sufficient incentive to prevent the pooling of excess milk through split plants. DFA/PF commented on brief that Dean’s Proposals 4–13 in general ‘‘go too far, too fast’’ given the current market conditions of the Central marketing area. According to the brief, DFA/PF contend that the adoption of the Dean proposals would not serve the needs of small dairy farms. The brief noted that some small producers may not have alternative markets for their milk if Dean’s proposal to eliminate the split plant provision was adopted. The AMPI, et al., brief opposed elimination of the split plant provision or requiring a 12 month pooling commitment from operators of split plants. Their opposition was based on the view that elimination of split plants, or imposing a 12 month pooling commitment for split plant operators, would unfairly restrict their ability to pool milk on the order. C. System Pooling for Supply Plants Three proposals presented by Dean, published in the hearing notice as Proposals 11, 12 and 13, and modified at the hearing, are not recommended for adoption. Proposal 11 would eliminate providing for supply plant systems. Proposal 12 would require a supply plant system to be operated by only one handler. Proposal 13 would require that every plant participating in a system be VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 required to ship 40 percent of the system’s qualifying shipment as if they had been operating as separate plants. Proposal 13 also would prohibit using milk shipped directly from producer farms as qualifying shipments. Current Central order provisions provide the ability for 2 or more supply plants (subject to certain additional conditions) to operate as a ‘‘system’’ in meeting the qualifications for pooling in the same manner as a single plant. The Dean witness testified that system pooling affords handlers the ability to link several supply plants together in an effort to qualify producer milk for pooling on the order. According to the witness, current system pooling provisions allow plants and farms close to distributing plants to deliver producer milk on behalf of more distant plants, thereby providing for the pooling of milk that does not regularly and consistently serve the Class I market. According to the witness, adoption of Proposal 11 would require plants to transfer milk to obtain and maintain eligibility for pool qualification. The witness stated that Proposal 11 would require every handler to pool their producers on the basis of actual deliveries to distributing plants. The Dean witness testified in support of Proposal 12 in the event supply plant systems were not eliminated as advanced in Proposal 11. According to the witness, Proposal 12 would limit the use of supply plant systems to a single handler rather than multiple handlers as currently provided in the order. The witness testified that allowing only a single handler to qualify pool supply plants through system pooling provisions would ensure that each handler is willing and able to demonstrate regular and consistent service to the fluid milk needs of the Central marketing area. The Dean witness testified that Proposal 13 would require each plant in a supply plant system to meet at least 40 percent of the total performance standard required for pooling. According to the witness, Proposal 13 is similar to Proposal 11 in that it would prohibit the use of milk shipped directly from producer farms to qualify a supply plant system. However, the witness stated that Proposal 13 also would require every supply plant in a supply plant system to ship a significant volume of milk to the fluid market. The witness noted that qualification of distant milk would be discouraged by adoption of Proposals 12 and 13 since the use of milk shipped directly from producer farms for qualification purposes would be prohibited. The Dean witness expressed preferences for PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9019 the adoption of Proposal 11 over Proposal 12, and adoption of Proposal 12 over Proposal 13. A witness from DFA/PF expressed opposition to Proposals 11, 12, and 13, because their adoption would eliminate or overly restrict the operation of supply plant systems. On brief, DFA/PF noted that, as with elimination of the split plant provision, some small producers may not have alternative markets for their milk if supply plant systems are eliminated or are made overly restrictive. In a post hearing brief, AMPI, et al., reiterated opposition to Proposals 11, 12, and 13. The AMPI, et al., brief opposed restrictions on pooling milk of producers ready, willing, and able to serve the Class I needs of the Central marketing area. The brief opposed elimination or restriction of supply plant systems contending such action would eliminate markets for the milk of small dairy farmers without alternative markets available. Select and Continental also opposed adoption of Proposals 11, 12 and 13 in their post-hearing brief. The brief opposed eliminating or restricting supply plant systems on the basis that no verifiable evidence was presented demonstrating that supply plant systems do not provide consistent and reliable service to the Class I market. D. Elimination of the Supply Plant Provision A proposal by Dean, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 4, seeking to eliminate the supply plant provision, is not recommended for adoption. A Dean witness characterized Proposal 4 as a preferred alternative to increasing supply plant performance standards sought in Proposals 1 and 5. The witness explained that if Proposal 4 is adopted, then Proposals 9–13, seeking to increase performance standards for supply plants and supply plant systems would not be needed. The witness testified that while the role of supply plants in the milk order system is to supply the needs of distributing plants, the milk supply of plants for the Central marketing area is only of residual concern because it provides an outlet for reserve producers when their milk is not needed for fluid use. The Dean witness testified that supply plants no longer represent the most efficient means for supplying distributing plants. According to the witness, supply plants play a minor role in the Central marketing area, representing less than 5 percent of the milk shipped to distributing plants. According to the witness, milk assembled from farms must be received E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 9020 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS at a supply plant, cooled and stored, and reloaded and delivered to distributing plants. The witness stated that the increased handling of milk through supply plants reduces its quality compared with milk that is direct delivered from farms. The witness said that direct delivery from farms to distributing plants is a superior method for ensuring that milk pooled on the order serves the Class I needs of the market. The witness was of the opinion that supply plants inappropriately facilitate pooling milk that does not regularly and consistently serve the Class I market. A witness representing NAJ testified in opposition to the elimination of supply plants. According to the witness, elimination of the supply plant provision also would reduce the ability of dairy farmers to pool milk on the Central order. The witness was of the opinion that eliminating the supply plant provision would have a negative impact on the income of the cooperatives represented by NAJ. The witness stated that supply plants provide a legitimate means by which producers continue to serve the Class I market of the Central marketing area. A witness for DFA/PF testified in opposition to the elimination of supply plants. According to the witness, provisions for supply plants should be provided because they continue to play a role in supplying milk to distributing plants. DFA/PF reiterated this opposition to Proposal 4 in their posthearing brief. AMPI, et al., joined DFA/ PF in opposing this proposal. E. Standards for Producer Milk Several amendments to the Producer milk provision of the Central order are recommended for adoption. The amendments were largely contained in Proposal 1. Changes to the producer milk provision are necessary to more accurately identify the milk of those dairy farmers that are regularly and consistently serving the Class I needs of the market. The recommended amendments for adoption include: (1) Increasing the touch-base standard so that one day’s milk production of a dairy farmer must be delivered to a pool plant in each of the months of January, February and August through November for the milk of the dairy farmer to be eligible for diversion to a nonpool plant; and (2) Decreasing the diversion limit standards to not more than 75 percent of receipts during August through February, and not more than 80 percent of receipts for March through July. The feature of Proposal 1 to geographically limit the location of nonpool plants eligible to receive VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 diverted milk to those plants in States located in the marketing area and New Mexico is not recommended for adoption. Proposal 1 would increase the touchbase standard to require the equivalent of at least one days’ milk production of a dairy farmer be physically received at a pool plant in each of the months of January, February and August through November. If the touch-base standard is not met, the milk would have to be physically received at a pool plant in each of the months of March through July and December. The current touchbase standard of the Central order specifies a one-time only delivery standard. The DFA/PF witness explained that the current one-time touch-base standard of the Central order should be replaced by the strengthened touch-base feature of Proposal 1. The witness continued that the months of January, February, and August through November, were added to the proposed touch-base standard to correspond with periods of higher Class I demands. The DFA witness explained that requiring one day’s milk production of a producer to be delivered to a pool plant in each of these six months should increase milk available for Class I use. The DFA/ PF witness was opposed to any touchbase standard of more than one day per month for the six months advanced by the proposal, as being overly restrictive. The DFA/PF witness testified that increasing the touch-base standard and lowering the diversion limit standards of the Central order will help to ensure that milk that could not consistently and reliably demonstrate service to the Class I market is not pooled on the order. The witness testified that the pooling of such milk on the order reduces the blend price paid to producers who consistently and reliably serve the Class I needs of the Central marketing area. The DFA/PF witness acknowledged that amendments to the pooling provisions of the Central order implemented in 2003 reduced the volume of milk pooled that was not serving the Class I needs of the market. However, the witness noted that those changes did not contemplate that milk from the Mountain States might seek to be pooled on the Central order. The witness was of the opinion that the current touch-base and diversion limit standards were inadequate to prevent the sharing of Class I revenue with the milk of producers that could not possibly serve the Class I market of the Central marketing area. The witness was of the opinion that if milk located far from the Upper Midwest marketing PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 area 1 and currently pooled on the Upper Midwest order were to seek an alternative order on which to pool, the current pooling standards of the Central order make it the most likely candidate among Federal milk orders. The witness testified that the current pooling standards of the Central order can not adequately prevent such milk from pooling because the pooling standards are too liberal. According to the witness, this milk can not demonstrate regular and reliable service to the Class I market. The DFA/PF witness illustrated that milk produced in Idaho, for example, cannot profitably be delivered to distributing plants located in the Central marketing area. According to the witness, milk produced in this region would need to travel more than 680 miles for delivery at the nearest distributing plant of the order located in Denver. The witness asserted that the current one-time touch-base standard combined with the existing diversion limit standards of the order provide the incentive for milk located far from the marketing area to be profitably pooled on the order which otherwise would not be economically feasible. The witness provided a scenario where a single 50,000-pound load of milk delivered once to Denver could cause one million pounds of milk to be pooled on the Central order through the diversion process but delivered to plants far from the marketing area. According to the witness’ calculations, a 50,000-pound load of milk delivered once to a pool plant located in Denver would incur a loss $4,640. However, the witness explained that each additional load of milk, up to one million pounds now qualified for diversion to nonpool plants located near producers farms, would return an additional $7,081. The witness emphasized that the milk portrayed in this example would rely solely on the liberal pooling standards of the order. The milk would never consistently and reliably supply the Central marketing area. In another scenario, the DFA/PF witness illustrated the impact of 25 million pounds of milk a month shipped from southern Idaho that would be pooled on the Central order through the diversion process by meeting the one-time touch-base standard during the months of November 2003–January 2004. The witness explained that pooling this volume of milk would have 1 Interim amendments to the pooling provision of the Upper Midwest order were implemented on July 1, 2005. See Tentative Partial Decision published in the Federal Register, April 4, 2005 (70 FR 19709). E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules reduced the Central order’s blend price by $0.25 per cwt. In a third scenario, the DFA/PF witness demonstrated how milk located in southern Idaho can be pooled every month through the diversion process by meeting the one-time touch-base standard of the Central order. The witness said that this scenario was based on the 58-month period of January 2000 to October 2004. The witness explained that this scenario assumes that a single 50,000-pound load of milk was shipped to a distributing plant located in the Central marketing area and all other milk diverted to nonpool plants are located in Idaho. The witness testified that the shipping handler would receive a positive return averaging $0.348 per cwt per month ($201,000 over the 58-month period) on the total volume of milk pooled. The DFA/PF witness concluded that from their scenarios, the current Central order diversion limit and touch-base standards encourage pooling of milk that can not and does not regularly and consistently supply the Class I needs of the market. A brief submitted by Select and Continental supported the producer milk amendments called for in Proposal 1, except for limiting diversions to nonpool plants that are located in the States comprising the Central marketing area. The brief noted that the goal of the Federal order program should be to ensure that milk pooled on the order actually serves the Class I market. Features of Proposal 5, offered by Dean, regarding diversion limits and touch-base standards should not be adopted. Proposal 5 seeks to raise the touch-base standard to 4 days in each month of the year and decrease diversion limits to 65 percent for the months of July through January, and 75 percent during the months of February through June. A Dean witness stated that increasing the touch base requirement would ensure the increased availability of milk to serve the needs of the fluid market. The witness testified that adopting higher touch-base and lower diversion limit standards would ensure that pool plants would keep their facilities operating at a higher level of output than would be the case if more milk were diverted. The diversion limit standard feature of Proposal 5 was modified by Dean on brief. The modification specified that milk would not be eligible for diversion ‘‘unless’’ (instead of ‘‘until’’) milk has been physically received as producer milk at a pool plant, and the exception for a loss of Grade A status was changed to a period not to exceed 21 rather than 10 days in a calendar year. VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 The witness from NAJ, on behalf of AMPI, et al., testified in opposition to increasing the touch-base and lowering the diversion limit standards as advanced. The witness stated that the proposed lowering of diversion limits together with increasing supply plant performance standards as called for in Proposal 5 would have negative consequences for dairy farmer income, if adopted. The NAJ witness was of the opinion that the aim of Proposal 5 was to deter milk from being pooled on the order. It was the witness’ opinion that the adoption of Proposal 5 would create marketing inefficiencies and additional costs for members of NAJ. The witness also was of the opinion that the adoption of Proposal 5 would discourage available milk supplies in the milkshed from pooling on the Central order. The record reveals that the current pooling provisions of the Central order suggest that distributing plants in certain areas of the marketing area are having difficulty obtaining reliable milk supplies. Because this decision does not recommend the adoption of transportation credits (discussed later in this decision) for the movement of milk to distributing plants, increasing the performance standards for supply plants is a reasonable measure to better assure that all distributing plants of the order are adequately supplied. Additionally, other measures should be taken to prevent the pooling of milk which can not demonstrate regular and consistent service in supplying the Class I needs of the marketing area. The pooling of such milk would result in an unwarranted lowering of the blend price returned to those producers who demonstrate regular and consistent service in supplying the Class I needs of the market. The pooling standards of all Federal milk marketing orders, including the Central order, are intended to ensure that an adequate supply of milk is available to meet the Class I needs of the market and provide the criteria for determining the producer milk that has demonstrated service in meeting the Class I needs of the market and thereby receive the order’s blend price. The pooling standards of the Central order are represented in the Pool plant, Producer, and the Producer milk provisions of the order and are based on performance, specifying standards that if met, qualify a producer, the milk of a producer, or a plant to share in the benefits arising from the classified pricing of milk. Pooling standards that are performance-based provide the only viable method for determining those PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9021 producers eligible to share in the marketwide pool. It is usually the additional revenue generated from the higher-valued Class I use of milk that adds additional income to producers, and it is reasonable to expect that only those producers who consistently bear the costs of supplying the market’s fluid needs should share in the returns arising from higher-valued Class I sales. An important objective of pooling standards is identifying the milk that serves the fluid milk needs of the market, a feature which if ineffective can result in pooling milk that is not providing such service. Record evidence supports finding that certain features of pooling standards of the Central order relating to performance standards for supply plants, diversion limits, touchbase, and split plants need to be amended given the pooling of milk that does not regularly and consistently serve the Class I needs of the Central marketing area. The most recent amendments to the Central order (published in the August 27, 2003, Final Decision (68 FR 51640)) intended to correct similar inadequacies of the supply plant pooling provisions and diversion limit standards for the consolidated Central order. However, the record reveals that the combination and features adopted for pool plants in 2003, have not been as effective as intended to reasonably assure that only milk of producers who regularly and consistently serve the Class I market is pooled on the order. Record evidence reveals that the performance and pooling standards of the Central order are inadequate to ensure that the benefits of consistently and reliably servicing the Class I market are shared equitably among those producers who actually bear the costs of serving that market. The record evidence demonstrates that milk distant from the Central marketing area does not provide reasonable service to the Class I market but can be pooled on the order because of current pooling standards. This evidence shows that pooling large volumes of milk at lower class-use values has lowered the order’s blend price. Specifically, the record shows that the current one-time touchbase standard and the diversion limit standard of the order does not properly identify the milk of producers who reliably and consistently serve the Class I market. The record demonstrates that current pooling standards of the Central order make it the most logical order for distant milk—such as in Southern Idaho—to be pooled. The record shows that the current performance standards of the Central order are insufficient to prevent E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9022 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules milk from qualifying for pooling while not performing service to the Class I market. In addition, the record provides evidence that milk produced in areas distant from the marketing area cannot profitably be delivered to distributing plants in the Central marketing area. However, the current liberal touch-base and diversion limit standards make pooling on the Central order attractive while reducing the blend price of the order for those producers who actually provide service to the Class I market. Record evidence reveals the continued importance of supply plants for producers whose milk provides consistent and reliable service to the Class I market. According to the record, opposition to restrictive supply plant standards beyond those advanced in Proposals 1 and 10 was based on the continued need for supply plant service to distributing plants in the marketing area. Similarly, the record reveals a consensus among producers concerning their continued support for supply plant systems as an integral part of milk supply networks in the Central marketing area. Opposition to the elimination or additional restriction of supply plants and supply plant systems in Proposals 4, 11, 12, and 13, is revealed by the record to be based on the continued importance of supply plant systems to supplying the Class I market. Record evidence from proponents and opponents of limiting diversions to supply plants located in the marketing area or New Mexico supports concluding that dairy farmers in some regions of the Central marketing area rely on supply plants to market their milk. In addition, the record contains evidence that supply plants and supply plant systems continue to provide necessary service to the Class I market without regard to the location of those plants or plant systems. According to the record, distant milk may use the pooling standards of the Central order as a means to pool milk that will never perform service to the Class I market. However, the record does not show clearly that milk diverted to supply plants outside the marketing area or New Mexico cannot be part of the legitimate reserve of the market which may require additional pooling safeguards. Performance rather than plant location continues to be the standard for identifying the milk of producers who should share in the benefits of pooling. In that regard, this decision finds agreement with the opponents of limiting diversions to supply plants located within the marketing area or New Mexico, as VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 sought in Proposal 1, to serve the legitimate needs of the market. This decision finds that several of the performance standards advanced in Proposal 1 are reasonable in light of other recommended changes to the order’s pooling provisions. The combination of amendments increasing supply plant performance standards, modifying the split plant provision, reducing diversion limit standards and increasing the touch-base standard are appropriate in light of denying proposals to establish transportation and assembly credits. The recommended amendments should more accurately identify the milk of those producers that provide a consistent and reliable supply of milk to the Class I needs of the Central marketing area and assure that distributing plants are adequately supplied. The record indicates that milk located either inside or outside the marketing area can be reported as diverted milk by a pooled handler. This milk is eligible to receive the order’s blend price. Under the current pooling provisions, this can occur after a one-time delivery to a Central marketing area pool plant. After the initial delivery, however, such milk need never again be physically delivered to a Central marketing area pool plant. The record evidence confirms that usually this milk is delivered to a nonpool plant located nearer the farms of producers located far from the marketing area who cannot serve the Class I market. It is therefore appropriate to amend the order’s diversion provisions to ensure that milk pooled through the diversion process is part of the legitimate reserve supply of the pool plant from which it was diverted. It is necessary to safeguard against excessive milk supplies becoming associated with the market through the diversion process to prevent the unwarranted reduction of the order’s blend price. However, the record does not support finding that diversions to plants not located within the marketing area or New Mexico cannot be part of the legitimate reserve supply for the marketing area. In this regard, the proposed limitation on diversions based on plant location is not reasonable. Based on the record, the proposed increase in the touch-base standard and lowering of the diversion limitation standard should be adequate to ensure that milk consistently and reliably serving the Class I market is properly identified. Accordingly, the portion of Proposal 1 seeking to limit diversions to plants located in the marketing area or PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 New Mexico is not recommended for adoption. This decision finds that the touchbase standard should be amended so that at least one days’ milk production of a dairy farmer is physically received at a pool plant during January, February, and August through November for the milk of the dairy farmer to be eligible for diversion to a nonpool plant. Amending the touch-base standard should reduce the ability of milk not performing a consistent and reliable service to the Class I market from being pooled. The months of January, February, and August through November are, according to the record, the high demand months for fluid milk. Adoption of the one-day touch base standard for each of these three months would tend to more properly identify the milk of those producers serving the market’s Class I needs. Accordingly, the proposal is recommended for adoption. Record evidence does not support finding that the 4-day touch base standard advanced by Dean would improve the identification of dairy farmers whose milk serves beyond what a 1-day standard would provide within the context of current marketing conditions. This will be reinforced by the other amendments to the order’s pooling standards recommended for adoption. The proposal requiring a handler to make a 12-month commitment if opting to create a split plant would ensure that the milk shipped from the pool side of a split-plant serves the Class I market. This proposal (Proposal 10, advanced by Dean) is a reasonable modification of the split plant feature for supply plants to provide for orderly marketing and maintain the integrity and intent of the order’s performance standards. The proposal retains the principle that milk regularly and consistently demonstrating service to the Class I needs of the market should benefit from being pooled on the order. Accordingly, Proposal 10 is recommended for adoption. The Federal milk order system recognizes that there are costs incurred by producers in servicing an order’s Class I market. The primary reward to producers for performing such service is receiving the order’s blend price. Taken as a whole, the amended pooling provisions will ensure that milk seeking to be pooled consistently demonstrates service in meeting the marketing area’s Class I needs. Consequently, adoption of these amended pooling provisions will provide for more equitable sharing of revenue generated from Class I sales among those producers who bear those E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules costs and assure Class I handlers of a regular and reliable supply for fluid use. 2. Establishing Pooling Limits cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Preliminary Statement Federal milk marketing orders rely on the tools of classified pricing and marketwide pooling to assure an adequate supply of milk for fluid (Class I) use and to provide for the equitable sharing of the revenues arising from the classified pricing of milk. Classified pricing assigns a value to milk according to how the milk is used. Regulated handlers who buy milk from dairy farmers are charged class prices according to how they use the farmer’s milk. Dairy farmers are then paid a weighted average or ‘‘blend’’ price. The blend price that dairy farmers are paid for their milk is derived through the marketwide pooling of all class uses of milk in a marketing area. Thus each producer receives an equal share of each use class of milk and is indifferent as to the actual Class for which the milk was used. The Class I price is usually the highest class price for milk. Historically, the Class I use of milk provides the additional revenue to a marketing area’s total classified use value of milk. The series of Class prices that are applicable for any given month are not announced simultaneously. The Class I price and the Class II skim milk price are announced prior to the beginning of the month for which they will be effective. Class prices for milk in all other uses for the month are not determined until on or before the 5th day of the following month. The Class I price is determined by adding a differential value to the higher of either an advanced Class III or Class IV value. These values are calculated based on formula using National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey prices of cheese, butter, and nonfat dried milk powder for the first two weeks of the prior month. For example, the Class I price for August is announced in late July and is based on the higher of the Class III or IV value computed using NASS commodity price surveys for the first two weeks of July. The Class III and IV prices for the month are determined and announced after the end of the month based on the NASS survey prices for the selected dairy commodities during the month. For example, the Class III and IV prices for August are based on NASS survey commodity prices during August. A large increase in the NASS survey price for the selected dairy commodities from one month to the next can result in the Class III or IV price exceeding the Class I price. This occurrence is commonly VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 referred to by the dairy industry as a ‘‘Class price inversion.’’ A producer price inversion generally refers to when the Class III or IV price exceeds the average classified use value, or blend price, of milk for the month. Price inversions have occurred with increasing frequency in Federal milk orders since the current pricing plan was implemented on January 1, 2000, despite efforts made during Federal Order Reform to reduce such occurrences. Price inversions can create an incentive for dairy farmers and manufacturing handlers who voluntarily participate in the marketwide pooling of milk to elect not to pool their milk on the order. Class I handlers do not have this option; their participation in the marketwide pool is mandatory. The producer price differential, or PPD, is the difference between the Class III price and the weighted average value of all Classes. In essence, the PPD is the dairy farmer’s share of the additional/ reduced revenues associated with the Class I, II and IV milk pooled in the market. If the value of Class I, II and IV milk in the pool is greater than the Class III value, dairy farmers receive a positive PPD. However, a negative PPD can occur if the value of the Class III milk in the pool exceeds the value of the remaining classes of milk in the pool. This can occur as a result of the price inversions discussed above. The Central Federal order operates a marketwide pool. The Order contains pooling provisions which specify criteria that, if met, allow dairy farmers to share in the benefits that arise from classified pricing through pooling. The equalization of all class prices among handlers regulated by an order is accomplished through a mechanism known as the producer settlement fund (PSF). Typically, Class I handlers pay the difference between the blend price and their use-value of milk into the PSF. Manufacturing handlers typically receive a draw from the PSF, usually the difference between the Class II, III or IV price and the blend price. In this way, all handlers pay the Class value for milk and all dairy farmer suppliers receive at least the order’s blend price. When manufacturing class prices of milk are high enough to result in a usevalue of milk for a handler that is higher than the blend price, handlers of manufacturing milk may choose to not pool their milk receipts. Opting to not pool their milk receipts allows these handlers to avoid the obligation of paying into the PSF. The choice by a manufacturing handler to not pool their milk receipts is commonly referred to as ‘‘de-pooling’’. When the blend price rises above the manufacturing class use- PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9023 values of milk these same handlers again opt to pool their milk receipts. This is often referred to as ‘‘re-pooling’’. The ability of manufacturing handlers to de-pool and re-pool manufacturing milk is viewed by some market participants as being inequitable to both producers and handlers. The ‘‘De-Pooling’’ Proposals Proponents are in agreement that milk marketing orders should contain provisions that will tend to deter the practice of de-pooling. Four proposals intending to deter the de-pooling of milk were considered in this proceeding. The proposals offered different degrees of deterrence against de-pooling by establishing limits on the amount of milk that can be re-pooled. The proponents of these four proposals are generally of the opinion that depooling erodes equity among producers and handlers, undermines the orderly marketing of milk and is detrimental to the Federal order system. Two different approaches to deter depooling are represented by these four proposals. The first approach, published in the hearing notice as Proposals 2 and 8, addresses de-pooling by limiting the volume of milk a handler can pool in a month to a specified percentage of what the handler pooled in the prior month. The second approach, published in the hearing notice as Proposals 6 and 7, addresses de-pooling by establishing what is commonly referred to as a ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ provision. These proposals would require milk of a producer that was depooled to not be able to be re-pooled by that producer for a defined time period. All proponents agreed that while none of the proposals would completely eliminate de-pooling, they would likely deter the practice. Of the four proposals received that would limit de-pooling, this decision recommends Proposal 2, offered by DFA/PF, for adoption. Specifically, adoption of the proposal would limit the volume of milk a handler could pool in a month to no more than 125 percent of the volume of milk pooled in the prior month. Milk diverted to nonpool plants in excess of this limit would not be pooled, and milk shipped to pool distributing plants would not be subject to the 125 percent limitation. The 125 percent limitation may be waived at the discretion of the Market Administrator for a new handler on the order or for an existing handler whose milk supply changes due to unusual circumstances. As published in the hearing notice, Proposal 8, offered by Dean Foods, addresses de-pooling in a similar manner as Proposal 2, but would E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9024 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules establish a limit on the total volume of milk a handler could pool in a given month to 115 percent of the volume that was pooled in the prior month. This proposal was modified at the hearing to allow for pooling the milk receipts of a new handler on the order without volume restrictions. As published in the hearing notice, Proposals 6 and 7, also offered by Dean Foods would address de-pooling by establishing defined time periods during which de-pooled milk could not be pooled. Proposal 6 essentially would require an annual pooling commitment by handler to the market. Under Proposal 6, if the milk of a producer is de-pooled in a month, then the milk of the producer could not re-establish eligibility for pooling on the order during the following eleven months unless ten days milk production was delivered to a pool distributing plant. Under Proposal 6, handlers that de-pool milk have limited options to return milk to the pool, either shipping ten days milk production of a producer to a pool distributing plant or waiting eleven months for eligibility to re-pool. Under Dean’s Proposal 7, a handler that de-pools milk cannot re-pool for a 2 to 4 month time period, depending on the month in which de-pooling occurred. Proposal 7 also provides the option to return milk to the pool by shipping ten days milk production of a producer to a pool distributing plant. Proposals 6 and 7 were modified at the hearing. A witness appearing on behalf of DFA/PF testified in support of Proposal 2 and in general opposition to the practice of de-pooling. The witness testified that adoption of Proposal 2 would minimize the practice of depooling since not all the milk that was de-pooled could immediately return to the pool in the following month. The witness noted that both DFA and Prairie Farms de-pool milk when advantageous but stressed that the practice of depooling and re-pooling is detrimental to the Federal order system. The DFA/PF witness testified that restricting the pooling of milk on the basis of prior performance is not a new concept in Federal milk marketing order provisions. The witness referenced the ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ provision currently in place in the Northeast order as an example of pooling provisions based on prior performance. The witness noted that Proposal 2 is similar to a ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ provision as it limits pooling based on the handler’s previous month’s pooled volume. The DFA/PF witness speculated that the manner in which Proposal 2 attempts to reduce the VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 practice of de-pooling is too drastic for some and not strong enough for others. Nevertheless, adoption of Proposal 2, the witness stressed, would provide an appropriate economic consequence to discourage those entities that might otherwise choose to de-pool. The DFA/PF witness was of the opinion that since the purpose of Federal milk marketing orders are to ensure an adequate supply of milk for the fluid market, equitably share pool proceeds, and promote orderly marketing, milk order provisions should attract milk to its highest valued use when needed and provide for milk to clear the market when not needed in higher-class uses. Since Class I milk cannot be de-pooled, the witness noted, Class I handlers can be at a disadvantage to handlers who can de-pool during periods of price inversions. Class I handlers are unable to maintain a competitive pay price for their milk supply, the witness explained, since Class II, III or IV handlers who de-pool may pay dairy farmers a higher price for their milk. The witness stressed that when the Class I price is not high enough to attract milk from other uses, disorderly conditions arise in the marketplace. The DFA/PF witness asserted that when a Class II, III or IV handler depools milk, inequities arise for the dairy farmers who supplied the de-pooling handler. In the absence of provisions to discourage de-pooling, the witness explained, de-pooling becomes a rational economic practice since only Class I milk is required to be pooled and its value shared through the order’s blend price. The DFA/PF witness testified that the combination of de-pooling with recent increasingly volatile milk prices requires immediate regulatory measures to mitigate the disorderly effects that depooling has on market participants. The witness cited market administrator data showing that since implementation of Federal order reform in 2000 there have been 43 months when opportunities to de-pool existed for the Central order. Relying on statistics provided by the market administrator, the witness illustrated that in April 2004 a handler in the Central order choosing to de-pool was able to pay over $4.00 per hundredweight (cwt) more for milk than a Class I handler unable to de-pool because the Class III price was $19.66 and the uniform price was $15.64. The witness characterized pricing differences of this magnitude as disruptive, disorderly and a competitive disadvantage for any Class I handler. When similarly situated handlers face disparate costs in procuring a supply of PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 milk, the witness added, producers in common procurement areas are negatively affected. The witness asserted that this is a disorderly marketing condition. Two DFA member dairy farmers from Nebraska testified in support of Proposal 2. Both witnesses maintained that they received smaller milk checks than they otherwise would have received if milk had not been de-pooled. The witnesses added that when fluid milk bottlers experience difficulties in obtaining a milk supply, the costs to supply that milk should be passed on to consumers, not dairy farmers. The witnesses also stated that in order to equalize returns from all classified uses of milk, there needs to be a commitment to have all milk pooled every month of the year. Two DFA member dairy farmers from Missouri also testified in support of Proposal 2. The witnesses noted that depooling amplifies the problem of negative PPD’s. The witnesses were of the opinion that de-pooling creates differences in pay prices among similarly located dairy farmers whose milk is pooled in the Central market, and that different pay prices represent a disorderly marketing condition. The witnesses stated that in order to enjoy the additional funds usually generated by the Class I market, handlers should be required to demonstrate that their milk is available for the Class I market by not de-pooling. A dairy farmer from Kansas testified in opposition to the practice of depooling. The witness was of the opinion that a commitment to serve the Class I market should be required in order to share in the blend price. The witness stressed that in order to share in the returns generated from the marketwide pool handlers and cooperatives should participate in the pool every day not only when it may be profitable. A witness testified on behalf of Dean in support of Proposal 8. The witness explained that Proposal 8 addresses the practice of de-pooling in a similar manner as Proposal 2 but would limit the pooling of milk to 115 percent of the volume that was pooled in the prior month. The witness was of the opinion that a monthly pooling limit would discourage the de-pooling of milk since the greater the proportion of a handler’s milk that is de-pooled, the longer it will take to re-pool that milk. Accordingly, the witness concluded, those who benefit the most from de-pooling also would have the most difficulty in attempting to regain pool status. A witness for Dean also testified in support of Proposals 6 and 7 which would establish defined time periods E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules during which de-pooled milk could not be re-pooled. The witness testified that Dean prefers adoption of Proposal 6 over Proposal 7. Proposal 6 would impose a 12-month period during which de-pooled milk could not again be pooled while Proposal 7 would establish a 2 to 4 month period during which de-pooled milk could not again be pooled. Under Proposal 6, the witness explained, if the milk of a producer were de-pooled, the milk could only reassociate before the annual commitment period if ten days production of the milk of the producer was delivered to a pool distributing plant. According to the witness, Proposal 7 would provide an option for milk that had been de-pooled to return to the pool during certain specified months of the year depending on when the milk was de-pooled or by shipping ten days production of the milk of a producer to a pool distributing plant. The Dean witness testified that a similar provision to those contained in Proposals 6 and 7 is currently in place in the Northeast order. The witness was of the opinion that defined time periods during which de-pooled milk cannot again become pooled causes handlers to behave differently by taking a longer term view of pooling. The witness explained that handlers in the Northeast order need to evaluate more than the current month’s economic impacts of pooling or not pooling milk, along with possible future missed opportunities. The Dean witness further contrasted the current ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ provision effective in the Northeast to the standards proposed in Proposals 6 and 7. The witness testified that in the Northeast order, July is a month when de-pooled milk can return to the pool regardless of when the milk had been de-pooled during the previous year. Relying on market administrator data, the witness related that during the months of February through July 2004, large volumes of milk were de-pooled from the Northeast order. Because of the ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ provision, the witness explained, milk that was de-pooled during the months of February through June could not return to the pool until July. During this period, noted the Dean witness, a large volume of milk usually pooled on the Northeast order was pooled on the Mideast order. The Dean witness testified that Proposal 6 would require a handler that de-pooled milk in a month to remain off the pool for eleven additional months or ship 10 days milk production of a producer to a pool distributing plant in order for all milk of a producer to return to the pool, while Proposal 7 would VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 provide the option to either return during designated months depending on the month in which milk was depooled, or ship 10 days milk production of a producer to a pool distributing plant in order for all milk of a producer to return to the pool. A second Dean witness offered additional testimony in support of Proposal 6. The witness testified that Proposal 6 would exclude from the pool the milk of any dairy farmer not continuously pooled under a Federal milk order during the previous twelve months. The only exception to this exclusion would be a dairy farmer who temporarily lost Grade A status but was reinstated as a Grade A producer within 21 days, noted the additional Dean witness. The witness emphasized that the portion of Proposal 6 that would require delivery of 10 days milk production of a dairy farmer to a pool distributing plant in order for all milk of a producer to re-join the pool would discourage de-pooling. The 10 day delivery requirement would insure that participation in the pool was open to any dairy farmer for whom it was technically and economically feasible to supply milk for fluid use. According to the witness, Proposals 6 and 7 also would make more milk readily available to service the fluid needs of the market. The additional Dean witness also stressed that adoption of Proposal 6 would not totally eliminate de-pooling but would make it more difficult to repool milk after it had been de-pooled. The Dean witness testified that producer milk continuously pooled on the Central, or any other Federal milk order, which shares in both the costs and benefits of pool participation on a continuous basis would not be affected by adoption of Proposal 6. The second Dean witness added that adoption of Proposal 6 would increase returns to producers and provide for more orderly marketing conditions. The witness was of the opinion that adoption of Proposal 6 would cause Class II, III or IV milk to remain pooled during times when the blend price was lower than the respective class price. This would increase the PPD, by making it less negative, and raise the blend price received by all producers, the witness concluded. Adoption of Proposal 6 also would cause some Class III milk that is de-pooled to never return to the pool, the witness noted, since it would no longer be financially advantageous. A Kansas dairy farmer testified in support of Proposal 6. The witness stated that de-pooling cost Kansas dairymen who supplied the needs of the fluid market $6.2 million between PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9025 March 2004 and October 2004. The witness spoke in favor of any proposal that would require greater commitment to servicing the Class I needs of the Central marketing area. A DFA member dairy farmer from Missouri testified that de-pooling hurts dairy farmers and was in favor of any proposal that would limit the ability for milk to return to the pool the immediate month after de-pooling. The witness stated that there should be a waiting period of at least 2 or 3 months to pool milk after the milk had been de-pooled or a limit on the milk volume that could return to the pool the month after depooling. A witness appearing on behalf of Dean testified in opposition to Proposal 2. The witness was of the opinion that limiting pooling to 125 percent of receipts pooled during the previous month was too loose of a standard and urged the adoption of Proposal 6 or Proposal 8. A witness appearing on behalf of AMPI, et al., testified in opposition to Proposals 2, 6, 7, and 8. The witness was of the opinion that de-pooling was an issue that was national in scope, and should be addressed in a national hearing. The witness testified that the voluntary option of pooling or not pooling milk delivered to a nonpool plant has been a mainstay of the Federal order system and should not be amended. The witness was of the opinion that Proposals 2, 6, 7, and 8 do not address the root cause of price inversions—advance Class I pricing— but rather only treats the symptom of the problem. Class I prices are announced by the USDA in advance, noted the witness, while milk prices for manufactured uses are announced after the month has passed. This can cause a lag between changes in the value of milk and changes in the advanced Class I price, added the witness, sometimes resulting in a Class III price that exceeds the uniform and Class I price, otherwise known as a price inversion. The witness added that it would be appropriate to reconsider whether advanced pricing remains sound regulatory policy. The AMPI, et al., witness was also of the opinion that Federal order Class I price differentials are artificially high. Milk used to produce cheese, the witness noted, is priced entirely through the marketplace and receives benefit from the Federal order system only when the uniform price is higher than the Class III price. Adoption of Proposals 2, 6, 7 or 8, the witness noted, would penalize milk used in the production of cheese by limiting the amount of milk that could be pooled and was a radical change in Federal E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9026 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules order pooling philosophy. The witness added that adoption of these proposals would require cheese manufacturers to estimate Federal order blend prices and PPDs in an effort to decide whether it was more profitable to de-pool, remain pooled or a combination of both. The AMPI, et al., witness testified that the de-pooling of milk does not cause any reduction to the amount of milk available to serve the fluid market. The witness was of the opinion that when milk was de-pooled there was not a reduction in the amount of milk made available to service the fluid market since the de-pooled milk may rejoin the pool the next month. The AMPI, et al., witness added that the Federal order system should be sharing money derived from Class I handlers, not taking money from dairy farmers whose milk is used in the production of cheese simply to offset a low Class I price created by the timing of announcing Class prices. The AMPI, et al., witness was also of the opinion that the Department should not consider Proposals 2, 6, 7 and 8 on an emergency basis. The witness testified that the proposed shift in regulatory policy as contained within these proposals should require the issuance of a recommended decision with opportunity for public comment. A witness representing NAJ testified that the problems arising from depooling are a result of the timing of price announcements. The witness also stated that the de-pooling issue would best be addressed at a national hearing. In a post hearing brief, DFA/PF reiterated the position that the pooling of milk in any month should not exceed 125 percent of the milk volume pooled in the previous month. The brief indicated that the pooling proposals (Proposals 6, 7, and 8) advanced by Dean are too restrictive for the current marketing conditions in the Central marketing area. According to the brief, Proposal 2 represents the least restrictive pooling proposal that could be supported by current marketing conditions while providing a reasonable deterrent to de-pooling. A brief on behalf of AMPI, et al., reiterated the view that de-pooling and re-pooling should be addressed on a national basis and that pooling decisions should continue to be based on immediate market conditions. The brief expressed the view that the ability to de-pool continues to be unrelated to the willingness to serve the needs of the Class I market. A brief by Select/Continental supported Proposal 6 as advanced by Dean. The brief noted that this ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ proposal offered the most comprehensive means VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 to eliminate the inequities of de-pooling while maintaining the strongest possible support for producers continuously and reliably serving the needs of the Class I market. The brief noted that Proposals 2 and 8, seeking to restrict the ability to pool to 125 percent and 115 percent of the previous month’s volume respectively, was an improvement over current conditions but was not as robust as Proposal 6 which would require a 12month pooling commitment by handlers. The brief found agreement with AMPI, et al., that de-pooling is an issue that should be addressed on a national basis. The brief by Dean reiterated support for Proposals 6, 7 or 8, in order of preference, seeking to restrict the ability of handlers to de-pool and re-pool milk in the Central marketing area. The brief expressed the view that Class I handlers who are required to pool their milk receipts are at a constant financial disadvantage to those handlers who may opt to pool or not pool. All Federal milk marketing orders require the pooling of milk received at pool distributing plants—which is predominantly Class I milk—and all pooled producers and handlers on an order share in the additional revenue arising from higher valued Class I sales. Manufacturing handlers and cooperatives of Class II, III and IV uses of milk who meet the pooling and performance standards make all of their milk receipts eligible to be pooled and usually find it advantageous. Manufacturing handlers and cooperatives who supply a portion of their total milk receipts to Class I distributing plants receive the difference between their use-value of milk and the order’s blend price. Federal milk orders, including the Central order, establish limits on the volume of milk eligible to be pooled that is not used for fluid uses primarily through diversion limit standards. However, manufacturing handlers and cooperatives are not required, as are Class I handlers, to pool all their eligible milk receipts. According to the record, manufacturing handlers and cooperatives have opted to not pool their milk receipts when the manufacturing class prices of milk are higher than the order’s blend price— commonly referred to as being ‘‘inverted.’’ During such months, manufacturing handlers and cooperatives have elected to not pool all of their eligible milk receipts because doing so would require them to pay into the PSF of the order, the mechanism through which handler and producer prices are equalized. When prices are not inverted, handlers would pool all of PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 their eligible receipts and receive a payment or draw from the PSF. In receiving a draw from the PSF, such handlers will have sufficient money to pay at least the order’s blend price to their supplying dairy farmers. When manufacturing handlers and cooperatives opt to not pool all of their eligible milk receipts in a month, they are essentially avoiding a payment to the PSF. This, in turn, enables them to avoid the marketwide sharing of the additional value of milk that accrues in the higher-valued uses of milk other than Class I. When the Class I price again becomes the highest valued use of milk, or when other class-price relationships become favorable, the record reveals that these same handlers opt to again pool their eligible milk receipts and draw money from the PSF. It is the ability of manufacturing handlers and cooperatives opting to not pool milk and thereby avoid the marketwide sharing of the revenue accruing from non-Class I milk sales that is viewed by proponents as giving rise to disorderly marketing conditions. According to proponents, producers and handlers who cannot escape being pooled and priced under the order are not assured of equitable prices. The record reveals that since the implementation of Federal milk marketing order reform in January 2000, and especially in more recent years, large and rapid increases in manufactured product prices during certain months have provided the economic incentives for manufacturing handlers to opt not to pool eligible milk on the Central order. For example, during the three month period of February to April 2004, the Class III price increased over 65 percent from $11.89 per cwt to $19.66 per cwt. During the same time period, total producer milk pooled on the Central order decreased by nearly 50 percent from 1.16 billion pounds to 612 million pounds. When milk volumes of this magnitude are not pooled the impacts on producer blend prices are significant. Producers who incur the additional costs of consistently servicing the Class I needs of the market receive a lower return than would otherwise have been received if they did not continue to service the Class I market. Prices received by dairy farmers who supplied the other milk needs of the market are not known. However, it is reasonable to conclude that prices received by dairy farmers were not equitable or uniform. The record reveals that ‘‘inverted’’ prices of milk are generally the result of the timing of Class price announcements. Despite changes made as part of Federal milk order reform to E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules shorten the time period of setting and announcing Class I milk prices and basing the Class I price on the higher of the Class III or Class IV price to avoid price inversions, large month-to-month price increases in Class III and Class IV product prices sometimes trumped the intent of better assuring that the Class I price for the month would be the highest-valued use of milk. In all orders, the Class I price (and the Class II skim price) is announced prior to or in advance of the month for which it will apply. The Class I price is calculated by using the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) surveyed cheese, butter, nonfat dry milk and dry whey prices for the two most current weeks prior to the 24th day of the preceding month and then adding a differential value to the higher of either the advanced Class III or Class IV price. Historically, the advance pricing of Class I milk has been used in all Federal orders because Class I handlers cannot avoid regulation and are required to pool all of their Class I milk receipts, they should know their product costs in advance of notifying their customers of price. However, milk receipts for Class III and IV uses are not required to be pooled; thus, Class III and IV product prices (and the Class II butterfat value) are not announced in advance. These prices are announced on or before the 5th of the following month. Of importance here is that manufacturing plant operators and cooperatives have the benefit of knowing all the classified prices of milk before making a decision to pool or not pool eligible receipts. The record reveals that the decision of manufacturing handlers or cooperatives to pool or not pool milk is made on a month-to-month basis and is generally independent of past pooling decisions. Manufacturing handlers and cooperatives that elected to not pool their milk receipts did so to avoid making payments to the PSF and they anticipated that all other manufacturing handlers and cooperatives would do the same. However, the record indicates that normally pooled manufacturing handlers and cooperatives met the pooling standards of the order to ensure that the Class I market was adequately supplied and that they established eligibility to pool their physical receipts, including diversions to nonpool plants. Opponents to proposals to deter de-pooling are of the view that meeting the pooling standards of the order and deciding how much milk to pool are unrelated events. Proponents took the view that participation in the marketwide pool should be based on a long-term commitment to supply the market because in the long-term it is the VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 sales of higher priced Class I milk that adds additional revenue to the pool. The producer price differential, or PPD, is the difference between the Class III price and the weighted average value of all Class I, II and IV milk pooled. In essence, the PPD is the residual revenue remaining after all butterfat, protein and other solids values are paid to producers. If the pooled value of Class I, II and IV milk is greater than the Class III value, dairy farmers receive a positive PPD. While the PPD is usually positive, a negative PPD can occur when class prices rise rapidly during the sixweek period between the time the Class I price is announced and the time the Class II butterfat and III and IV milk prices are announced. When manufacturing prices fall, this same lag in the announcement of class prices yields a positive PPD. As revealed by the record, when manufacturing plants and cooperatives opted to not pool milk because of inverted price relationships, PPD’s were much more negative. When this milk is not pooled, a larger percentage of the milk remaining pooled will be ‘‘lower’’ priced Class I milk. When manufacturing milk is not pooled, the weighted average value of milk decreases relative to the Class II, III or IV value making the PPD more negative. For example, record evidence demonstrated that in April 2004, a month when a sizeable volume of milk was not pooled, the PPD was a negative $3.97 per cwt. If all eligible milk had been pooled, the PPD would have been $.87 per cwt higher or a negative $3.10 per cwt. The record reveals that when manufacturing handlers and cooperatives opt to not pool milk, unequal pay prices may result to similarly located dairy farmers. For example, Dean noted that when a cooperative delivers a high percentage of their milk receipts to a distributing plant, it lessens their ability to not pool milk, making them less competitive in a marketplace relative to other producers and handlers. Other evidence in the record supports conclusions identical to Dean that when a dairy farmer or cooperative is able to receive increased returns from shipping milk to a manufacturing handler during times of price inversions, other dairy farmers or cooperatives who may have shipped more milk to a pool distributing plant are competitively disadvantaged. The record of this proceeding reveals that the ability of manufacturing handlers and cooperatives to not pool all of their eligible milk receipts gives rise to disorderly marketing conditions and warrants the establishment of PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9027 additional pooling standards to safeguard marketwide pooling. Current pooling provisions do not require or prohibit handlers and cooperatives from pooling all eligible milk receipts. However, the record reveals that when handlers and cooperatives opt to not pool milk inequities arise among producers and handlers that are contrary to the intent of the Federal milk marketing order program— maintaining orderly marketing conditions. The record contains extensive testimony regarding the effects on the milk order program resulting from advance pricing and the priority the milk order program has placed on the Class I price being the highest valued use of milk. It remains true that the Class I use of milk is still the highest valued use of milk notwithstanding those occasional months when milk used in usually lower-valued classes may be higher. This has been demonstrated by an analysis of the effective Class I differential values—the difference in the Class I price at the base zone of Jackson County, Missouri, and the higher of the Class III or Class IV price—for the 65 month period of January 2000 through May 2005 performed by USDA.2 These computations reveal that the effective monthly Class I differential averaged $1.97 per cwt. Accordingly, it can only be concluded that in the longer-term Class I sales continue to be the source of additional revenue accruing to the pool even when, in some months, the effective differential is negative. Price inversions occur when the wholesale price for manufactured products rises rapidly indicating a tightening of milk supplies to produce those products. It is for this reason that the Department chose the higher of the Class III and Class IV prices as the mover of the Class I price. Distributing plants must have a price high enough to attract milk away from manufacturing uses to meet Class I demands. As revealed by the record, this method has not been sufficient to provide the appropriate price signals to assure an adequate supply of milk for the Class I market. Accordingly, additional measures are needed as a means of assuring that milk remains pooled and thus available to the Class I market. Adoption of Proposal 2 is a reasonable measure to meet the objectives of orderly marketing. 2 Official notice is taken of data and information published in Market Administrator Bulletins as posted on individual Market Administrator Web sites. E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9028 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules This decision does find that disorderly marketing conditions are present when producers do not receive uniform prices. Handlers and cooperatives opting to not pool milk do not account to the pool at the classified use-values of those milk receipts. They do not share the higher classified usevalue of their milk receipts with all other producers who are pooled on the order are incurring the additional costs of servicing the Class I needs of the market. This is not a desired or reasonable outcome especially when the same handlers and cooperatives will again pool all of their eligible receipts when class-price relationships change in a subsequent month. These inequities borne by the market’s producers are contrary to the intent of the Federal order program’s reliance on marketwide pooling—ensuring that all producers supplying the market are paid uniform prices for their milk regardless of how the milk of any single producer is used. It is reasonable that the order contain pooling provisions intended to deter the disorderly conditions that arise when de-pooling occurs. Such provisions maintain and enhance orderly marketing. Accordingly, this decision finds it reasonable to recommend adoption of provisions that would limit the volume of milk a handler or cooperative may pool in a month to 125 percent of the total volume pooled by the handler or cooperative in the prior month. Adoption of this standard will not prevent manufacturing handlers or cooperatives from electing to not pool milk. However, it should serve to maintain and enhance orderly marketing by encouraging participation in the marketwide pooling of all classified uses of milk. Consideration was given on whether de-pooling should be considered at a national hearing with other, broader national issues of milk marketing. However each marketing area has unique marketing conditions and characteristics which have area-specific pooling provisions to address those specific conditions. Because of this, pooling issues are considered unique to each order. This decision finds that it would be unreasonable to address pooling issues, including de-pooling, on a national basis. Some manufacturing handlers and cooperatives argue that their milk did perform in meeting the Class I needs during the month and this occurred before making their pooling decisions. They argue that the Class I market is therefore not harmed and that the intents and goals of the order program are satisfied. With respect to his preceding and in response to these VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 arguments, this decision finds that the practice of de-pooling undermines the intent of the Federal order program to assure producers uniform prices across all uses of milk normally associated with the market as a critical indicator of orderly marketing conditions. Similarly, handlers and cooperatives who de-pool purposefully do so to gain a momentary financial benefit (by avoiding making payments to the PSF) which would otherwise be equitably shared among all market participants. While the order’s performance standards tend to assure that distributing plants are adequately supplied with fresh, fluid milk, the goals of marketwide pooling are undermined by the practice of depooling. Producers and handlers who regularly and consistently serve the Class I needs of the market will not equitably share in the additional value arising momentarily from non-fluid uses of milk. These same producers and handlers will, in turn, be required to share the additional revenue arising from higher-valued Class I sales in a subsequent month when class-price relationships change. The four proposals considered in this proceeding to deter the practice of depooling in the Central order have differences. They all seek to address market disorder arising from the practice of de-pooling. However, this decision does not find adoption of the two ‘‘dairy farmer for other markets’’ proposals—Proposals 6 and 7— reasonable because they would make it needlessly difficult for milk to be repooled and because their adoption may disrupt prevailing marketing channels or cause the inefficient movement of milk. Likewise, Proposal 8, to restrict pooling in a month to 115 percent of the prior month’s volume pooled by the handler, is not recommended for adoption. Adoption of this proposal would disrupt current marketing conditions beyond what the record justifies. Therefore, this decision recommends adoption of Proposal 2 to limit the pooling of milk in any month by a handler to 125 percent of the handler’s pooled receipts in the prior month because it provides the most reasonable measure to deter the practice of de-pooling. Consideration was given to omitting a recommended decision on the issue of de-pooling. The record does not support a conclusion that adoption of measures to deter de-pooling warrant emergency action. The recommended adoption of provisions to limit the volume of milk that can be pooled during the month on the basis of what was pooled in the preceding month warrants public PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 comments before a final decision is issued. 3. Transportation and Assembly Credits A proposal, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 3 and modified at the hearing, seeking establishment of transportation and assembly credits in the Central Order is not recommended for adoption. The published proposal seeks to provide a credit for the shipment of milk from supply plants to distributing plants. The proposal was modified at the hearing to expand the transportation credit to include milk shipped directly from dairy farms to distributing plants. In addition, the modified proposal would provide an assembly credit for milk shipped directly from dairy farms to distributing plants. The proposal would provide a credit for the shipment of milk from supply plants and dairy farms to distributing plants at a rate of $0.003 per cwt per mile, excluding the first 25 miles of shipment and all shipments farther than 500 miles. In addition, the proposal would provide for a credit of $0.10 per cwt for the assembly of milk from dairy farms to distributing plants. The Central order does not currently have transportation or assembly credit provisions. As published in the hearing notice, Proposal 3 was advanced by AMPI, et al. The modification to Proposal 3, presented at the hearing to include transportation credits for shipments from dairy farms directly to distributing plants was advanced by DFA/PF. On behalf of all proponents of Proposal 3, the Foremost, et al., witness requested that the proposal be modified to remove all references to ‘‘milk reload stations’’ as originally offered in the proposal. Accordingly, no additional references will be made concerning reload stations in this decision. A witness appearing on behalf of AMPI, et al., testified that transportation and assembly credits are needed in the Central marketing area to allow transporting handlers to recover costs of assembling and transporting milk to serve the Class I needs of the market. The AMPI, et al., witness was of the opinion that the rates and distance limitations proposed for the transportation and assembly credits would compensate handlers for approximately 75 percent of the cost of moving milk from supply plants to distributing plants within the marketing area. The witness asserted that this was reasonable because it would keep transportation and assembly cost recovery at less than full cost. According to the witness, the proposed E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules rates and distance limitations would tend to discourage inefficient movements of milk by handlers from seeking transportation and assembly credits. The AMPI, et al., witness expressed the opinion that all producers receiving the benefits of marketwide pooling should contribute to the recovery of costs associated with moving milk within the marketing area to serve the Class I needs of the market. The witness provided examples of milk movements where supply plant handlers moving milk to distributing plants were unable to recover the full costs of assembling and transporting milk at Federal order minimum prices. The witness testified that because handlers transporting milk directly from dairy farms to distributing plants incur costs similar to the overhead costs incurred by handlers transporting milk from supply plants, the proponents seek an assembly credit for all milk that serves the Class I market. The AMPI, et al., witness testified that even though dairy farmers currently are charged for the cost of assembling their milk into loads and transporting the milk to distributing plants, the charges are insufficient to completely recoup the costs incurred by handlers. A witness representing DFA/PF testified in support of Proposal 3 and modified the proposal to include the transportation and assembly credits for milk shipped directly from farms to distributing plants. The witness asserted that the costs of assembly and transportation of milk in the Central marketing area are not fully recouped in the market by handlers. The witness noted that the $0.003 per mile transportation credit rate would apply to milk shipped to a distributing plant. The DFA/PF witness testified that additional compensation for the transportation and assembly of milk for fluid use is needed in particular areas of the Central marketing area because the order’s blend price is insufficient to keep milk produced in the marketing area within the marketing area. The witness noted this was specifically apparent in the southeastern portion of the marketing area that borders portions of the Southeast and Appalachian orders. In addition, the witness testified that the location values of milk for markets within the Central marketing area, for example in St. Louis, Missouri, and areas of southern Illinois, are similarly insufficient to attract milk. According to the witness, this causes milk procurement problems for some distributing plants in this localized portion of the Central marketing area. VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 The DFA/PF witness testified that marketwide service payments are authorized in the legislation that provides for Federal milk orders. The witness explained that payments for services not elsewhere compensated can be taken from producer revenue to compensate providers of services that are of marketwide benefit. The witness asserted that transportation and assembly operations performed in the Central marketing area meet the general objectives of providing marketwide service for marketwide benefit. According to the witness, Proposal 3, as modified, describes a set of services that benefit the entire market. The witness was of the opinion that the marketwide services include: marketing of milk, farm pick-up of milk, off-load and reload of milk, procurement of milk, selling milking equipment, disseminating information and prices to producers, milk testing, delivery to distributing plants, and other field services. According to the DFA/PF witness, inclusion of milk shipped directly from dairy farms to distributing plants for transportation and assembly credits would be more representative of how the majority of milk is transported to distributing plants regulated by the order. The witness noted that in the Central marketing area distributing plants receive only about 4.5 percent of their milk from supply plants. The witness testified that the modification of Proposal 3 to include milk shipped from farms to distributing plants would more accurately represent the transportation compensation requirements needed to ensure delivery of milk for fluid use. According to the DFA/PF witness, the inclusion of farm to distributing plant shipments would require the Market Administrator of the Central order to verify handler claims for receiving credits. The witness indicated that leastdistance routes for delivery from each point of origin to the destination distributing plants would need to be determined. According to the witness, the additional cost that would be borne by the Market Administrator in administering transportation and assembly provisions would be negligible and should not require a higher administrative assessment. However, the witness acknowledged that proponents had not consulted the Market Administrator’s office for an estimate of additional administrative costs that may be borne in operating a transportation and assembly credit provision. The DFA/PF witness testified that the St. Louis area market is unable to consistently and successfully attract PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9029 milk from the Central order’s milkshed because the order’s Class I price and the blend price are lower than those in the nearby Appalachian and Southeast marketing areas. According to the witness, marketwide service payments for transportation and assembly of milk to serve markets such as St. Louis would provide sufficient financial incentive to offset the higher blend prices of these bordering Federal milk marketing areas. Additionally, it would ensure a consistent and reliable supply of milk to meet the needs of that portion of the Central marketing area’s Class I market, the witness said. A witness for Prairie Farms (PF) testified in support of the adoption of Proposal 3 as modified at the hearing. The witness was of the opinion that without expansion of transportation and assembly credits that included direct shipped milk, the ability to serve the Class I needs of all locations in the Central marketing area would not be achieved because milk would seek the higher blend prices available in the nearby markets of the Appalachian and Southeast orders. The witness from Prairie Farms provided example scenarios of actual and hypothetical net returns possible for handlers shipping milk to distributing plants in the Central, Appalachian, and Southeast marketing areas. The witness compared these returns to net returns available from shipping to distributing plants in Illinois and St. Louis within the Central marketing area. According to the witness, these example scenarios reinforced the assertion that milk is attracted by higher Class I prices in localized areas of the Appalachian and Southeast marketing areas. The PF witness was of the opinion that inappropriate Class I differential levels, as in the St. Louis area example, were the root cause of the market’s inability to attract sufficient fluid milk; however, modifications to the Class I price surface are not currently feasible. In light of this, the witness stated that obtaining the needed financial incentives to ensure delivery of milk to this deficit portion of the marketing area by the use of transportation and assembly credits is a reasonable alternative to changing the Class I differentials. The DFA/PF witness estimated that providing credits for milk transported from farms to distributing plants would reduce the Central order’s blend price to dairy farmers by $0.045 per cwt per month. The Foremost, et al., witness testified that the impact of providing credits for assembly would reduce the Central order’s blend price by $0.036– $0.040 per cwt per month. The DFA/PF E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS 9030 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules witness testified that the combined impact of transportation credits for the supply plant to distributing plant movements, direct delivery from farms to distributing plants, and assembly credits would reduce the Central marketing area’s blend price by a total of $0.081–$0.085 per cwt per month. A witness for Dean testified in support of Proposal 3 as modified by DFA/PF. The Dean witness expressed a preference for the DFA/PF modification to include direct farm milk shipments to distributing plants but did not support adoption of assembly credits. The witness noted that Dean would consider the entire Proposal 3, including the DFA/PF modification, if the assembly credit feature were retained. The witness was of the opinion that adopting the proposal would increase equity among handlers and producers who supply the Class I market. However, the witness was unable to identify distributing plants in the St. Louis and southern Illinois portions of the marketing area that did not or could not receive sufficient milk supplies. In addition, the witness was unable to recall if handlers had asked or relied on the Central marketing area’s Market Administrator to increase the Central order’s performance standards to bring forth milk to meet the market’s Class I needs. In a post hearing brief, Select/ Continental indicated general opposition to adopting transportation and assembly credits for milk movements from supply plants to distributing plants. The brief expressed support for a transportation and assembly credit provision that would be limited to milk shipped directly from dairy farms to distributing plants. According to the brief, milk should be attracted to markets for specific use through classified pricing. Fluid milk, according to the brief, should be attracted to distributing plants by appropriate location values. According to the brief, implementing transportation and assembly credits in the Central marketing area would be an admission that the Class I price surface was no longer successful in meeting the Class I needs of the marketing area. In a post hearing brief, DFA/PF reiterated their support for transportation and assembly credits as modified. The brief reiterated support and reinforcement of the testimony offered to expand the scope for transportation and assembly credits to include direct farm-to-plant milk movements. Likewise, Dean Foods reiterated its support in a post-hearing brief for expanding transportation and assembly credits to include direct farm- VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 to-plant milk movements as a means to improve the available milk supply for its distributing plant operations in the southeastern portion of the Central order. Geographically, the Central marketing area is the largest Federal milk marketing area, spanning the distance from eastern Illinois to western Colorado. It is bordered by the Upper Midwest, Mideast, Appalachian, Southeast, and Southwest marketing areas. The marketing area also is bordered by unregulated areas on the west including Utah, portions of western South Dakota, western portions of Nebraska, and all of Wyoming. In addition the Central marketing area completely surrounds a large unregulated area in central Missouri. Proposal 3 as advanced by AMPI, et al., seeks to establish a marketwide service payment in the form of a transportation credit for the movement of milk from supply plants to distributing plants at a rate of $0.003 per cwt per mile. The proposal provides for a distance limit for receipt of the credit for milk movements between 25 to 500 miles from the supply plants to distributing plants. The proposal also seeks the establishment of an assembly credit feature for which handlers would collect $0.10 per cwt for the assembly of loads of milk within the marketing area. The modification to Proposal 3, advanced by DFA/PF, seeks expansion of the transportation credit to include milk shipped directly from dairy farms to distributing plants. The modification would establish a transportation credit rate of $0.003 per cwt per mile for milk shipped directly from dairy farms to distributing plants. The combination of the two proposals effectively seeks transportation and assembly credits for all Class I milk pooled on the Central order. The rationale for the modification to Proposal 3 is that milk shipped directly from farms to distributing plants represents more than 95 percent of all milk shipped to distributing plants. Milk shipped from supply plants represents about 5 percent of all milk shipped to distributing plants. Proponents estimate that the Central order blend price would be lowered in the range of $0.036–$0.040 per cwt per month by the assembly credit feature for all Class I milk, if adopted. The proponents estimate that the impact of the transportation credit for all Class I milk pooled on the Central order would be a blend price reduction of approximately $0.045 per cwt, if adopted. The combined reduction to the Central order blend price per month would be $0.081–$0.085 per cwt. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 The transportation and assembly credits advanced by the proponents are similar to the transportation and assembly credits implemented in the Chicago Regional order, a predecessor order of the current Upper Midwest order. The transportation and assembly credit provisions of the Chicago Regional order were carried forward into the provisions of the current Upper Midwest order as a part of Federal milk order reform. These provisions were first implemented in 1987 to ensure that the costs of serving the Class I market of the Chicago Regional marketing area were shared by all market participants that benefited from the revenue generated from Class I sales. The impact on producer revenue was expected to be minimal according to the Final Decision published October 15, 1987, (7 CFR 10130). The transportation credit and assembly credit provisions of the Upper Midwest order provide an assembly credit of $0.08 per cwt and a transportation credit for the transportation of milk transferred from pool plants to distributing plants of $0.028 cents per cwt per mile. Transportation or assembly credits are not applied to milk shipments to distributing plants directly from producer farms. The credits are computed by the Market Administrator and are deducted from the marketwide value of milk before calculation of the order’s blend price. The impact of these credits on the Upper Midwest blend price ($0.02–$0.03 per cwt) are one fourth to one third the magnitude of impact that proponents expect the proposed transportation and assembly credits would have on the Central order blend price, if adopted. The transportation and assembly credit features of the current Upper Midwest order and the pre-reform Chicago Regional order are similar in the magnitudes of their costs per mile and per hundredweight of milk handled. The transportation and assembly credit provisions of the Chicago Regional order applied to a geographically compact milkshed with the emphasis on encouraging milk movements to the single urban market of Chicago. The Chicago Regional marketing area (and the Chicago metropolitan area of the current Upper Midwest marketing area) was supplied with milk primarily from southern and central Wisconsin. The transportation and assembly credit feature of the current Upper Midwest marketing order provides pool plants that serve the Class I market with some recovery of assembly and transportation costs E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules incurred in transferring milk to distributing plants. In contrast, the Central marketing area is geographically much larger and handlers with Class I route disposition serve multiple urban centers in a variety of States located from Illinois to Colorado. The record reveals that the area of concern to the proponents is a relatively limited area of St. Louis and portions of southern Illinois. The record does not reveal that there are other portions of the marketing area where problems have been identified in procuring milk supplies for Class I use. Accordingly, it is reasonable to conclude that marketwide service payments in the form of transportation and assembly credits on all Class I milk may only solve a localized problem while all dairy farmers would receive a lower blend price for their milk. The impact of transportation and assembly credits on dairy farmer income is far lower in the Upper Midwest marketing area than that proposed for the Central order. For example, according to Market Administrator data, the reduction to the Upper Midwest blend price in October 2004 was $ 0.015 per cwt and $0.0125 per cwt for the assembly and transportation credits, respectively. This represents an overall reduction of $0.0275 per cwt to the Upper Midwest blend price in that month. Market Administrator data shows that during May 2005 the reduction to the Upper Midwest blend price attributable to the combined impact of the transportation and assembly credit features was $0.020 per cwt. The record reveals that the impact anticipated by proponents of transportation and assembly credits on the Central order blend price would be a reduction of as much as $0.081–$0.085 per cwt. The reduction in blend prices and dairy farmer income that would result from the adoption of a transportation and assembly credit of this magnitude would be 3–4 times the magnitude of the blend price reduction that dairy farmers experience in the Upper Midwest. According to Market Administrator information, the average sized producer in the Central marketing area produces and markets about 200,000 pounds of milk per month. The average reduction in income for such an average producer per month would be $160–$170 per month, or about $2000 per year. A similar sized producer in the Upper Midwest marketing area would experience a reduction in income of $40–$57 per month or about $500–$680 per year. The differences in magnitudes are interesting but germane only to the VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 extent that transportation and assembly credits are justified. The proposed transportation and assembly credits are justified by proponents on the basis that the movement of milk to serve the Class I market is a marketwide service of marketwide benefit and credits for providing marketwide services are authorized in the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, (AMAA) as amended. However, the focus of the record evidence is on the marketing conditions in the southern Illinois and St. Louis regions of the Central marketing area. However, the record, does not indicate that price differences as noted in proponent testimony concerning the eastern portion of the marketing area occur elsewhere in the Central marketing area. The record does not support concluding that handlers serving major urban areas in other regions of the marketing area (such as, Denver, Oklahoma City, or Tulsa) experience difficulty in attracting milk supplies. This supports concluding that the issues raised by the proponents are at best localized in nature rather than marketwide. In addition, the record reveals in the testimony of the AMPI, et al., witness that some transportation and assembly costs incurred by handlers for milk delivered to distributing plants are recovered by the marketplace. While proponents have asserted that the recovery of costs for assembly by handlers is incomplete, the record contains insufficient information upon which to judge if lowering producer blend prices by as much as $.08 per cwt is reasonable. The size of the likely blend price reduction is important but not the critical factor in determining whether transportation and assembly credits are reasonable for the Central marketing area. The most important factor in that regard is whether the marketwide costs would provide marketwide rather than local benefits. Record evidence supplied by a Class I handler located in St. Louis indicates that the firm is able to continue receiving, bottling, and selling milk in the St Louis area. This evidence suggests that milk movements to handlers in the St. Louis area are occurring and meet the order’s Class I needs. This evidence provides a basis to conclude that the order provisions attract sufficient milk for fluid use. In this regard, the need for additional government intervention beyond what the order currently provides in meeting the market’s fluid demands is not warranted. The record evidence concerning challenges faced by handlers in moving PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9031 milk within the Central marketing area to distributing plants in St. Louis and Illinois indicates that there may be, at best, localized problems in supplying the Class I needs of these plants. The proponents for transportation and assembly credits attribute these difficulties to the higher location values and blend prices of nearby or bordering portions of the Southeast and Appalachian orders. However, the record reveals that handlers have not sought alternative actions to bring forth additional milk supplies to meet Class I demands. For example, there is no record evidence illustrating that the Market Administrator has been called upon to change performance standards or diversion limits which would better ensure that the Class I needs of any of the Central marketing area’s distributing plants would be met. This recommended decision finds that adoption of the proposed transportation and assembly credit provision is not supported by record evidence. Accordingly, this recommended decision does not find agreement with the rationale advanced by proponents that marketwide service payments in the form of transportation and assembly credits for milk are needed to overcome deficiencies of the Central order. At best, record evidence demonstrates that if there are difficulties in procuring milk for Class I use, they are isolated to a fraction of the marketing area. Adopting transportation and assembly credits would unreasonably lower the returns to all dairy farmers pooled on the order to address a localized issue. Withdrawn Proposal A proposal published as Proposal 14, seeking to require payments from the producer settlement fund to be made no later than the next business day after the due date for payments into the producer settlement fund, was advanced by the Market Administrator. The proposal was withdrawn and was not considered in this decision. Rulings on Proposed Findings and Conclusions Briefs, proposed findings and conclusions were filed on behalf of certain interested parties. These briefs, proposed findings and conclusions and the evidence in the record were considered in making the findings and conclusions set forth above. To the extent that the suggested findings and conclusions filed by interested parties are inconsistent with the findings and conclusions set forth herein, the requests to make such findings or reach such conclusions are denied for the E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 9032 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules Authority: 7 U.S.C. 601–674. reasons previously stated in this decision. General Findings The findings and determinations hereinafter set forth supplement those that were made when the Central order was first issued and when it was amended. The previous findings and determinations are hereby ratified and confirmed, except where they may conflict with those set forth herein. The following findings are hereby made with respect to the aforesaid marketing agreement and order: (a) The tentative marketing agreement and the order, as hereby proposed to be amended, and all of the terms and conditions thereof, will tend to effectuate the declared policy of the Act; (b) The parity prices of milk as determined pursuant to Section 2 of the Act are not reasonable in view of the price of feeds, available supplies of feeds, and other economic conditions which affect market supply and demand for milk in the marketing area, and the minimum prices specified in the tentative marketing agreement and the order, as hereby proposed to be amended, are such prices as will reflect the aforesaid factors, ensure a sufficient quantity of pure and wholesome milk, and be in the public interest; and (c) The tentative marketing agreement and the order, as hereby proposed to be amended, will regulate the handling of milk in the same manner as, and will be applicable only to persons in the respective classes of industrial and commercial activity specified in, the marketing agreement upon which a hearing has been held. cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS Recommended Marketing Agreement and Order Amending the Orders The recommended marketing agreement is not included in this decision because the regulatory provisions thereof would be the same as those contained in the order, as hereby proposed to be amended. The following order amending the order, as amended, regulating the handling of milk in the Central marketing area is recommended as the detailed and appropriate means by which the foregoing conclusions may be carried out. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1032 Milk marketing orders. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR Part 1032 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 1032—MILK IN THE CENTRAL MARKETING AREA 1. The authority citation for 7 CFR Part 1032 continues to read as follows: VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 2. Section 1032.7 is amended by revising paragraph (c) introductory text and paragraph (h)(7) to read as follows: § 1032.7 Pool plant. * * * * * (c) A supply plant from which the quantity of bulk fluid milk products shipped to (and physically unloaded into) plants described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section is not less than 25 percent during the months of August through February and 20 percent in all other months of the Grade A milk received from dairy farmers (except dairy farmers described in § 1032.12(b)) and from handlers described in § 1000.9(c), including milk diverted pursuant to § 1032.13, subject to the following conditions: * * * * * (h) * * * (7) That portion of a regulated plant designated as a nonpool plant that is physically separate and operated separately from the pool portion of such plant. The designation of a portion of a plant must be requested in advance and in writing by the handler and must be approved by the market administrator. Such nonpool status shall be effective on the first day of the month following approval of the request by the market administrator and thereafter for the longer of twelve (12) consecutive months or until notification of the desire to requalify as a pool plant, in writing, is received by the market administrator. Requalification will require deliveries to a pool distributing plant(s) as provided for in § 1032.7(c). For requalification, handlers may not use milk delivered directly from producer’s farms pursuant to § 1000.9(c) or § 1032.13(c) for the first month. 3. Section 1032.13 is amended by revising paragraph (d)(1), redesignating paragraphs (d)(2) through (6) as paragraphs (d)(4) through (8), adding new paragraphs (d)(2) and (d)(3), revising redesignated paragraph (d)(4), and adding a new paragraph (f), to read as follows: § 1032.13 Producer milk. * * * * * (d) * * * (1) Milk of a dairy farmer shall not be eligible for diversion until milk of such dairy farmer has been physically received as producer milk at a pool plant and the dairy farmer has continuously retained producer status since that time. If a dairy farmer loses producer status under the order in this part (except as a result of a temporary loss of Grade A approval), the dairy farmer’s milk shall not be eligible for PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 diversion until milk of the dairy farmer has been physically received as producer milk at a pool plant; (2) The equivalent of at least one day’s milk production is caused by the handler to be physically received at a pool plant in each of the months of January and February, and August through November; (3) The equivalent of at least one days’ milk production is caused by the handler to be physically received at a pool plant in each of the months of March through July and December if the requirement of paragraph (d)(2) of this section (§ 1032.13) in each of the prior months of August through November and January through February are not met, except in the case of a dairy farmer who marketed no Grade A milk during each of the prior months of August through November or January through February. (4) Of the quantity of producer milk received during the month (including diversions, but excluding the quantity of producer milk received from a handler described in § 1000.9(c)) the handler diverts to nonpool plants not more than 75 percent during the months of August through February, and not more than 80 percent during the months of March through July, provided that not less than 25 percent of such receipts in the months of August through February and 20 percent of the remaining months’ receipts are delivered to plants described in § 1032.7(a) and (b); * * * * * (f) The quantity of milk reported by a handler pursuant to § 1032.30(a)(1) and/ or § 1032.30(c)(1) for the current month may not exceed 125 percent of the producer milk receipts pooled by the handler during the prior month. Milk diverted to nonpool plants reported in excess of this limit shall be removed from the pool. Milk received at pool plants in excess of the 125 percent limit, other than pool distributing plants, shall be classified pursuant to § 1000.44(a)(3)(v). The handler must designate, by producer pick-up, which milk is to be removed from the pool. If the handler fails to provide this information the provisions of paragraph (d)(5) of this section shall apply. The following provisions apply: (1) Milk shipped to and physically received at pool distributing plants shall not be subject to the 125 percent limitation; (2) Producer milk qualified pursuant to any other Federal Order in the previous month shall not be included in the computation of the 125 percent limitation; provided that the producers comprising the milk supply have been E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 22, 2006 / Proposed Rules continuously pooled on any Federal Order for the entirety of the most recent three consecutive months. (3) The market administrator may waive the 125 percent limitation: (i) For a new handler on the order, subject to the provisions of paragraph (f)(3) of this section, or (ii) For an existing handler with significantly changed milk supply conditions due to unusual circumstances; (4) A bloc of milk may be considered ineligible for pooling if the market administrator determines that handlers altered the reporting of such milk for the purpose of evading the provisions of this paragraph (f). Dated: February 15, 2006. Lloyd C. Day, Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service. [FR Doc. 06–1584 Filed 2–21–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 1033 [Docket No. AO–166–A72; DA–05–01–B] Milk in the Mideast Marketing Area; Recommended Decision and Opportunity To File Written Exceptions on Proposed Amendments to Tentative Marketing Agreement and Order Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA. ACTION: Proposed rule; Recommended Decision. cprice-sewell on PROD1PC66 with PROPOSALS AGENCY: SUMMARY: This decision recommends adoption of a proposal that would amend certain features of the Mideast Federal milk marketing order to deter the de-pooling of milk. DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before April 24, 2006. ADDRESSES: Comments (six copies) should be filed with the Hearing Clerk, United States Department of Agriculture, STOP 9200—Room 1031, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250–9200. Comments may also be submitted at the Federal eRulemaking portal: https:// www.regulations.gov or by e-mail: amsdairycomments@usda.gov. Reference should be made to the title of action and docket number. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gino Tosi, Associate Deputy Administrator, Order Formulation and Enforcement Branch, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs, STOP 0231—Room 2968, VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:42 Feb 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250–0231, (202)690– 1366, e-mail: gino.tosi@usda.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This decision recommends adoption of amendments that would: (1) Establish a limit on the volume of milk a handler may pool during the months of April through February to 115 percent of the volume of milk pooled in the prior month; and (2) Establish a limit on the volume of milk a handler may pool during the month of March to 120 percent of the volume of milk pooled in the prior month. This administrative 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 amendments to the rules proposed herein have been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. They are not intended to have a 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 this rule. The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601–674), 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 request modification or exemption from such order by filing with the Secretary 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 the law. A handler is afforded the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. After a hearing, the Secretary 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 its principal place of business, has jurisdiction in equity to review the Deparment’s ruling on the petition, provided a bill in equity is filed not later than 20 days after the date of the entry of the ruling. Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork Reduction Act In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), the Agricultural Marketing Service has considered the economic impact of this action on small entities and has certified that this proposed rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. For the purpose of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a dairy farm is considered a ‘‘small business’’ if it has PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9033 an annual gross revenue of less than $750,000, and a dairy products manufacturer is a ‘‘small business’’ if it has fewer than 500 employees. For the purposes of determining which dairy farms are ‘‘small businesses,’’ the $750,000 per year criterion was used to establish a production guideline of 500,000 pounds per month. Although this guideline does not factor in additional monies that may be received by dairy producers, it should be an inclusive standard for most ‘‘small’’ dairy farmers. For purposes of determining a handler’s size, if the plant is part of a larger company operating multiple plants that collectively exceed the 500-employee limit, the plant will be considered a large business even if the local plant has fewer than 500 employees. During March 2005, the month during which the hearing occurred, there were 9,767 dairy producers pooled on, and 36 handlers regulated by, the Mideast order. Approximately 9,212 producers, or 94.3 percent, were considered small businesses based on the above criteria. Of the 36 handlers regulated by the Mideast during March 2005, 26 handlers, or 72.2 percent, were considered small businesses. The adoption of the proposed pooling standards serve to revise established criteria that determine those producers, producer milk, and plants that have a reasonable association with and consistently serve the fluid needs of the Mideast milk marketing area. Criteria for pooling milk are established on the basis of performance standards that are considered adequate to meet the Class I fluid needs of the market and, by doing so, to determine those producers who are eligible to share in the revenue that arises from the classified pricing of milk. Criteria for pooling are established without regard to the size of any dairy industry organization or entity. Therefore, the proposed amendments will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. A review of reporting requirements was completed under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35). It was determined that these proposed amendments would have no impact on reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements because they would remain identical to the current requirements. No new forms are proposed and no additional reporting requirements would be necessary. This recommended decision does not require additional information collection that requires clearance by the E:\FR\FM\22FEP1.SGM 22FEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 35 (Wednesday, February 22, 2006)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 9015-9033]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 06-1584]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 1032

[Docket No. AO-313-A48; DA-04-06]


Milk in the Central Marketing Area; Recommended Decision and 
Opportunity To File Written Exceptions on Proposed Amendments to 
Tentative Marketing Agreement and to Order

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule; recommended decision.

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SUMMARY: This decision recommends adoption of proposals that would 
amend certain features of the Central Federal milk marketing order. 
Specifically, this decision recommends adoption of proposals that would 
increase supply plant performance standards, amend features of the 
``touch-base'' provision, amend certain features of the ``split plant'' 
provision and decrease the diversion limit standards of the order. This 
decision also recommends adoption of a proposal that would limit the 
volume of milk a handler can pool in a month to 125 percent of the 
total volume of milk pooled in the previous month.

DATES: Comments should be submitted on or before April 24, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Comments (6 copies) should be filed with the Hearing Clerk, 
STOP 9200-Room 1031, United States Department of Agriculture, 1400 
Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250-9200.

[[Page 9016]]

Comments may also be submitted at the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: 
https://www.regulations.gov or by submitting comments by e-mail: 
amsdairycomments@usda.gov. Reference should be made to the title of 
action and docket number.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Rower, Marketing Specialist, 
Order Formulation and Enforcement Branch, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs, STOP 
0231-Room 2971, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250-
0231, (202) 720-2357, e-mail address: jack.rower@usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This decision recommends adoption of 
amendments that would: (1) Increase supply plant performance standards 
to 25 percent for the months of August through February and to 20 
percent for the months of March through July; (2) Require the non-pool 
side of a split plant to maintain nonpool status for 12 months; (3) 
Amend the ``touch-base'' feature of the order to require that at least 
one day's production of the milk of a dairy farmer be received at a 
pool plant in each of the months of January, February, and August 
through November, to be eligible for diversion to non-pool plants; (4) 
Lower the diversion limit standards by five percentage points, from 80 
percent to 75 percent, for the months of August through February, and 
by five percentage points, from 85 percent to 80 percent for the months 
of March through July; and (5) Establish provisions that would limit 
the volume of milk a handler may pool in a month to 125 percent of the 
volume of milk pooled in the prior month.
    This administrative 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 amendments to the rules proposed herein have been reviewed under 
Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. It is not intended to have 
a retroactive effect. If adopted, the proposed rule would not preempt 
any state or local laws, regulations, or policies, unless they present 
an irreconcilable conflict with this rule.
    The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (the Act), as 
amended (7 U.S.C. 601-674), 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 request 
modification or exemption from such order by filing with the Department 
of Agriculture (Department) 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 the law. A handler is afforded the 
opportunity for a hearing on the petition. After a hearing, the 
Department 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 its principal place of business, has 
jurisdiction in equity to review the Department's ruling on the 
petition, provided a bill in equity is filed not later than 20 days 
after the date of the entry of the ruling.

Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et 
seq.), the Agricultural Marketing Service has considered the economic 
impact of this action on small entities and has certified that this 
proposed rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. For the purpose of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, a dairy farm is considered a ``small business'' if it 
has an annual gross revenue of less than $750,000, and a dairy products 
manufacturer is a ``small business'' if it has fewer than 500 
employees.
    For the purposes of determining which dairy farms are ``small 
businesses,'' the $750,000 per year criterion was used to establish a 
production guideline of 500,000 pounds per month. Although this 
guideline does not factor in additional monies that may be received by 
dairy producers, it should be an inclusive standard for most ``small'' 
dairy farmers. For purposes of determining a handler's size, if the 
plant is part of a larger company operating multiple plants that 
collectively exceed the 500-employee limit, the plant will be 
considered a large business even if the local plant has fewer than 500 
employees.
    During January 2005, there were 5,778 dairy producers pooled on, 
and 23 handlers regulated by, the Central order. Approximately 5,365 
producers, or 92.9 percent, were considered ``small businesses'' based 
on the above criteria. Of the 23 handlers regulated by the Central 
order during January 2005, 11 handlers, or 47.8 percent, were 
considered ``small businesses.''
    The recommended amendments regarding the pooling standards serve to 
revise established criteria that determine those producers, producer 
milk, and plants that have a reasonable association with and 
consistently serve the fluid needs of the Central milk marketing area. 
Criteria for pooling are established on the basis of performance levels 
that are considered adequate to meet the Class I fluid needs of the 
market and, by doing so, determine those producers who are eligible to 
share in the revenue that arises from the classified pricing of milk.
    Criteria for pooling are established without regard to the size of 
any dairy industry organization or entity. Therefore, the proposed 
amendments will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities.
    A review of reporting requirements was completed under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35). It was 
determined that these proposed amendments would have no impact on 
reporting, record keeping, or other compliance requirements because 
they would remain identical to the current requirements. No new forms 
are proposed and no additional reporting requirements would be 
necessary.
    This recommended decision does not require additional information 
collection that requires clearance by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) beyond currently approved information collection. The 
primary sources of data used to complete the forms are routinely used 
in most business transactions. Forms require only a minimal amount of 
information which can be supplied without data processing equipment or 
a trained statistical staff. Thus, the information collection and 
reporting burden is relatively small. Requiring the same reports for 
all handlers does not significantly disadvantage any handler that is 
smaller than the industry average.
    No other burdens are expected to fall on the dairy industry as a 
result of overlapping Federal rules. This rulemaking proceeding does 
not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any existing Federal rules.
    Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the probable 
regulatory and informational impact of this proposed rule on small 
entities. Also, parties may suggest modifications of this proposal for 
the purpose of tailoring their applicability to small businesses.

Prior Documents in This Proceeding

    Notice of Hearing: Issued September 17, 2004; published September 
22, 2004 (69 FR 56725).
    Notice of Hearing Delay: Issued October 18, 2004; published October 
13, 2004 (69 FR 61323).

Preliminary Statement

    Notice is hereby given of the filing with the Hearing Clerk of this

[[Page 9017]]

recommended decision with respect to the proposed amendments to the 
tentative marketing agreement and the order regulating the handling of 
milk in the Central marketing area. This notice is issued pursuant to 
the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) and 
the applicable rules of practice and procedure governing the 
formulation of marketing agreements and marketing orders (7 CFR part 
900).
    Interested parties may file written exceptions to this decision 
with the Hearing Clerk, United States Department of Agriculture, Room 
1031-Stop 9200, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250-
9200, by the [insert date 60 days after publication of this decision in 
the Federal Register.] Six (6) copies of the exceptions should be 
filed. All written submissions made pursuant to this notice will be 
made available for public inspection at the office of the Hearing Clerk 
during regular business hours (7 CFR 1.27(b)).
    The hearing notice specifically invited interested persons to 
present evidence concerning the probable regulatory and informational 
impact of the proposals on small businesses. Some evidence was received 
that specifically addressed these issues, and some of the evidence 
encompassed entities of various sizes.
    A public hearing was held upon proposed amendments to the marketing 
agreement and the order regulating the handling of milk in the Central 
marketing area. The hearing was held, pursuant to the provisions of the 
Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601-
674), and the applicable rules of practice and procedure governing the 
formulation of marketing agreements and marketing orders (7 CFR part 
900).
    The proposed amendments set forth below are based on the record of 
a public hearing held in Kansas City, Missouri, on December 6-8, 2004, 
pursuant to a notice of hearing issued September 17, 2004, published 
September 22, 2004 (69 FR 56725), and a notice of a hearing delay 
issued October 13, 2004, published October 18, 2004, (69 FR 61323).
    The material issues on the hearing record relate to:
    1. Pooling Standards.
    A. Performance standards for supply plants.
    B. The ``Split plant'' provision.
    C. System pooling for supply plants.
    D. Elimination of the supply plant provision.
    E. Standards for producer milk.
    2. Establishing pooling limits.
    3. Transportation and assembly credits.

Findings and Conclusions

    The following findings and conclusions on the material issues are 
based on evidence presented at the hearing and the record thereof:

1. Pooling Standards

A. Performance Standards for Supply Plants
    A portion of a proposal, published in the hearing notice as 
Proposal 1, seeking to increase supply plant performance standards by 
five percentage points, from 20 percent to 25 percent, for the months 
of August through February, and from 15 percent to 20 percent for the 
months of March through July, is recommended for adoption. A portion of 
another similar proposal, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 
5, seeking to increase supply plant performance standards by 20 
percentage points, from 15 percent to 35 percent, for the month of 
July, by 15 percentage points, from 20 percent to 35 percent, for the 
months of August through January and by 10 percentage points, from 15 
percent to 25 percent, for the month of March is not recommended for 
adoption. Currently, the Central order requires a supply plant to ship 
20 percent of its total receipts to a distributing plant during the 
months of August through February, and 15 percent of its total receipts 
during the months of March through July, in order for the total 
receipts of the supply plant to be pooled.
    Proposal 1 was offered jointly by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., 
(DFA), and Prairie Farms Cooperative (PF), hereafter referred to as 
DFA/PF. DFA/PF are member-owned Capper-Volstead cooperatives that pool 
milk on the Central order. Proposal 1 would increase the amount of milk 
a supply plant would be required to ship to a distributing plant by 
five percentage points, from 20 percent to 25 percent, for the months 
of August through February, and from 15 percent to 20 percent for the 
months of March through July, in order to pool all of its receipts on 
the Central order.
    The proponents are of the opinion that current supply plant 
performance standards enable milk that does not demonstrate a 
consistent and reliable service to the Class I market to be pooled on 
the order. The proponents contend that the pooling of this additional 
milk is causing an unwarranted lowering of the order's blend price.
    A witness appearing on behalf of DFA/PF testified in support of 
Proposal 1. The DFA/PF witness stated that increasing the volume of 
milk a supply plant is required to ship to a pool distributing plant in 
order to have all the receipts of the supply plant pooled, combined 
with other proposed changes to the Central order pooling provisions, 
will better identify milk ready, willing and able to service the fluid 
milk needs of the Central marketing area.
    The DFA/PF witness testified that the proposed increase in the 
performance standards for supply plants would increase the blend price 
received by dairy farmers whose milk is pooled and priced on the 
Central order. The witness was of the opinion that an increase in the 
blend price will serve to attract and retain milk supplies that are 
otherwise shipped from the Central order area to neighboring marketing 
areas. The witness asserted that increasing supply plant performance 
standards will ensure that the Class I needs of the Central marketing 
area are being met.
    The DFA/PF witness testified that current supply plant performance 
standards allow far more milk to be pooled on the Central order than is 
necessary. Relying on market administrator data, the witness noted that 
the projected Class I utilization of 50.1 percent, anticipated during 
Federal order reform for the consolidated marketing area, was not 
achieved. The witness added that the average Class I utilization in the 
Central marketing area has ranged from a low of 26 percent in 2002 to 
nearly 33 percent in 2003. The witness was of the opinion that these 
average Class I utilization levels demonstrate that reserve supplies of 
milk in the marketing area of 74 and 67 percent, respectively, for 2002 
and 2003, far exceed the 49-50 percent reserve levels projected during 
Federal order reform. In addition, the witness noted that increased 
supply plant performance standards implemented in 2001 have not been 
effective in reducing the excess reserve supply of milk in the 
marketing area. The witness concluded that this data confirms that the 
current performance standards of the Central order provide 
opportunities for milk not regularly and consistently serving the Class 
I market to be pooled on the order.
    The DFA/PF witness described concerns regarding the geography of 
the Central marketing area and explained that higher prices are 
received for milk in the bordering Southeast and Appalachian marketing 
areas. According to the witness, higher milk prices in the Appalachian 
and Southeast orders tend to attract milk from the Central marketing 
area and create localized supply imbalances within the eastern portion 
of the marketing area. The witness testified that increasing supply 
plant performance standards would deter milk originating from

[[Page 9018]]

within the Central order boundaries from pooling on the Appalachian and 
Southeast orders. According to the witness this would tend to increase 
the blend price paid to dairy farmers whose milk is pooled on the 
Central order.
    A number of DFA member dairy farmers whose milk is pooled on the 
Central order testified in support of the portion of Proposal 1 that 
would increase supply plant performance standards. The dairy farmer 
witnesses were of the opinion that increasing supply plant performance 
standards will raise the level of Class I utilization and in turn, 
increase the blend price.
    A witness from National All-Jersey (NAJ) representing AMPI, et al., 
(Associated Milk Producers Inc., Central Equity Cooperative, Land O'' 
Lakes, Inc., First District Association, Foremost Farms USA, joined by 
Wells Dairy, Inc., Milnot Holdings and National All-Jersey), testified 
in opposition to the portion of Proposal 1 that would increase supply 
plant performance standards. NAJ is a national organization whose 
mission is to promote milk pricing equity and increase the value and 
demand for the milk produced by the Jersey breed. The NAJ witness was 
of the opinion that increasing supply plant performance standards would 
result in inefficient movements of milk and pass the costs of 
regulatory inefficiencies to consumers.
    In their post hearing brief, DFA/PF reiterated their support for 
Proposal 1. The brief asserted that adoption of the portion of Proposal 
1 that would increase supply plant performance standards would more 
accurately identify the milk of producers servicing the fluid needs of 
the market. According to the brief, increasing supply plant performance 
standards will increase the blend price for the producers who provide 
regular and consistent service to the Class I market. The DFA/PF brief 
reiterated support for not pooling milk which does not provide regular 
and consistent service to the fluid milk needs of the Central marketing 
area.
    A brief from Select Milk Producers, Inc. (Select) and Continental 
Dairy Products, Inc. (Continental) supported adoption of the higher 
performance standard features of Proposal 1. Select and Continental are 
member-owned Capper-Volstead cooperatives whose milk is pooled on the 
Central order. The brief noted that adoption of higher performance 
standards would deter the pooling of milk on the order not servicing 
the fluid needs of the market.
    A portion of Proposal 5, advanced by Dean Foods (Dean) (who 
described themselves as the largest processor and distributor of fluid 
milk in the United States, owning and operating nine distributing 
plants regulated by the Central order,) would increase supply plant 
performance standards by 20 percentage points, from 15 percent to 35 
percent, for the month of July, by 15 percentage points, from 20 
percent to 35 percent, for the months of August through January and by 
10 percentage points, from 15 percent to 25 percent, for the month of 
March. These proposed changes to supply plant performance standards are 
not recommended for adoption.
    Two witnesses appeared on behalf of Dean in support of increasing 
supply plant performance standards. The witnesses were of the opinion 
that current supply plant performance standards are inadequate to 
assure a reasonable supply of fluid milk to the order's distributing 
plants. The witnesses were of the opinion that increasing supply plant 
performance standards as they proposed to the levels advanced would 
better attract an adequate milk supply for Class I use to the marketing 
area.
    The first Dean witness testified that marketwide pooling and 
classified pricing are built on the assumption that Class I milk is the 
highest priced class and that pool revenues generated from Class I 
sales will attract a regular and consistent milk supply. The witness 
was of the opinion that current supply plant performance standards 
allow handlers to pool milk on the Central order that does not 
regularly and consistently serve the Class I market. According to the 
witness, low supply plant performance standards reduce the blend price 
paid to producers who consistently serve the needs of the Central order 
fluid market by allowing lower-valued milk to be pooled on the order.
    The first Dean witness was of the opinion that adoption of higher 
performance standards would increase the volume of milk available to 
the Class I market. The witness further testified that if the USDA 
adopted higher performance standards for supply plants, adoption of 
Proposals 9 and 10, or Proposals 11, 12, and 13 would also be 
necessary. (Proposals 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 are discussed later in this 
decision.)
    The second Dean witness also was of the opinion that increasing 
supply plant performance standards would help to ensure that the fluid 
milk needs of the marketing area are being met. According to the 
witness, increasing supply plant performance standards would decrease 
the volumes of milk in lower-valued uses pooled on the order, thereby 
increasing the order's blend price. The witness testified that 
increasing supply plant performance standards would assist fluid milk 
handlers located in St. Louis and southern Illinois, who compete with 
handlers located in the Appalachian and Southeast orders, obtain needed 
milk supplies.
    A brief submitted on behalf of DFA/PF opposed adoption of the level 
of performance standards for supply plants offered by Dean. DFA/PF 
noted that increasing supply plant performance standards to the levels 
advanced in Proposal 5 are unnecessarily high and are more restrictive 
than current market conditions could reasonably justify.
    A brief submitted by AMPI, et. al., reiterated the group's 
opposition to increased performance standards for supply plants as 
advanced by both Dean and DFA/PF. The brief highlighted the contention 
that increased performance standards for supply plants would unfairly 
penalize reserve suppliers of the marketing area by restricting their 
ability to share in the benefits of the marketwide pool.
B. The ``Split Plant'' Provision
    A proposal from Dean, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 
10, seeking to require the nonpool side of a split plant to maintain 
nonpool status for 12 months, is recommended for adoption. Another Dean 
proposal, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 9, seeking to 
eliminate the split plant provision is not recommended for adoption.
    The current split plant provision provides for designating a 
portion of a pool plant as a nonpool plant provided that the nonpool 
portion of the plant is physically separate and operated separately 
from the regulated or ``pool'' side of the plant. Current provisions 
afford handlers operating a split plant the option of maintaining 
nonpool status or qualifying the nonpool side of the plant for pooling 
on a monthly basis.
    The Dean witness testified that the nonpool side of a split plant 
can facilitate the pooling of milk that does not demonstrate a regular 
and consistent service to the fluid milk needs of the Central marketing 
area. The witness stated that if Proposal 10 was adopted, then Proposal 
4, a proposal to eliminate all supply plant provisions, and Proposal 9, 
a proposal to eliminate split plants, would not be needed.
    The Dean witness testified that Proposal 10 would require the 
nonpool side of a split plant to maintain nonpool status for a 12-month 
interval. According to the witness, adoption of this provision would 
deter pooling milk that does not regularly and consistently

[[Page 9019]]

serve the Class I market. The witness added that Proposal 10 was 
advanced as an alternative to Proposal 9. The witness testified that as 
advanced in Proposal 9, a split plant plant could either be a pool 
plant or a nonpool plant but not both. The witness stated that if USDA 
did not eliminate split plants then Dean would seek the adoption of 
Proposal 10.
    In a post hearing brief, Select and Continental supported adoption 
of Proposal 10. The brief stated that Proposal 10 would deter the 
pooling of milk that does not regularly and consistently serve the 
Class I market. According to the brief, split plants should be 
prohibited from using milk receipts in the nonpool side of the plant 
from being pooled without demonstrating actual service to the Class I 
market. The brief expressed the opinion that reducing the volume of 
milk that a split plant could pool on the order from its nonpool side 
would tend to increase the Central order blend price.
    The Select and Continental brief however, opposed the elimination 
of split plants as advanced in Proposal 9. The brief stated that 
requiring a split plant to elect non-pool status for 12 months for its 
nonpool side would provide sufficient incentive to prevent the pooling 
of excess milk through split plants.
    DFA/PF commented on brief that Dean's Proposals 4-13 in general 
``go too far, too fast'' given the current market conditions of the 
Central marketing area. According to the brief, DFA/PF contend that the 
adoption of the Dean proposals would not serve the needs of small dairy 
farms. The brief noted that some small producers may not have 
alternative markets for their milk if Dean's proposal to eliminate the 
split plant provision was adopted.
    The AMPI, et al., brief opposed elimination of the split plant 
provision or requiring a 12 month pooling commitment from operators of 
split plants. Their opposition was based on the view that elimination 
of split plants, or imposing a 12 month pooling commitment for split 
plant operators, would unfairly restrict their ability to pool milk on 
the order.
C. System Pooling for Supply Plants
    Three proposals presented by Dean, published in the hearing notice 
as Proposals 11, 12 and 13, and modified at the hearing, are not 
recommended for adoption. Proposal 11 would eliminate providing for 
supply plant systems. Proposal 12 would require a supply plant system 
to be operated by only one handler. Proposal 13 would require that 
every plant participating in a system be required to ship 40 percent of 
the system's qualifying shipment as if they had been operating as 
separate plants. Proposal 13 also would prohibit using milk shipped 
directly from producer farms as qualifying shipments. Current Central 
order provisions provide the ability for 2 or more supply plants 
(subject to certain additional conditions) to operate as a ``system'' 
in meeting the qualifications for pooling in the same manner as a 
single plant.
    The Dean witness testified that system pooling affords handlers the 
ability to link several supply plants together in an effort to qualify 
producer milk for pooling on the order. According to the witness, 
current system pooling provisions allow plants and farms close to 
distributing plants to deliver producer milk on behalf of more distant 
plants, thereby providing for the pooling of milk that does not 
regularly and consistently serve the Class I market. According to the 
witness, adoption of Proposal 11 would require plants to transfer milk 
to obtain and maintain eligibility for pool qualification. The witness 
stated that Proposal 11 would require every handler to pool their 
producers on the basis of actual deliveries to distributing plants.
    The Dean witness testified in support of Proposal 12 in the event 
supply plant systems were not eliminated as advanced in Proposal 11. 
According to the witness, Proposal 12 would limit the use of supply 
plant systems to a single handler rather than multiple handlers as 
currently provided in the order. The witness testified that allowing 
only a single handler to qualify pool supply plants through system 
pooling provisions would ensure that each handler is willing and able 
to demonstrate regular and consistent service to the fluid milk needs 
of the Central marketing area.
    The Dean witness testified that Proposal 13 would require each 
plant in a supply plant system to meet at least 40 percent of the total 
performance standard required for pooling. According to the witness, 
Proposal 13 is similar to Proposal 11 in that it would prohibit the use 
of milk shipped directly from producer farms to qualify a supply plant 
system. However, the witness stated that Proposal 13 also would require 
every supply plant in a supply plant system to ship a significant 
volume of milk to the fluid market. The witness noted that 
qualification of distant milk would be discouraged by adoption of 
Proposals 12 and 13 since the use of milk shipped directly from 
producer farms for qualification purposes would be prohibited. The Dean 
witness expressed preferences for the adoption of Proposal 11 over 
Proposal 12, and adoption of Proposal 12 over Proposal 13.
    A witness from DFA/PF expressed opposition to Proposals 11, 12, and 
13, because their adoption would eliminate or overly restrict the 
operation of supply plant systems. On brief, DFA/PF noted that, as with 
elimination of the split plant provision, some small producers may not 
have alternative markets for their milk if supply plant systems are 
eliminated or are made overly restrictive.
    In a post hearing brief, AMPI, et al., reiterated opposition to 
Proposals 11, 12, and 13. The AMPI, et al., brief opposed restrictions 
on pooling milk of producers ready, willing, and able to serve the 
Class I needs of the Central marketing area. The brief opposed 
elimination or restriction of supply plant systems contending such 
action would eliminate markets for the milk of small dairy farmers 
without alternative markets available.
    Select and Continental also opposed adoption of Proposals 11, 12 
and 13 in their post-hearing brief. The brief opposed eliminating or 
restricting supply plant systems on the basis that no verifiable 
evidence was presented demonstrating that supply plant systems do not 
provide consistent and reliable service to the Class I market.
D. Elimination of the Supply Plant Provision
    A proposal by Dean, published in the hearing notice as Proposal 4, 
seeking to eliminate the supply plant provision, is not recommended for 
adoption.
    A Dean witness characterized Proposal 4 as a preferred alternative 
to increasing supply plant performance standards sought in Proposals 1 
and 5. The witness explained that if Proposal 4 is adopted, then 
Proposals 9-13, seeking to increase performance standards for supply 
plants and supply plant systems would not be needed. The witness 
testified that while the role of supply plants in the milk order system 
is to supply the needs of distributing plants, the milk supply of 
plants for the Central marketing area is only of residual concern 
because it provides an outlet for reserve producers when their milk is 
not needed for fluid use.
    The Dean witness testified that supply plants no longer represent 
the most efficient means for supplying distributing plants. According 
to the witness, supply plants play a minor role in the Central 
marketing area, representing less than 5 percent of the milk shipped to 
distributing plants. According to the witness, milk assembled from 
farms must be received

[[Page 9020]]

at a supply plant, cooled and stored, and reloaded and delivered to 
distributing plants. The witness stated that the increased handling of 
milk through supply plants reduces its quality compared with milk that 
is direct delivered from farms. The witness said that direct delivery 
from farms to distributing plants is a superior method for ensuring 
that milk pooled on the order serves the Class I needs of the market. 
The witness was of the opinion that supply plants inappropriately 
facilitate pooling milk that does not regularly and consistently serve 
the Class I market.
    A witness representing NAJ testified in opposition to the 
elimination of supply plants. According to the witness, elimination of 
the supply plant provision also would reduce the ability of dairy 
farmers to pool milk on the Central order. The witness was of the 
opinion that eliminating the supply plant provision would have a 
negative impact on the income of the cooperatives represented by NAJ. 
The witness stated that supply plants provide a legitimate means by 
which producers continue to serve the Class I market of the Central 
marketing area.
    A witness for DFA/PF testified in opposition to the elimination of 
supply plants. According to the witness, provisions for supply plants 
should be provided because they continue to play a role in supplying 
milk to distributing plants. DFA/PF reiterated this opposition to 
Proposal 4 in their post-hearing brief. AMPI, et al., joined DFA/PF in 
opposing this proposal.
E. Standards for Producer Milk
    Several amendments to the Producer milk provision of the Central 
order are recommended for adoption. The amendments were largely 
contained in Proposal 1. Changes to the producer milk provision are 
necessary to more accurately identify the milk of those dairy farmers 
that are regularly and consistently serving the Class I needs of the 
market. The recommended amendments for adoption include: (1) Increasing 
the touch-base standard so that one day's milk production of a dairy 
farmer must be delivered to a pool plant in each of the months of 
January, February and August through November for the milk of the dairy 
farmer to be eligible for diversion to a nonpool plant; and (2) 
Decreasing the diversion limit standards to not more than 75 percent of 
receipts during August through February, and not more than 80 percent 
of receipts for March through July.
    The feature of Proposal 1 to geographically limit the location of 
nonpool plants eligible to receive diverted milk to those plants in 
States located in the marketing area and New Mexico is not recommended 
for adoption.
    Proposal 1 would increase the touch-base standard to require the 
equivalent of at least one days' milk production of a dairy farmer be 
physically received at a pool plant in each of the months of January, 
February and August through November. If the touch-base standard is not 
met, the milk would have to be physically received at a pool plant in 
each of the months of March through July and December. The current 
touch-base standard of the Central order specifies a one-time only 
delivery standard.
    The DFA/PF witness explained that the current one-time touch-base 
standard of the Central order should be replaced by the strengthened 
touch-base feature of Proposal 1. The witness continued that the months 
of January, February, and August through November, were added to the 
proposed touch-base standard to correspond with periods of higher Class 
I demands. The DFA witness explained that requiring one day's milk 
production of a producer to be delivered to a pool plant in each of 
these six months should increase milk available for Class I use. The 
DFA/PF witness was opposed to any touch-base standard of more than one 
day per month for the six months advanced by the proposal, as being 
overly restrictive.
    The DFA/PF witness testified that increasing the touch-base 
standard and lowering the diversion limit standards of the Central 
order will help to ensure that milk that could not consistently and 
reliably demonstrate service to the Class I market is not pooled on the 
order. The witness testified that the pooling of such milk on the order 
reduces the blend price paid to producers who consistently and reliably 
serve the Class I needs of the Central marketing area.
    The DFA/PF witness acknowledged that amendments to the pooling 
provisions of the Central order implemented in 2003 reduced the volume 
of milk pooled that was not serving the Class I needs of the market. 
However, the witness noted that those changes did not contemplate that 
milk from the Mountain States might seek to be pooled on the Central 
order. The witness was of the opinion that the current touch-base and 
diversion limit standards were inadequate to prevent the sharing of 
Class I revenue with the milk of producers that could not possibly 
serve the Class I market of the Central marketing area. The witness was 
of the opinion that if milk located far from the Upper Midwest 
marketing area \1\ and currently pooled on the Upper Midwest order were 
to seek an alternative order on which to pool, the current pooling 
standards of the Central order make it the most likely candidate among 
Federal milk orders. The witness testified that the current pooling 
standards of the Central order can not adequately prevent such milk 
from pooling because the pooling standards are too liberal. According 
to the witness, this milk can not demonstrate regular and reliable 
service to the Class I market.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Interim amendments to the pooling provision of the Upper 
Midwest order were implemented on July 1, 2005. See Tentative 
Partial Decision published in the Federal Register, April 4, 2005 
(70 FR 19709).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The DFA/PF witness illustrated that milk produced in Idaho, for 
example, cannot profitably be delivered to distributing plants located 
in the Central marketing area. According to the witness, milk produced 
in this region would need to travel more than 680 miles for delivery at 
the nearest distributing plant of the order located in Denver. The 
witness asserted that the current one-time touch-base standard combined 
with the existing diversion limit standards of the order provide the 
incentive for milk located far from the marketing area to be profitably 
pooled on the order which otherwise would not be economically feasible.
    The witness provided a scenario where a single 50,000-pound load of 
milk delivered once to Denver could cause one million pounds of milk to 
be pooled on the Central order through the diversion process but 
delivered to plants far from the marketing area. According to the 
witness' calculations, a 50,000-pound load of milk delivered once to a 
pool plant located in Denver would incur a loss $4,640. However, the 
witness explained that each additional load of milk, up to one million 
pounds now qualified for diversion to nonpool plants located near 
producers farms, would return an additional $7,081. The witness 
emphasized that the milk portrayed in this example would rely solely on 
the liberal pooling standards of the order. The milk would never 
consistently and reliably supply the Central marketing area.
    In another scenario, the DFA/PF witness illustrated the impact of 
25 million pounds of milk a month shipped from southern Idaho that 
would be pooled on the Central order through the diversion process by 
meeting the one-time touch-base standard during the months of November 
2003-January 2004. The witness explained that pooling this volume of 
milk would have

[[Page 9021]]

reduced the Central order's blend price by $0.25 per cwt.
    In a third scenario, the DFA/PF witness demonstrated how milk 
located in southern Idaho can be pooled every month through the 
diversion process by meeting the one-time touch-base standard of the 
Central order. The witness said that this scenario was based on the 58-
month period of January 2000 to October 2004. The witness explained 
that this scenario assumes that a single 50,000-pound load of milk was 
shipped to a distributing plant located in the Central marketing area 
and all other milk diverted to nonpool plants are located in Idaho. The 
witness testified that the shipping handler would receive a positive 
return averaging $0.348 per cwt per month ($201,000 over the 58-month 
period) on the total volume of milk pooled. The DFA/PF witness 
concluded that from their scenarios, the current Central order 
diversion limit and touch-base standards encourage pooling of milk that 
can not and does not regularly and consistently supply the Class I 
needs of the market.
    A brief submitted by Select and Continental supported the producer 
milk amendments called for in Proposal 1, except for limiting 
diversions to nonpool plants that are located in the States comprising 
the Central marketing area. The brief noted that the goal of the 
Federal order program should be to ensure that milk pooled on the order 
actually serves the Class I market.
    Features of Proposal 5, offered by Dean, regarding diversion limits 
and touch-base standards should not be adopted. Proposal 5 seeks to 
raise the touch-base standard to 4 days in each month of the year and 
decrease diversion limits to 65 percent for the months of July through 
January, and 75 percent during the months of February through June. A 
Dean witness stated that increasing the touch base requirement would 
ensure the increased availability of milk to serve the needs of the 
fluid market. The witness testified that adopting higher touch-base and 
lower diversion limit standards would ensure that pool plants would 
keep their facilities operating at a higher level of output than would 
be the case if more milk were diverted.
    The diversion limit standard feature of Proposal 5 was modified by 
Dean on brief. The modification specified that milk would not be 
eligible for diversion ``unless'' (instead of ``until'') milk has been 
physically received as producer milk at a pool plant, and the exception 
for a loss of Grade A status was changed to a period not to exceed 21 
rather than 10 days in a calendar year.
    The witness from NAJ, on behalf of AMPI, et al., testified in 
opposition to increasing the touch-base and lowering the diversion 
limit standards as advanced. The witness stated that the proposed 
lowering of diversion limits together with increasing supply plant 
performance standards as called for in Proposal 5 would have negative 
consequences for dairy farmer income, if adopted. The NAJ witness was 
of the opinion that the aim of Proposal 5 was to deter milk from being 
pooled on the order. It was the witness' opinion that the adoption of 
Proposal 5 would create marketing inefficiencies and additional costs 
for members of NAJ. The witness also was of the opinion that the 
adoption of Proposal 5 would discourage available milk supplies in the 
milkshed from pooling on the Central order.
    The record reveals that the current pooling provisions of the 
Central order suggest that distributing plants in certain areas of the 
marketing area are having difficulty obtaining reliable milk supplies. 
Because this decision does not recommend the adoption of transportation 
credits (discussed later in this decision) for the movement of milk to 
distributing plants, increasing the performance standards for supply 
plants is a reasonable measure to better assure that all distributing 
plants of the order are adequately supplied. Additionally, other 
measures should be taken to prevent the pooling of milk which can not 
demonstrate regular and consistent service in supplying the Class I 
needs of the marketing area. The pooling of such milk would result in 
an unwarranted lowering of the blend price returned to those producers 
who demonstrate regular and consistent service in supplying the Class I 
needs of the market.
    The pooling standards of all Federal milk marketing orders, 
including the Central order, are intended to ensure that an adequate 
supply of milk is available to meet the Class I needs of the market and 
provide the criteria for determining the producer milk that has 
demonstrated service in meeting the Class I needs of the market and 
thereby receive the order's blend price. The pooling standards of the 
Central order are represented in the Pool plant, Producer, and the 
Producer milk provisions of the order and are based on performance, 
specifying standards that if met, qualify a producer, the milk of a 
producer, or a plant to share in the benefits arising from the 
classified pricing of milk.
    Pooling standards that are performance-based provide the only 
viable method for determining those producers eligible to share in the 
marketwide pool. It is usually the additional revenue generated from 
the higher-valued Class I use of milk that adds additional income to 
producers, and it is reasonable to expect that only those producers who 
consistently bear the costs of supplying the market's fluid needs 
should share in the returns arising from higher-valued Class I sales. 
An important objective of pooling standards is identifying the milk 
that serves the fluid milk needs of the market, a feature which if 
ineffective can result in pooling milk that is not providing such 
service. Record evidence supports finding that certain features of 
pooling standards of the Central order relating to performance 
standards for supply plants, diversion limits, touch-base, and split 
plants need to be amended given the pooling of milk that does not 
regularly and consistently serve the Class I needs of the Central 
marketing area.
    The most recent amendments to the Central order (published in the 
August 27, 2003, Final Decision (68 FR 51640)) intended to correct 
similar inadequacies of the supply plant pooling provisions and 
diversion limit standards for the consolidated Central order. However, 
the record reveals that the combination and features adopted for pool 
plants in 2003, have not been as effective as intended to reasonably 
assure that only milk of producers who regularly and consistently serve 
the Class I market is pooled on the order.
    Record evidence reveals that the performance and pooling standards 
of the Central order are inadequate to ensure that the benefits of 
consistently and reliably servicing the Class I market are shared 
equitably among those producers who actually bear the costs of serving 
that market. The record evidence demonstrates that milk distant from 
the Central marketing area does not provide reasonable service to the 
Class I market but can be pooled on the order because of current 
pooling standards. This evidence shows that pooling large volumes of 
milk at lower class-use values has lowered the order's blend price. 
Specifically, the record shows that the current one-time touch-base 
standard and the diversion limit standard of the order does not 
properly identify the milk of producers who reliably and consistently 
serve the Class I market.
    The record demonstrates that current pooling standards of the 
Central order make it the most logical order for distant milk--such as 
in Southern Idaho--to be pooled. The record shows that the current 
performance standards of the Central order are insufficient to prevent

[[Page 9022]]

milk from qualifying for pooling while not performing service to the 
Class I market.
    In addition, the record provides evidence that milk produced in 
areas distant from the marketing area cannot profitably be delivered to 
distributing plants in the Central marketing area. However, the current 
liberal touch-base and diversion limit standards make pooling on the 
Central order attractive while reducing the blend price of the order 
for those producers who actually provide service to the Class I market.
    Record evidence reveals the continued importance of supply plants 
for producers whose milk provides consistent and reliable service to 
the Class I market. According to the record, opposition to restrictive 
supply plant standards beyond those advanced in Proposals 1 and 10 was 
based on the continued need for supply plant service to distributing 
plants in the marketing area. Similarly, the record reveals a consensus 
among producers concerning their continued support for supply plant 
systems as an integral part of milk supply networks in the Central 
marketing area. Opposition to the elimination or additional restriction 
of supply plants and supply plant systems in Proposals 4, 11, 12, and 
13, is revealed by the record to be based on the continued importance 
of supply plant systems to supplying the Class I market.
    Record evidence from proponents and opponents of limiting 
diversions to supply plants located in the marketing area or New Mexico 
supports concluding that dairy farmers in some regions of the Central 
marketing area rely on supply plants to market their milk. In addition, 
the record contains evidence that supply plants and supply plant 
systems continue to provide necessary service to the Class I market 
without regard to the location of those plants or plant systems. 
According to the record, distant milk may use the pooling standards of 
the Central order as a means to pool milk that will never perform 
service to the Class I market. However, the record does not show 
clearly that milk diverted to supply plants outside the marketing area 
or New Mexico cannot be part of the legitimate reserve of the market 
which may require additional pooling safeguards. Performance rather 
than plant location continues to be the standard for identifying the 
milk of producers who should share in the benefits of pooling. In that 
regard, this decision finds agreement with the opponents of limiting 
diversions to supply plants located within the marketing area or New 
Mexico, as sought in Proposal 1, to serve the legitimate needs of the 
market.
    This decision finds that several of the performance standards 
advanced in Proposal 1 are reasonable in light of other recommended 
changes to the order's pooling provisions. The combination of 
amendments increasing supply plant performance standards, modifying the 
split plant provision, reducing diversion limit standards and 
increasing the touch-base standard are appropriate in light of denying 
proposals to establish transportation and assembly credits. The 
recommended amendments should more accurately identify the milk of 
those producers that provide a consistent and reliable supply of milk 
to the Class I needs of the Central marketing area and assure that 
distributing plants are adequately supplied.
    The record indicates that milk located either inside or outside the 
marketing area can be reported as diverted milk by a pooled handler. 
This milk is eligible to receive the order's blend price. Under the 
current pooling provisions, this can occur after a one-time delivery to 
a Central marketing area pool plant. After the initial delivery, 
however, such milk need never again be physically delivered to a 
Central marketing area pool plant. The record evidence confirms that 
usually this milk is delivered to a nonpool plant located nearer the 
farms of producers located far from the marketing area who cannot serve 
the Class I market. It is therefore appropriate to amend the order's 
diversion provisions to ensure that milk pooled through the diversion 
process is part of the legitimate reserve supply of the pool plant from 
which it was diverted. It is necessary to safeguard against excessive 
milk supplies becoming associated with the market through the diversion 
process to prevent the unwarranted reduction of the order's blend 
price.
    However, the record does not support finding that diversions to 
plants not located within the marketing area or New Mexico cannot be 
part of the legitimate reserve supply for the marketing area. In this 
regard, the proposed limitation on diversions based on plant location 
is not reasonable. Based on the record, the proposed increase in the 
touch-base standard and lowering of the diversion limitation standard 
should be adequate to ensure that milk consistently and reliably 
serving the Class I market is properly identified. Accordingly, the 
portion of Proposal 1 seeking to limit diversions to plants located in 
the marketing area or New Mexico is not recommended for adoption.
    This decision finds that the touch-base standard should be amended 
so that at least one days' milk production of a dairy farmer is 
physically received at a pool plant during January, February, and 
August through November for the milk of the dairy farmer to be eligible 
for diversion to a nonpool plant. Amending the touch-base standard 
should reduce the ability of milk not performing a consistent and 
reliable service to the Class I market from being pooled. The months of 
January, February, and August through November are, according to the 
record, the high demand months for fluid milk. Adoption of the one-day 
touch base standard for each of these three months would tend to more 
properly identify the milk of those producers serving the market's 
Class I needs. Accordingly, the proposal is recommended for adoption.
    Record evidence does not support finding that the 4-day touch base 
standard advanced by Dean would improve the identification of dairy 
farmers whose milk serves beyond what a 1-day standard would provide 
within the context of current marketing conditions. This will be 
reinforced by the other amendments to the order's pooling standards 
recommended for adoption.
    The proposal requiring a handler to make a 12-month commitment if 
opting to create a split plant would ensure that the milk shipped from 
the pool side of a split-plant serves the Class I market. This proposal 
(Proposal 10, advanced by Dean) is a reasonable modification of the 
split plant feature for supply plants to provide for orderly marketing 
and maintain the integrity and intent of the order's performance 
standards. The proposal retains the principle that milk regularly and 
consistently demonstrating service to the Class I needs of the market 
should benefit from being pooled on the order. Accordingly, Proposal 10 
is recommended for adoption.
    The Federal milk order system recognizes that there are costs 
incurred by producers in servicing an order's Class I market. The 
primary reward to producers for performing such service is receiving 
the order's blend price. Taken as a whole, the amended pooling 
provisions will ensure that milk seeking to be pooled consistently 
demonstrates service in meeting the marketing area's Class I needs. 
Consequently, adoption of these amended pooling provisions will provide 
for more equitable sharing of revenue generated from Class I sales 
among those producers who bear those

[[Page 9023]]

costs and assure Class I handlers of a regular and reliable supply for 
fluid use.

2. Establishing Pooling Limits

Preliminary Statement

    Federal milk marketing orders rely on the tools of classified 
pricing and marketwide pooling to assure an adequate supply of milk for 
fluid (Class I) use and to provide for the equitable sharing of the 
revenues arising from the classified pricing of milk. Classified 
pricing assigns a value to milk according to how the milk is used. 
Regulated handlers who buy milk from dairy farmers are charged class 
prices according to how they use the farmer's milk. Dairy farmers are 
then paid a weighted average or ``blend'' price. The blend price that 
dairy farmers are paid for their milk is derived through the marketwide 
pooling of all class uses of milk in a marketing area. Thus each 
producer receives an equal share of each use class of milk and is 
indifferent as to the actual Class for which the milk was used. The 
Class I price is usually the highest class price for milk. 
Historically, the Class I use of milk provides the additional revenue 
to a marketing area's total classified use value of milk.
    The series of Class prices that are applicable for any given month 
are not announced simultaneously. The Class I price and the Class II 
skim milk price are announced prior to the beginning of the month for 
which they will be effective. Class prices for milk in all other uses 
for the month are not determined until on or before the 5th day of the 
following month. The Class I price is determined by adding a 
differential value to the higher of either an advanced Class III or 
Class IV value. These values are calculated based on formula using 
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey prices of 
cheese, butter, and nonfat dried milk powder for the first two weeks of 
the prior month. For example, the Class I price for August is announced 
in late July and is based on the higher of the Class III or IV value 
computed using NASS commodity price surveys for the first two weeks of 
July.
    The Class III and IV prices for the month are determined and 
announced after the end of the month based on the NASS survey prices 
for the selected dairy commodities during the month. For example, the 
Class III and IV prices for August are based on NASS survey commodity 
prices during August. A large increase in the NASS survey price for the 
selected dairy commodities from one month to the next can result in the 
Class III or IV price exceeding the Class I price. This occurrence is 
commonly referred to by the dairy industry as a ``Class price 
inversion.'' A producer price inversion generally refers to when the 
Class III or IV price exceeds the average classified use value, or 
blend price, of milk for the month. Price inversions have occurred with 
increasing frequency in Federal milk orders since the current pricing 
plan was implemented on January 1, 2000, despite efforts made during 
Federal Order Reform to reduce such occurrences. Price inversions can 
create an incentive for dairy farmers and manufacturing handlers who 
voluntarily participate in the marketwide pooling of milk to elect not 
to pool their milk on the order. Class I handlers do not have this 
option; their participation in the marketwide pool is mandatory.
    The producer price differential, or PPD, is the difference between 
the Class III price and the weighted average value of all Classes. In 
essence, the PPD is the dairy farmer's share of the additional/reduced 
revenues associated with the Class I, II and IV milk pooled in the 
market. If the value of Class I, II and IV milk in the pool is greater 
than the Class III value, dairy farmers receive a positive PPD. 
However, a negative PPD can occur if the value of the Class III milk in 
the pool exceeds the value of the remaining classes of milk in the 
pool. This can occur as a result of the price inversions discussed 
above.
    The Central Federal order operates a marketwide pool. The Order 
contains pooling provisions which specify criteria that, if met, allow 
dairy farmers to share in the benefits that arise from classified 
pricing through pooling. The equalization of all class prices among 
handlers regulated by an order is accomplished through a mechanism 
known as the producer settlement fund (PSF). Typically, Class I 
handlers pay the difference between the blend price and their use-value 
of milk into the PSF. Manufacturing handlers typically receive a draw 
from the PSF, usually the difference between the Class II, III or IV 
price and the blend price. In this way, all handlers pay the Class 
value for milk and all dairy farmer suppliers receive at least the 
order's blend price.
    When manufacturing class prices of milk are high enough to result 
in a use-value of milk for a handler that is higher than the blend 
price, handlers of manufacturing milk may choose to not pool their milk 
receipts. Opting to not pool their milk receipts allows these handlers 
to avoid the obligation of paying into the PSF. The choice by a 
manufacturing handler to not pool their milk receipts is commonly 
referred to as ``de-pooling''. When the blend price rises above the 
manufacturing class use-values of milk these same handlers again opt to 
pool their milk receipts. This is often referred to as ``re-pooling''. 
The ability of manufacturing handlers to de-pool and re-pool 
manufacturing milk is viewed by some market participants as being 
inequitable to both producers and handlers.

The ``De-Pooling'' Proposals

    Proponents are in agreement that milk marketing orders should 
contain provisions that will tend to deter the practice of de-pooling. 
Four proposals intending to deter the de-pooling of milk were 
considered in this proceeding. The proposals offered different degrees 
of deterrence against de-pooling by establishing limits on the amount 
of milk that can be re-pooled. The proponents of these four proposals 
are generally of the opinion that de-pooling erodes equity among 
producers and handlers, undermines the orderly marketing of milk and is 
detrimental to the Federal order system.
    Two different approaches to deter de-pooling are represented by 
these four proposals. The first approach, published in the hearing 
notice as Proposals 2 and 8, addresses de-pooling by limiting the 
volume of milk a handler can pool in a month to a specified percentage 
of what the handler pooled in the prior month. The second approach, 
published in the hearing notice as Proposals 6 and 7, addresses de-
pooling by establishing what is commonly referred to as a ``dairy 
farmer for other markets'' provision. These proposals would require 
milk of a producer that was de-pooled to not be able to be re-pooled by 
that producer for a defined time period. All proponents agreed that 
while none of the proposals would completely eliminate de-pooling, they 
would likely deter the practice.
    Of the four proposals received that would limit de-pooling, this 
decision recommends Proposal 2, offered by DFA/PF, for adoption. 
Specifically, adoption of the proposal would limit the volume of milk a 
handler could pool in a month to no more than 125 percent of the volume 
of milk pooled in the prior month. Milk diverted to nonpool plants in 
excess of this limit would not be pooled, and milk shipped to pool 
distributing plants would not be subject to the 125 percent limitation. 
The 125 percent limitation may be waived at the discretion of the 
Market Administrator for a new handler on the order or for an existing 
handler whose milk supply changes due to unusual circumstances.
    As published in the hearing notice, Proposal 8, offered by Dean 
Foods, addresses de-pooling in a similar manner as Proposal 2, but 
would

[[Page 9024]]

establish a limit on the total volume of milk a handler could pool in a 
given month to 115 percent of the volume that was pooled in the prior 
month. This proposal was modified at the hearing to allow for pooling 
the milk receipts of a new handler on the order without volume 
restrictions.
    As published in the hearing notice, Proposals 6 and 7, also offered 
by Dean Foods would address de-pooling by establishing defined time 
periods during which de-pooled milk could not be pooled. Proposal 6 
essentially would require an annual pooling commitment by handler to 
the market. Under Proposal 6, if the milk of a producer is de-pooled in 
a month, then the milk of the producer could not re-establish 
eligibility for pooling on the order during the following eleven months 
unless ten days milk production was delivered to a pool distributing 
plant. Under Proposal 6, handlers that de-pool milk have limited 
options to return milk to the pool, either shipping ten days milk 
production of a producer to a pool distributing plant or waiting eleven 
months for eligibility to re-pool.
    Under Dean's Proposal 7, a handler that de-pools milk cannot re-
pool for a 2 to 4 month time period, depending on the month in which 
de-pooling occurred. Proposal 7 also provides the option to return milk 
to the pool by shipping ten days milk production of a producer to a 
pool distributing plant. Proposals 6 and 7 were modified at the 
hearing.
    A witness appearing on behalf of DFA/PF testified in support of 
Proposal 2 and in general opposition to the practice of de-pooling. The 
witness testified that adoption of Proposal 2 would minimize the 
practice of de-pooling since not all the milk that was de-pooled could 
immediately return to the pool in the following month. The witness 
noted that both DFA and Prairie Farms de-pool milk when advantageous 
but stressed that the practice of de-pooling and re-pooling is 
detrimental to the Federal order system.
    The DFA/PF witness testified that restricting the pooling of milk 
on the basis of prior performance is not a new concept in Federal milk 
marketing order provisions. The witness referenced the ``dairy farmer 
for other markets'' provision currently in place in the Northeast order 
as an example of pooling provisions based on prior performance. The 
witness noted that Proposal 2 is similar to a ``dairy farmer for other 
markets'' provision as it limits pooling based on the handler's 
previous month's p