Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order; Expanding the Membership of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and Other Changes, 26469-26475 [2015-10449]

Download as PDF 26469 Proposed Rules Federal Register Vol. 80, No. 89 Friday, May 8, 2015 Agricultural Marketing Service SW., Room 1406–S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250–0244; facsimile: (202) 205–2800. All comments should reference the document number and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and will be made available for public inspection, including name and address, if provided, in the above office during regular business hours or it can be viewed at https://www.regulations.gov. 7 CFR Part 1218 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE [Document Number AMS–FV–14–0089] Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order; Expanding the Membership of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and Other Changes Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: This proposal invites comments on expanding the membership of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (Council) under the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order (Order). The Council administers the Order with oversight by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This proposal would increase the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This would help ensure that the Council reflects the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports into the United States. This proposal would also add eligibility requirements for the public member, clarify the Council’s nomination procedures and its ability to serve the diversity of the industry, and increase the number of members needed for a quorum. This proposal also invites comments on prescribing late payment and interest charges for past due assessments. These changes would help facilitate program administration. All of these actions were unanimously recommended by the Council. DATES: Comments must be received by July 7, 2015. ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments concerning this proposal. Comments may be submitted on the Internet at: https://www.regulations.gov or to the Promotion and Economics Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 May 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 Maureen T. Pello, Marketing Specialist, Promotion and Economics Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA, P.O. Box 831, Beavercreek, Oregon, 97004; telephone: (503) 632– 8848; facsimile (202) 205–2800; or electronic mail: Maureen.Pello@ ams.usda.gov. This proposal is issued under the Order (7 CFR part 1218). The Order is authorized under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 (1996 Act) (7 U.S.C. 7411–7425). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Executive Order 12866 and Executive Order 13563 Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts and equity). Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, reducing costs, harmonizing rules and promoting flexibility. This action has been designated as a ‘‘non-significant regulatory action’’ under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866. Accordingly, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has waived the review process. Executive Order 13175 This action has been reviewed in accordance with the requirements of Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments. The review reveals that this regulation would not have substantial and direct effects on Tribal governments and would not have significant Tribal implications. PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Executive Order 12988 This proposal has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. It is not intended to have retroactive effect. Section 524 of the 1996 Act (7 U.S.C. 7423) provides that it shall not affect or preempt any other Federal or State law authorizing promotion or research relating to an agricultural commodity. Under section 519 of the 1996 Act (7 U.S.C. 7418), a person subject to an order may file a written petition with USDA stating that an order, any provision of an order, or any obligation imposed in connection with an order, is not established in accordance with the law, and request a modification of an order or an exemption from an order. Any petition filed challenging an order, any provision of an order, or any obligation imposed in connection with an order, shall be filed within two years after the effective date of an order, provision, or obligation subject to challenge in the petition. The petitioner will have the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. Thereafter, USDA will issue a ruling on the petition. The 1996 Act provides that the district court of the United States for any district in which the petitioner resides or conducts business shall have the jurisdiction to review a final ruling on the petition, if the petitioner files a complaint for that purpose not later than 20 days after the date of the entry of USDA’s final ruling. Background This proposal invites comments on expanding the membership of the Council under the Order. The Council administers the Order with oversight by USDA. Under the program, assessments are collected from domestic producers and importers and used for research and promotion projects designed to increase the demand for highbush blueberries. This proposal would increase the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This would help ensure that the Council reflects the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports into the United States. This proposal would also add eligibility requirements for the public member, clarify the Council’s nomination procedures and its ability to serve the diversity of the industry, and increase the number of members needed for a quorum. This proposal also invites E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1 26470 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed Rules comments on prescribing late payment and interest charges on past due assessments. These changes would help facilitate program administration. All of these actions were unanimously recommended by the Council at its meeting on October 3, 2014. Expanding the Council’s Membership Section 1218.40(a) of the Order currently specifies that the Council be composed of no more than 16 members and alternates appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary). Ten of the 16 members and alternates are producers. One producer member and alternate are from each of the following regions within the United States: Region #1 Western Region; Region #2 Midwest Region; Region #3 Northeast Region; and Region #4 Southern Region. One producer member and alternate are from each of the top six blueberry producing states, based upon the average of the total tons produced over the previous three years. Currently, these states include Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, and California. Average tonnage is based upon production and assessment figures generated by the Council. Of the remaining six Council members and alternates, three members and alternates are importers. One member and alternate must be an exporter, defined in section 1218.40 as a blueberry producer currently shipping blueberries into the United States from the largest foreign blueberry production area, based on a three-year average (currently Chile). One member and alternate must be a first handler, defined in section 1218.40 as a United States based independent or cooperative organization which is a producer/ shipper of domestic blueberries. Finally, one member and alternate must represent the public. Section 1218.40(b) of the Order specifies that, at least once every five years, the Council will review the geographical distribution of the production of blueberries in the United States and the quantity of imports. The review is conducted through an audit of state crop production figures and Council assessment records. If warranted, the Council will recommend to the Secretary that its membership be altered to reflect changes in the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and the quantity of imports. If the level of imports increases, importer members and alternates may be added to the Council. Council Recommendation Adding Two State Producer Positions The Council met on October 3, 2014, and reviewed domestic production and assessment data for the pasts three years (2011–2013). This data for the top blueberry producing states is summarized in Table 1 below. TABLE 1—PRODUCTION 1 AND ASSESSMENT 2 FIGURES FROM 2011–2013 2011 State Tons asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Michigan ........................... Oregon ............................. Washington ...................... Georgia ............................ New Jersey ...................... California .......................... North Carolina .................. Florida .............................. Mississippi ........................ Indiana ............................. Assessments paid 36,000 32,750 30,500 32,500 31,000 21,050 18,500 11,700 5,250 800 1 Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2013 Summary, July 2014, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, p. 34. 16:19 May 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 Tons $434,775 363,726 319,635 343,694 321,123 286,696 189,061 131,538 27,096 3,007 As shown in Table 1, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, and Florida, respectively, were the top eight highbush blueberry producing states based on the 3-year average of both production and assessments paid from 2011–2013. Mississippi and Indiana, respectively, were the ninth and tenth highest blueberry producing states from 2011–2013. Blueberry production in Florida, the smallest producer of the top eight producing states, was more than double that of Mississippi. Since the Council’s inception in 2001 and continuing until 2006, there were five state positions on the Council; producers from Michigan, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina held those five positions. In 2006, a VerDate Sep<11>2014 2012 43,500 36,000 35,000 38,500 27,000 20,450 20,250 9,050 4,500 750 2013 Assessments paid $528,782 433,326 334,242 347,666 285,502 301,212 198,090 88,246 28,610 3,160 2 Council PO 00000 Assessments paid Tons 57,500 44,750 40,800 34,000 25,080 25,700 21,200 10,750 3,650 1,600 sixth state position was added to the Council, with the State of Washington earning a seat (71 FR 44553; August 7, 2006). Production shifted in the coming years, and by 2014, California became the sixth top blueberry producing state and earned a position on the Council, with its 3-year average production surpassing that of North Carolina. After reviewing state production data, the Council recommended revising its membership so that one producer member and alternate from each of the top eight producing blueberry states have seats on the Council, based upon the average of the total tons produced over the previous 3 years. Thus, the number of state positions on the Council would be increased from six to eight. Based upon recent production figures, 3-year average $668,678 517,579 361,595 359,681 288,578 366,494 190,904 124,576 17,566 7,751 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 45,500 37,833 35,433 35,000 27,693 22,400 19,983 10,500 4,467 1,050 Assessments paid $544,075 438,210 338,491 350,347 298,401 318,134 192,685 114,787 24,424 4,639 this would allow North Carolina and Florida to each have a state member and alternate seat on the Council. Section 1218.40(a)(2) would be revised accordingly. Adding One Importer and One Exporter Position The Council also reviewed import data and compared it to domestic data. Table 2 below shows the domestic (U.S.) production figures and quantity of imports from 2011–2013 as well as assessments paid for domestic and imported blueberries for those years. The table also shows the 3-year average of domestic production, imports and assessments paid for 2011–2013. assessment records 2011–2013. Frm 00002 Tons E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1 26471 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed Rules TABLE 2—U.S.3 AND IMPORT 4 QUANTITIES AND ASSESSMENT 5 DATA FROM 2011–2013 Domestic (U.S.) assessments Year 2011 ................................................................................................................. 2012 ................................................................................................................. 2013 ................................................................................................................. 3-Year Average ................................................................................................ Percent of Total ............................................................................................... As shown in Table 2, the quantity of imported blueberries as well as assessments paid by importers has increased from 2011–2013. Based upon a 3-year average of total assessments paid under the program, domestic blueberries account for 59 percent of $2,151,682 2,434,646 2,577,953 2,387,177 59% assessments paid and imports account for 41 percent of assessments paid. Additionally, based on a 3-year average of the total tonnage covered under the program, domestic production accounts for 64 percent of the tonnage and Import assessments $1,525,936 1,601,966 1,795,164 1,641,022 41% U.S. Crop (tons) 221,600 236,700 265,600 241,303 64% Imports (tons) 124,549 132,133 151,005 135,896 36% imports account for 36 percent of the tonnage. The Council also reviewed import data by country. Table 3 below shows the quantity of imports by country from 2011–2013 as well as the 3-year average. TABLE 3—QUANTITY OF BLUEBERRIES FROM FOREIGN PRODUCTION AREAS 2011–2013 6 Quantity (tons) Foreign blueberry production areas shipping into the United States 2011 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Chile ................................................................................................................. Canada ............................................................................................................ Argentina .......................................................................................................... As shown in Table 3, Chile and Canada, respectively, were the top two foreign production areas shipping blueberries into the United States from 2011–2013. Argentina has been the third top foreign production area shipping blueberries into the United States, although the quantity of Argentinian imports is much lower than the quantity of blueberries from Chile and Canada. Regarding membership on the Council, representatives from Canada were the exporter member and alternate from the time of the Council’s inception and continuing through 2009. Since 2010, representatives from Chile have been the exporter member and alternate on the Council. Upon reviewing import data, the Council recommended adding one importer member and one alternate to its membership. This would increase the number of importer positions from three to four. The Council also recommended adding one exporter member and one alternate to its membership to represent foreign producers currently shipping blueberries into the United States from the second largest foreign blueberry production area, based on a 3-year average. This would increase the number of exporter positions from one 3 Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, p. 9. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 May 07, 2015 76,889 30,374 9,001 to two, allowing exporters from both Chile and Canada to be represented on the Council. Section 1218.40(a) of the Order is proposed to be amended accordingly. Thus, the number of Council members would increase from 16 to 20. Of the 20 members, 12 would be domestic producers, 4 would be importers, 2 would be exporters, and 1 each would be a handler and public member. Of the 18 Council members representing domestic producers, importers and exporters, 66.7 percent would represent the domestic industry and 33.3 percent of the Council would represent imports or foreign production. This would realign the Council’s membership to better reflect the geographic distribution of domestic and imported blueberries. Other Changes Public Member Eligibility The Council reviewed other Order provisions regarding its membership and operations. The Council recommended revising paragraph (a)(6) of section 1218.40 to clarify eligibility requirements for the public member and alternate member positions. Specifically, the Council recommended that the public member and alternate not be a blueberry producer, handler, 4 U.S. Customs and Border Protection data 2011– 2013. Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 2012 2013 69,754 70,767 14,830 84,673 48,149 13,813 3-Year average 77,105 49,763 12,548 importer, exporter or have a financial interest in the production, sales, marketing or distribution of blueberries. Diversity The Council also recommended adding language to the Order to clarify its ability to serve the diversity of the industry. The Council recommended adding a new paragraph (c) to section 1218.40 to specify that, when the industry makes recommendations for nominees to serve on the Council, it should take into account the diversity of the population served and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the members to serve a diverse population, size of the operations, methods of production and distribution, and other distinguishing factors to ensure that the recommendations of the Council take into account the diverse interest of persons responsible for paying assessments, and others in the marketing chain, if appropriate. Nominations and Appointments The Council recommended minor revisions to section 1218.41 of the Order regarding nominations and appointments. The procedures to nominate state and regional producers, as well as importers, exporters, first handlers, and public members would 5 Council financial audit records 2011–2013. data 2011–2013. 6 Customs E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 26472 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed Rules not change. The section would merely be revised to add clarity regarding the process for nominating members in states with and without a state blueberry commission or marketing order. The Council also recommended adding language to section 1218.41 to expand the number of nominees submitted to the Secretary for consideration. Paragraph (a) of section 1218.41 currently provides that, when a state has a blueberry commission or marketing order in place, the state commission or committee will nominate members to serve on the Council. At least two nominees must be recommended to the Secretary for each member and each alternate position. The Council recommended that other qualified persons who are interested in serving in the respective state positions but are not nominated by their State marketing order or commission be designated by the State organization and/or Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary. Section 1218.41(a) would be revised accordingly. Likewise, paragraph (d) of section 1218.41 currently provides that nominations for the importer, exporter, first handler, and public member positions be made by the Council. Two nominees for each member and each alternate position are submitted to the Secretary for consideration. The Council recommended that other qualified persons who are interested in serving in these positions but are not recommended by the Council be designated by the Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary. The current paragraph (d) in section 1218.41 would be modified accordingly and would become paragraph (c). The Council also recommended adding a new paragraph (d) to section 1218.41 to specify that producer, handler and importer nominees must be in compliance with the Order’s provisions regarding the payment of assessments and filing of reports. This would help ensure that only persons in compliance with the Order’s obligations serve on the Council. Further, this section would clarify that producer and importer nominees must produce or import, respectively, 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries annually. This would bring the Order in line with how the program has been administered since its inception. Section 1218.41 is proposed to be revised accordingly. Council Procedures The Council recommended revisions to section 1218.45 regarding procedures. First, the Council recommended VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 May 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 increasing the number of members needed for a quorum. Paragraph (a) of section 1218.45 currently specifies that nine members are needed for a quorum, which is a majority of the current 16member Council. Increasing the number of Council members to 20 warrants increasing the number members needed for a quorum to 11, which would be a majority of the proposed 20-member Council. The Council also recommended adding flexibility to its procedures so that members participating in Council meetings may cast votes on issues either in person or by electronic or other means as deemed appropriate. Specifically, a new paragraph (f) would be added to section 1218.45 to specify that all votes at meetings of the Council and committees may be cast in person or by electronic voting or other means as the Council and Secretary deem appropriate to allow members participating by telephone or other electronic means to cast votes. Past Due Assessments The Order specifies that the funds to cover the Council’s expenses shall be paid from assessments on producers and importers, donations from persons not subject to assessments and from other funds available to the Council. First handlers are responsible for collecting and submitting reports and producer assessments to the Council. Handlers must also maintain records necessary to verify their reports. Importers are responsible for paying assessments to the Council on highbush blueberries imported into the United States through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Customs). The Order also provides for two exemptions. Producers and importers who produce or import less than 2,000 pounds of blueberries annually, and producers and importers of 100 percent organic blueberries are exempt from the payment of assessments. Section 1218.52(e) of the Order specifies that all assessment payments and reports must be submitted to the office of the Council. Assessments on imported blueberries are collected by Customs prior to entry into the United States. Assessments on domestic blueberries for a crop year must be received by the Council no later than November 30 of that year. A late payment charge shall be imposed on any handler who fails to remit to the Council, the total amount for which any such handler is liable on or before the due date established by the Council. In addition to the late payment charge, an interest charge shall be imposed on the outstanding amount for which the PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 handler is liable. The rate of interest must be prescribed in regulations issued by the Secretary. Assessment funds are used for research and promotion activities that are intended to benefit all industry members. Thus, it is important that all assessed entities pay their assessments in a timely manner. Entities who fail to pay their assessments on time may reap the benefits of Council programs at the expense of others. In addition, they may utilize funds for their own use that should otherwise be paid to the Council to finance Council programs. The Council recommended prescribing rates of late payment and interest charges for past due assessments in the Order’s regulations. A late payment charge would be imposed upon handlers who fail to pay their assessments to the Council within 30 calendar days of the date when assessments are due. This one-time late payment charge would be 5 percent of the assessments due before interest charges have accrued. Additionally, interest at a rate of 1 percent per month on the outstanding balance, including any late payment and accrued interest, would be added to any accounts for which payment has not been received within 30 calendar days of the date when assessments are due. Interest would continue to accrue monthly until the outstanding balance is paid to the Council. This action is expected to help facilitate program administration by providing an incentive for entities to remit their assessments in a timely manner, with the intent of creating a fair and equitable process among all assessed entities. Accordingly, a new Subpart C would be added to the Order for provisions implementing the blueberry Order, and a new section 1218.520 would be added to Subpart C. Late payment charges and interest on past due assessments are not applicable for assessments on imported blueberries because the assessments are collected by Customs at the time of entry. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) (5 U.S.C. 601– 612), AMS is required to examine the impact of the proposed rule on small entities. Accordingly, AMS has considered the economic impact of this action on such entities. The purpose of the RFA is to fit regulatory actions to the scale of businesses subject to such actions so that small businesses will not be disproportionately burdened. The Small Business Administration defines, in 13 E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed Rules CFR part 121, small agricultural producers as those having annual receipts of no more than $750,000 and small agricultural service firms (first handlers and importers) as those having annual receipts of no more than $7 million. There are approximately 2,000 domestic producers, 80 first handlers and 200 importers of highbush blueberries covered under the program. Dividing the highbush blueberry crop value for 2013, $715,958,000,7 by the number of producers (2,000) yields an average annual producer revenue estimate of $357,979. It is estimated that in 2013, about 60 percent of the first handlers shipped under $7 million worth of highbush blueberries. Based on 2013 Customs data, it is estimated that almost 90 percent of the importers shipped under $7 million worth of highbush blueberries. Based on the foregoing, the majority of producers, first handlers and importers may be classified as small entities. We do not have information concerning the number of exporters and their size. Comments providing any information or data concerning exporters are requested. Regarding value of the commodity, as mentioned above, based on 2013 NASS data, the value of the domestic highbush blueberry crop was about $716 million. According to Customs data, the value of 2013 imports was about $563 million. This proposal invites comments on amending sections 1218.40, 1218.41 and 1218.45 of the Order regarding Council membership, nominations, and procedures, respectively. The Council administers the Order with oversight by USDA. Under the program, assessments are collected from domestic producers and importers and used for research and promotion projects designed to increase the demand for highbush blueberries. This proposal would increase the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This would help ensure that the Council reflects the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports into the United States. Authority for this action is provided in section 1218.40(b) of the Order and section 515(b) of the 1996 Act. This proposal would also prescribe charges for past due assessments under the Order. A new section 1218.520 would be added to the Order specifying a one-time late payment charge of 5 percent of the assessments due and interest at a rate of 1 percent per month 7 Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2014 Summary, July 2014, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), p. 10. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 May 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 on the outstanding balance, including any late payment and accrued interest. This section would be included in a new Subpart C—Provisions for Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order. Authority for this action is provided in section 1218.52(e) of the Order and section 517(e) of the 1996 Act. Regarding the economic impact of the proposed rule on affected entities, expanding the Council membership and other proposed changes to the Order’s membership provisions impose no additional costs on industry members. Eligible producers, importers and exporters interested in serving on the Council would have to complete a background questionnaire. Those requirements are addressed later in this proposal in the section titled Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements. Prescribing charges for past due assessments imposes no additional costs on handlers who pay their assessments on time. It merely provides an incentive for entities to remit their assessments in compliance with the Order. For all entities who are delinquent in paying assessments, both large and small, the charges would be applied the same. As for the impact on the industry as a whole, this action would help facilitate program administration by providing an incentive for entities to remit their assessments in a timely manner, with the intent of creating a fair and equitable process among all assessed entities. Additionally, as previously mentioned, the Order also provides for two exemptions. Producers and importers who produce or import less than 2,000 pounds of blueberries annually, and producers and importers of 100 percent organic blueberries are exempt from the payment of assessments. Of the 2,000 producers, it is estimated that 1,860 producers and 180 importers produce or import over the 2,000-pound threshold and pay assessments under the program. Regarding alternatives, the Council has been reviewing its membership and contemplating adding new members to reflect changes in the geographic distribution of blueberries for the past few years. As previously mentioned, in 2014, California became the sixth top blueberry producing state, which earned that state a member and alternate seat on the Council, while North Carolina lost its member and alternate seat. The Council formed a subcommittee that considered various options. One option was to eliminate the four regional producer positions and allocate nine seats to producers representing the nine top producing blueberry states and one seat to a producer representing all other PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 26473 producing states (producer at-large). Another option considered was to increase the number of state producer positions from six to seven so that North Carolina would have a seat. The Council also considered maintaining the status quo. Ultimately the Council recommended revising the Order so that the top eight producing blueberry states would be represented on the Council. The Council also considered adding two importers rather than one importer and one exporter to its membership. However, upon reviewing the import statistics, the Council concluded that it was important to have foreign producer representation from the top two countries shipping blueberries into the United States represented on the Council. Thus, the Council recommended adding one importer and one exporter member and alternates to the Council. Regarding requirements for late assessments, the Council considered not prescribing rates for late charges and interest. However, the Council concluded that the rates should be codified along with the applicable date when charges would be applied so that the Order is clear on what is required. Additionally, the 1996 Act requires that the rates be prescribed by the Secretary. Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), the information collection and recordkeeping requirements that are imposed by the Order have been approved previously under OMB control number 0581–0093. Eligible producers, importers, exporters, handlers, and public members interested in serving on the Council must complete a background questionnaire (Form AD–755) to verify their eligibility. This proposed rule would not result in a change to the information collection and recordkeeping requirements previously approved and would impose no additional reporting and recordkeeping burden on blueberry producers, importers, exporters, handlers or public members. As with all Federal promotion programs, reports and forms are periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and duplication by industry and public sector agencies. Finally, USDA has not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote the use of the Internet and other E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1 26474 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed Rules information technologies to provide increased opportunities or citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes. Regarding outreach efforts, this action was discussed by the Council at meetings in October 2012 and in 2013 and at executive and subcommittee meetings held in 2014. The Council met in October 2014 and unanimously made its recommendation. All of the Council’s meetings are open to the public and interested persons are invited to participate and express their views. We have performed this initial RFA analysis regarding the impact of the proposed rule on small entities and we invite comments concerning the potential effects of this action. While this proposed rule set forth below has not received the approval of USDA, it has been determined that it is consistent with and would effectuate the purposes of the 1996 Act. A 60-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to respond to this proposal. All written comments received in response to this proposed rule by the date specified will be considered prior to finalizing this action. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1218 Administrative practice and procedure, Advertising, Blueberry promotion, Consumer information, Marketing agreements, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 1218 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 1218—BLUEBERRY PROMOTION, RESEARCH, AND INFORMATION ORDER 1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 1218 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7411–7425; 7 U.S.C. 7401. 2. In § 1218.40, revise the introductory text in paragraph (a), revise paragraphs (a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(4), and (a)(6) and add a new paragraph (c) to read as follows: ■ asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS § 1218.40 Establishment and membership. (a) Establishment of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. There is hereby established a U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, hereinafter called the Council, composed of no more than 20 members and alternates, appointed by the Secretary from nominations as follows: * * * * * (2) One producer member and alternate from each of the top eight blueberry producing states, based on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 May 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 average of the total tons produced over the previous three years. Average tonnage will be based upon production and assessment figures generated by the Council. (3) Four importers and alternates. (4) Two exporters and alternates will be filled by foreign blueberry producers currently shipping blueberries into the United States from the two largest foreign blueberry production areas, respectively, based on a three-year average. * * * * * (6) One public member and alternate. The public member and alternate public member may not be a blueberry producer, handler, importer, exporter, or have a financial interest in the production, sales, marketing or distribution of blueberries. * * * * * (c) Council’s ability to serve the diversity of the industry. When making recommendations for appointments, the industry should take into account the diversity of the population served and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the members to serve a diverse population, size of the operations, methods of production and distribution, and other distinguishing factors to ensure that the recommendations of the Council take into account the diverse interest of persons responsible for paying assessments, and others in the marketing chain, if appropriate. ■ 3. Section 1218.41 is revised to read as follows: § 1218.41 Nominations and appointments. (a) State representatives. (1) When a state has a state blueberry commission or marketing order in place, the state commission or committee will nominate members to serve on the Council. At least two nominees shall be recommended to the Secretary for each member and each alternate position. Other eligible persons interested in serving in the respective state positions but not nominated by their State marketing order or commission will be designated by the State organization and/or Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary. (2) Nomination and election of state representatives where no commission or order is in place will be handled by the Council staff. The Council staff will seek nominations for members and alternates from the specific states. Nominations will be returned to the Council office and placed on a ballot which will then be sent to producers in the state for a vote. The final nominee for member will have received the highest number of votes cast. The person with the second PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 highest number of votes cast will be the final nominee for alternate. The persons with the third and fourth highest number of votes cast will be designated as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary. (b) Regional representatives. Nomination and election of regional representatives will be handled by the Council staff. The Council staff will seek nominations for members and alternates from the specific regions. Nominations will be returned to the Council office and placed on a ballot which will then be sent to producers in the region for a vote. The final nominee for member will have received the highest number of votes cast. The person with the second highest number of votes cast will be the final nominee for alternate. The persons with the third and fourth highest number of votes cast will be designated by the Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary. (c) Nominations for the importer, exporter, first handler, and public member positions will be made by the Council. Two nominees for each member and each alternate position will be recommended to the Secretary for consideration. Other qualified persons interested in serving in these positions but not recommended by the Council will be designated by the Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary. (d) Producer, handler and importer nominees must be in compliance with the Order’s provisions regarding payment of assessments and filing of reports. Further, producers and importers must produce or import, respectively, 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries annually. (e) From the nominations, the Secretary shall select the members and alternate members of the Council. ■ 4. In § 1218.45, revise paragraph (a), redesignate paragraphs (f), (g), (h), and (i) as paragraphs (g), (h), (i) and (j), and add a new paragraph (f) to read as follows: § 1218.45 Procedure. (a) At a Council meeting, it will be considered a quorum when a minimum of 11 members, or their alternates serving in their absence, are present. * * * * * (f) All votes at meetings of the Council and committees may be cast in person or by electronic voting or other means as the Council and Secretary deem appropriate to allow members participating by telephone or other electronic means to cast votes. * * * * * ■ 5. Add Subpart C consisting of § 1218.520, to read as follows: E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed Rules Subpart C—Provisions for Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order § 1218.520 Late payment and interest charges for past due assessments. (1) A late payment charge will be imposed on any handler who fails to make timely remittance to the Council of the total assessments for which they are liable. The late payment will be imposed on any assessments not received within 30 calendar days of the date when assessments are due. This one-time late payment charge will be 5 percent of the assessments due before interest charges have accrued. (2) In addition to the late payment charge, 1 percent per month interest on the outstanding balance, including any late payment and accrued interest, will be added to any accounts for which payment has not been received within 30 calendar days of the date when assessments are due. Interest will continue to accrue monthly until the outstanding balance is paid to the Council. Dated: April 30, 2015. Rex A. Barnes, Associate Administrator. [FR Doc. 2015–10449 Filed 5–7–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY 10 CFR Part 431 [Docket Number EERE–2015–BT–STD– 0008] RIN 1904–AD52 Energy Conservation Program for Certain Industrial Equipment: Energy Conservation Standards for DedicatedPurpose Pool Pumps; Request for Information Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy. ACTION: Request for information (RFI). AGENCY: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting information to inform a potential rulemaking to consider new energy conservation standards for dedicated-purpose pool pumps. Pumps, which are already covered equipment under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, as amended (EPCA), come in a variety of forms—including dedicated-purpose pool pumps. This RFI seeks to solicit information to help DOE determine the feasibility of developing energy conservation standards and an asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 May 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 appropriate test procedure for this equipment. This RFI outlines the potential scope that could be involved in regulating dedicated-purpose pool pumps, possible industry-based testing methods that could be used to evaluate the efficiency of this equipment, and the types of information that would be needed in analyzing the potential for setting standards for this equipment. This RFI also solicits the public for information to help inform DOE’s efforts in evaluating the prospect of regulating this equipment. DATES: Written comments and information are requested on or before June 22, 2015. ADDRESSES: Interested persons are encouraged to submit comments using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Alternatively, interested persons may submit comments, identified by Docket number EERE–2015–BT–STD–0008, by any of the following methods: (1) Email: to PoolPumps2015STD0008@ee.doe.gov. Include EERE–2015–BT–STD–0008 in the subject line of the message. Submit electronic comments in WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, PDF, or ASCII file format, and avoid the use of special characters or any form of encryption. (2) Mail: Ms. Brenda Edwards, U.S. Department of Energy, Building Technologies Program, Mailstop EE–2J, Revisions to Energy Efficiency Enforcement Regulations, EERE–2015– BT–STD–0008, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585– 0121. Phone: (202) 586–2945. If possible, please submit all items on a CD, in which case it is not necessary to include printed copies. (3) Hand Delivery/Courier: Ms. Brenda Edwards, U.S. Department of Energy, Building Technologies Program, 6th Floor, 950 L’Enfant Plaza SW., Washington, DC 20024. Phone: (202) 586–2945. If possible, please submit all items on a CD, in which case it is not necessary to include printed copies. (4) Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number or RIN for this rulemaking. Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents, or comments received, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at https:// www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information may be sent to Mr. John Cymbalsky, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Program, EE–2J, PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 26475 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585–0121. Telephone: (202) 586–7935. Email: pumps@ee.doe.gov. Mr. Michael Kido, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of the General Counsel, GC–33, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585–0121. Telephone: (202) 586–8145. Email: michael.kido@hq.doe.gov. For information on how to submit or review public comments, contact Ms. Brenda Edwards, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Program, Mailstop EE–2J, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585–0121. Telephone: (202) 586–2945. Email: Brenda.Edwards@ee.doe.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Contents I. Introduction A. Statutory Authority B. Background C. Regulatory Process II. Discussion A. Review of Existing Regulatory and Voluntary Programs 1. California Energy Commission 2. ENERGY STAR 3. Consortium for Energy Efficiency 4. Australia and New Zealand 5. European Union B. Scope 1. Definitions 2. Phase, Horsepower, and Application 3. Product Type 4. Sales Configuration C. Test Procedure and Rating Metrics D. Data Needs for Rulemaking Analyses 1. Market and Technology Assessment 2. Energy Use Analysis 3. Manufacturer Impact Analysis III. Public Participation I. Introduction A. Statutory Authority Title III, Part C 1 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (‘‘EPCA’’ or, in context, ‘‘the Act’’), Public Law 94–163, (42 U.S.C. 6311–6317, as codified) established the Energy Conservation Program for Certain Industrial Equipment, a program covering certain industrial equipment.2 ‘‘Pumps’’ are listed as a type of covered industrial equipment. (42 U.S.C. 6311(1)(A)) Under EPCA, the energy conservation program consists essentially of four parts: (1) Testing, (2) labeling, (3) Federal energy conservation 1 For editorial reasons, upon codification in the U.S. Code, Part C was re-designated Part A–1. 2 All references to EPCA refer to the statute as amended through the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (AEMTCA), Public Law 112–210 (Dec. 18, 2012). E:\FR\FM\08MYP1.SGM 08MYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 89 (Friday, May 8, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 26469-26475]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-10449]


========================================================================
Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.

========================================================================


Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 89 / Friday, May 8, 2015 / Proposed 
Rules

[[Page 26469]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Marketing Service

7 CFR Part 1218

[Document Number AMS-FV-14-0089]


Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order; Expanding 
the Membership of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and Other Changes

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This proposal invites comments on expanding the membership of 
the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (Council) under the Blueberry 
Promotion, Research and Information Order (Order). The Council 
administers the Order with oversight by the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA). This proposal would increase the number of Council 
members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one 
exporter. This would help ensure that the Council reflects the 
geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports 
into the United States. This proposal would also add eligibility 
requirements for the public member, clarify the Council's nomination 
procedures and its ability to serve the diversity of the industry, and 
increase the number of members needed for a quorum. This proposal also 
invites comments on prescribing late payment and interest charges for 
past due assessments. These changes would help facilitate program 
administration. All of these actions were unanimously recommended by 
the Council.

DATES: Comments must be received by July 7, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments 
concerning this proposal. Comments may be submitted on the Internet at: 
https://www.regulations.gov or to the Promotion and Economics Division, 
Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., 
Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244; facsimile: (202) 
205-2800. All comments should reference the document number and the 
date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and will be 
made available for public inspection, including name and address, if 
provided, in the above office during regular business hours or it can 
be viewed at https://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maureen T. Pello, Marketing 
Specialist, Promotion and Economics Division, Fruit and Vegetable 
Program, AMS, USDA, P.O. Box 831, Beavercreek, Oregon, 97004; 
telephone: (503) 632-8848; facsimile (202) 205-2800; or electronic 
mail: Maureen.Pello@ams.usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This proposal is issued under the Order (7 
CFR part 1218). The Order is authorized under the Commodity Promotion, 
Research, and Information Act of 1996 (1996 Act) (7 U.S.C. 7411-7425).

Executive Order 12866 and Executive Order 13563

    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all 
costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if 
regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize 
net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public 
health and safety effects, distributive impacts and equity). Executive 
Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and 
benefits, reducing costs, harmonizing rules and promoting flexibility. 
This action has been designated as a ``non-significant regulatory 
action'' under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866. Accordingly, the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has waived the review process.

Executive Order 13175

    This action has been reviewed in accordance with the requirements 
of Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian 
Tribal Governments. The review reveals that this regulation would not 
have substantial and direct effects on Tribal governments and would not 
have significant Tribal implications.

Executive Order 12988

    This proposal has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. It is not intended to have retroactive effect. Section 
524 of the 1996 Act (7 U.S.C. 7423) provides that it shall not affect 
or preempt any other Federal or State law authorizing promotion or 
research relating to an agricultural commodity.
    Under section 519 of the 1996 Act (7 U.S.C. 7418), a person subject 
to an order may file a written petition with USDA stating that an 
order, any provision of an order, or any obligation imposed in 
connection with an order, is not established in accordance with the 
law, and request a modification of an order or an exemption from an 
order. Any petition filed challenging an order, any provision of an 
order, or any obligation imposed in connection with an order, shall be 
filed within two years after the effective date of an order, provision, 
or obligation subject to challenge in the petition. The petitioner will 
have the opportunity for a hearing on the petition. Thereafter, USDA 
will issue a ruling on the petition. The 1996 Act provides that the 
district court of the United States for any district in which the 
petitioner resides or conducts business shall have the jurisdiction to 
review a final ruling on the petition, if the petitioner files a 
complaint for that purpose not later than 20 days after the date of the 
entry of USDA's final ruling.

Background

    This proposal invites comments on expanding the membership of the 
Council under the Order. The Council administers the Order with 
oversight by USDA. Under the program, assessments are collected from 
domestic producers and importers and used for research and promotion 
projects designed to increase the demand for highbush blueberries. This 
proposal would increase the number of Council members from 16 to 20, 
adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This would help 
ensure that the Council reflects the geographical distribution of 
domestic blueberry production and imports into the United States. This 
proposal would also add eligibility requirements for the public member, 
clarify the Council's nomination procedures and its ability to serve 
the diversity of the industry, and increase the number of members 
needed for a quorum. This proposal also invites

[[Page 26470]]

comments on prescribing late payment and interest charges on past due 
assessments. These changes would help facilitate program 
administration. All of these actions were unanimously recommended by 
the Council at its meeting on October 3, 2014.

Expanding the Council's Membership

    Section 1218.40(a) of the Order currently specifies that the 
Council be composed of no more than 16 members and alternates appointed 
by the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary). Ten of the 16 members and 
alternates are producers. One producer member and alternate are from 
each of the following regions within the United States: Region #1 
Western Region; Region #2 Midwest Region; Region #3 Northeast Region; 
and Region #4 Southern Region. One producer member and alternate are 
from each of the top six blueberry producing states, based upon the 
average of the total tons produced over the previous three years. 
Currently, these states include Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, 
New Jersey, and California. Average tonnage is based upon production 
and assessment figures generated by the Council.
    Of the remaining six Council members and alternates, three members 
and alternates are importers. One member and alternate must be an 
exporter, defined in section 1218.40 as a blueberry producer currently 
shipping blueberries into the United States from the largest foreign 
blueberry production area, based on a three-year average (currently 
Chile). One member and alternate must be a first handler, defined in 
section 1218.40 as a United States based independent or cooperative 
organization which is a producer/shipper of domestic blueberries. 
Finally, one member and alternate must represent the public.
    Section 1218.40(b) of the Order specifies that, at least once every 
five years, the Council will review the geographical distribution of 
the production of blueberries in the United States and the quantity of 
imports. The review is conducted through an audit of state crop 
production figures and Council assessment records. If warranted, the 
Council will recommend to the Secretary that its membership be altered 
to reflect changes in the geographical distribution of domestic 
blueberry production and the quantity of imports. If the level of 
imports increases, importer members and alternates may be added to the 
Council.

Council Recommendation

Adding Two State Producer Positions

    The Council met on October 3, 2014, and reviewed domestic 
production and assessment data for the pasts three years (2011-2013). 
This data for the top blueberry producing states is summarized in Table 
1 below.

                                            Table 1--Production \1\ and Assessment \2\ Figures From 2011-2013
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            2011                      2012                      2013                 3-year average
                                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      State                                    Assessments               Assessments               Assessments               Assessments
                                                      Tons         paid         Tons         paid         Tons         paid         Tons         paid
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Michigan........................................       36,000     $434,775       43,500     $528,782       57,500     $668,678       45,500     $544,075
Oregon..........................................       32,750      363,726       36,000      433,326       44,750      517,579       37,833      438,210
Washington......................................       30,500      319,635       35,000      334,242       40,800      361,595       35,433      338,491
Georgia.........................................       32,500      343,694       38,500      347,666       34,000      359,681       35,000      350,347
New Jersey......................................       31,000      321,123       27,000      285,502       25,080      288,578       27,693      298,401
California......................................       21,050      286,696       20,450      301,212       25,700      366,494       22,400      318,134
North Carolina..................................       18,500      189,061       20,250      198,090       21,200      190,904       19,983      192,685
Florida.........................................       11,700      131,538        9,050       88,246       10,750      124,576       10,500      114,787
Mississippi.....................................        5,250       27,096        4,500       28,610        3,650       17,566        4,467       24,424
Indiana.........................................          800        3,007          750        3,160        1,600        7,751        1,050        4,639
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As shown in Table 1, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, New 
Jersey, California, North Carolina, and Florida, respectively, were the 
top eight highbush blueberry producing states based on the 3-year 
average of both production and assessments paid from 2011-2013. 
Mississippi and Indiana, respectively, were the ninth and tenth highest 
blueberry producing states from 2011-2013. Blueberry production in 
Florida, the smallest producer of the top eight producing states, was 
more than double that of Mississippi.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2013 Summary, July 2014, USDA, 
National Agricultural Statistics Service, p. 34.
    \2\ Council assessment records 2011-2013.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Since the Council's inception in 2001 and continuing until 2006, 
there were five state positions on the Council; producers from 
Michigan, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina held those 
five positions. In 2006, a sixth state position was added to the 
Council, with the State of Washington earning a seat (71 FR 44553; 
August 7, 2006). Production shifted in the coming years, and by 2014, 
California became the sixth top blueberry producing state and earned a 
position on the Council, with its 3-year average production surpassing 
that of North Carolina.
    After reviewing state production data, the Council recommended 
revising its membership so that one producer member and alternate from 
each of the top eight producing blueberry states have seats on the 
Council, based upon the average of the total tons produced over the 
previous 3 years. Thus, the number of state positions on the Council 
would be increased from six to eight. Based upon recent production 
figures, this would allow North Carolina and Florida to each have a 
state member and alternate seat on the Council. Section 1218.40(a)(2) 
would be revised accordingly.

Adding One Importer and One Exporter Position

    The Council also reviewed import data and compared it to domestic 
data. Table 2 below shows the domestic (U.S.) production figures and 
quantity of imports from 2011-2013 as well as assessments paid for 
domestic and imported blueberries for those years. The table also shows 
the 3-year average of domestic production, imports and assessments paid 
for 2011-2013.

[[Page 26471]]



                Table 2--U.S.\3\ and Import \4\ Quantities and Assessment \5\ Data From 2011-2013
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Domestic
                      Year                            (U.S.)          Import         U.S. Crop    Imports (tons)
                                                    assessments     assessments       (tons)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2011............................................      $2,151,682      $1,525,936         221,600         124,549
2012............................................       2,434,646       1,601,966         236,700         132,133
2013............................................       2,577,953       1,795,164         265,600         151,005
3-Year Average..................................       2,387,177       1,641,022         241,303         135,896
Percent of Total................................             59%             41%             64%             36%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As shown in Table 2, the quantity of imported blueberries as well 
as assessments paid by importers has increased from 2011-2013. Based 
upon a 3-year average of total assessments paid under the program, 
domestic blueberries account for 59 percent of assessments paid and 
imports account for 41 percent of assessments paid. Additionally, based 
on a 3-year average of the total tonnage covered under the program, 
domestic production accounts for 64 percent of the tonnage and imports 
account for 36 percent of the tonnage.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, p. 9.
    \4\ U.S. Customs and Border Protection data 2011-2013.
    \5\ Council financial audit records 2011-2013.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Council also reviewed import data by country. Table 3 below 
shows the quantity of imports by country from 2011-2013 as well as the 
3-year average.

                  Table 3--Quantity of Blueberries From Foreign Production Areas 2011-2013 \6\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Quantity  (tons)
Foreign blueberry production areas shipping into ---------------------------------------------------------------
                the United States                                                                     3-Year
                                                       2011            2012            2013           average
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chile...........................................          76,889          69,754          84,673          77,105
Canada..........................................          30,374          70,767          48,149          49,763
Argentina.......................................           9,001          14,830          13,813          12,548
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As shown in Table 3, Chile and Canada, respectively, were the top 
two foreign production areas shipping blueberries into the United 
States from 2011-2013. Argentina has been the third top foreign 
production area shipping blueberries into the United States, although 
the quantity of Argentinian imports is much lower than the quantity of 
blueberries from Chile and Canada.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Customs data 2011-2013.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Regarding membership on the Council, representatives from Canada 
were the exporter member and alternate from the time of the Council's 
inception and continuing through 2009. Since 2010, representatives from 
Chile have been the exporter member and alternate on the Council.
    Upon reviewing import data, the Council recommended adding one 
importer member and one alternate to its membership. This would 
increase the number of importer positions from three to four. The 
Council also recommended adding one exporter member and one alternate 
to its membership to represent foreign producers currently shipping 
blueberries into the United States from the second largest foreign 
blueberry production area, based on a 3-year average. This would 
increase the number of exporter positions from one to two, allowing 
exporters from both Chile and Canada to be represented on the Council. 
Section 1218.40(a) of the Order is proposed to be amended accordingly.
    Thus, the number of Council members would increase from 16 to 20. 
Of the 20 members, 12 would be domestic producers, 4 would be 
importers, 2 would be exporters, and 1 each would be a handler and 
public member. Of the 18 Council members representing domestic 
producers, importers and exporters, 66.7 percent would represent the 
domestic industry and 33.3 percent of the Council would represent 
imports or foreign production. This would realign the Council's 
membership to better reflect the geographic distribution of domestic 
and imported blueberries.

Other Changes

Public Member Eligibility

    The Council reviewed other Order provisions regarding its 
membership and operations. The Council recommended revising paragraph 
(a)(6) of section 1218.40 to clarify eligibility requirements for the 
public member and alternate member positions. Specifically, the Council 
recommended that the public member and alternate not be a blueberry 
producer, handler, importer, exporter or have a financial interest in 
the production, sales, marketing or distribution of blueberries.

Diversity

    The Council also recommended adding language to the Order to 
clarify its ability to serve the diversity of the industry. The Council 
recommended adding a new paragraph (c) to section 1218.40 to specify 
that, when the industry makes recommendations for nominees to serve on 
the Council, it should take into account the diversity of the 
population served and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the 
members to serve a diverse population, size of the operations, methods 
of production and distribution, and other distinguishing factors to 
ensure that the recommendations of the Council take into account the 
diverse interest of persons responsible for paying assessments, and 
others in the marketing chain, if appropriate.

Nominations and Appointments

    The Council recommended minor revisions to section 1218.41 of the 
Order regarding nominations and appointments. The procedures to 
nominate state and regional producers, as well as importers, exporters, 
first handlers, and public members would

[[Page 26472]]

not change. The section would merely be revised to add clarity 
regarding the process for nominating members in states with and without 
a state blueberry commission or marketing order.
    The Council also recommended adding language to section 1218.41 to 
expand the number of nominees submitted to the Secretary for 
consideration. Paragraph (a) of section 1218.41 currently provides 
that, when a state has a blueberry commission or marketing order in 
place, the state commission or committee will nominate members to serve 
on the Council. At least two nominees must be recommended to the 
Secretary for each member and each alternate position. The Council 
recommended that other qualified persons who are interested in serving 
in the respective state positions but are not nominated by their State 
marketing order or commission be designated by the State organization 
and/or Council as additional nominees for consideration by the 
Secretary. Section 1218.41(a) would be revised accordingly.
    Likewise, paragraph (d) of section 1218.41 currently provides that 
nominations for the importer, exporter, first handler, and public 
member positions be made by the Council. Two nominees for each member 
and each alternate position are submitted to the Secretary for 
consideration. The Council recommended that other qualified persons who 
are interested in serving in these positions but are not recommended by 
the Council be designated by the Council as additional nominees for 
consideration by the Secretary. The current paragraph (d) in section 
1218.41 would be modified accordingly and would become paragraph (c).
    The Council also recommended adding a new paragraph (d) to section 
1218.41 to specify that producer, handler and importer nominees must be 
in compliance with the Order's provisions regarding the payment of 
assessments and filing of reports. This would help ensure that only 
persons in compliance with the Order's obligations serve on the 
Council. Further, this section would clarify that producer and importer 
nominees must produce or import, respectively, 2,000 pounds or more of 
highbush blueberries annually. This would bring the Order in line with 
how the program has been administered since its inception. Section 
1218.41 is proposed to be revised accordingly.

Council Procedures

    The Council recommended revisions to section 1218.45 regarding 
procedures. First, the Council recommended increasing the number of 
members needed for a quorum. Paragraph (a) of section 1218.45 currently 
specifies that nine members are needed for a quorum, which is a 
majority of the current 16-member Council. Increasing the number of 
Council members to 20 warrants increasing the number members needed for 
a quorum to 11, which would be a majority of the proposed 20-member 
Council.
    The Council also recommended adding flexibility to its procedures 
so that members participating in Council meetings may cast votes on 
issues either in person or by electronic or other means as deemed 
appropriate. Specifically, a new paragraph (f) would be added to 
section 1218.45 to specify that all votes at meetings of the Council 
and committees may be cast in person or by electronic voting or other 
means as the Council and Secretary deem appropriate to allow members 
participating by telephone or other electronic means to cast votes.

Past Due Assessments

    The Order specifies that the funds to cover the Council's expenses 
shall be paid from assessments on producers and importers, donations 
from persons not subject to assessments and from other funds available 
to the Council. First handlers are responsible for collecting and 
submitting reports and producer assessments to the Council. Handlers 
must also maintain records necessary to verify their reports. Importers 
are responsible for paying assessments to the Council on highbush 
blueberries imported into the United States through the U.S. Customs 
and Border Protection (Customs). The Order also provides for two 
exemptions. Producers and importers who produce or import less than 
2,000 pounds of blueberries annually, and producers and importers of 
100 percent organic blueberries are exempt from the payment of 
assessments.
    Section 1218.52(e) of the Order specifies that all assessment 
payments and reports must be submitted to the office of the Council. 
Assessments on imported blueberries are collected by Customs prior to 
entry into the United States. Assessments on domestic blueberries for a 
crop year must be received by the Council no later than November 30 of 
that year. A late payment charge shall be imposed on any handler who 
fails to remit to the Council, the total amount for which any such 
handler is liable on or before the due date established by the Council. 
In addition to the late payment charge, an interest charge shall be 
imposed on the outstanding amount for which the handler is liable. The 
rate of interest must be prescribed in regulations issued by the 
Secretary.
    Assessment funds are used for research and promotion activities 
that are intended to benefit all industry members. Thus, it is 
important that all assessed entities pay their assessments in a timely 
manner. Entities who fail to pay their assessments on time may reap the 
benefits of Council programs at the expense of others. In addition, 
they may utilize funds for their own use that should otherwise be paid 
to the Council to finance Council programs.
    The Council recommended prescribing rates of late payment and 
interest charges for past due assessments in the Order's regulations. A 
late payment charge would be imposed upon handlers who fail to pay 
their assessments to the Council within 30 calendar days of the date 
when assessments are due. This one-time late payment charge would be 5 
percent of the assessments due before interest charges have accrued.
    Additionally, interest at a rate of 1 percent per month on the 
outstanding balance, including any late payment and accrued interest, 
would be added to any accounts for which payment has not been received 
within 30 calendar days of the date when assessments are due. Interest 
would continue to accrue monthly until the outstanding balance is paid 
to the Council.
    This action is expected to help facilitate program administration 
by providing an incentive for entities to remit their assessments in a 
timely manner, with the intent of creating a fair and equitable process 
among all assessed entities. Accordingly, a new Subpart C would be 
added to the Order for provisions implementing the blueberry Order, and 
a new section 1218.520 would be added to Subpart C. Late payment 
charges and interest on past due assessments are not applicable for 
assessments on imported blueberries because the assessments are 
collected by Customs at the time of entry.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis

    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) (5 U.S.C. 
601-612), AMS is required to examine the impact of the proposed rule on 
small entities. Accordingly, AMS has considered the economic impact of 
this action on such entities.
    The purpose of the RFA is to fit regulatory actions to the scale of 
businesses subject to such actions so that small businesses will not be 
disproportionately burdened. The Small Business Administration defines, 
in 13

[[Page 26473]]

CFR part 121, small agricultural producers as those having annual 
receipts of no more than $750,000 and small agricultural service firms 
(first handlers and importers) as those having annual receipts of no 
more than $7 million.
    There are approximately 2,000 domestic producers, 80 first handlers 
and 200 importers of highbush blueberries covered under the program. 
Dividing the highbush blueberry crop value for 2013, $715,958,000,\7\ 
by the number of producers (2,000) yields an average annual producer 
revenue estimate of $357,979. It is estimated that in 2013, about 60 
percent of the first handlers shipped under $7 million worth of 
highbush blueberries. Based on 2013 Customs data, it is estimated that 
almost 90 percent of the importers shipped under $7 million worth of 
highbush blueberries. Based on the foregoing, the majority of 
producers, first handlers and importers may be classified as small 
entities. We do not have information concerning the number of exporters 
and their size. Comments providing any information or data concerning 
exporters are requested.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2014 Summary, July 2014, USDA, 
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), p. 10.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Regarding value of the commodity, as mentioned above, based on 2013 
NASS data, the value of the domestic highbush blueberry crop was about 
$716 million. According to Customs data, the value of 2013 imports was 
about $563 million.
    This proposal invites comments on amending sections 1218.40, 
1218.41 and 1218.45 of the Order regarding Council membership, 
nominations, and procedures, respectively. The Council administers the 
Order with oversight by USDA. Under the program, assessments are 
collected from domestic producers and importers and used for research 
and promotion projects designed to increase the demand for highbush 
blueberries. This proposal would increase the number of Council members 
from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. 
This would help ensure that the Council reflects the geographical 
distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports into the 
United States. Authority for this action is provided in section 
1218.40(b) of the Order and section 515(b) of the 1996 Act.
    This proposal would also prescribe charges for past due assessments 
under the Order. A new section 1218.520 would be added to the Order 
specifying a one-time late payment charge of 5 percent of the 
assessments due and interest at a rate of 1 percent per month on the 
outstanding balance, including any late payment and accrued interest. 
This section would be included in a new Subpart C--Provisions for 
Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order. 
Authority for this action is provided in section 1218.52(e) of the 
Order and section 517(e) of the 1996 Act.
    Regarding the economic impact of the proposed rule on affected 
entities, expanding the Council membership and other proposed changes 
to the Order's membership provisions impose no additional costs on 
industry members. Eligible producers, importers and exporters 
interested in serving on the Council would have to complete a 
background questionnaire. Those requirements are addressed later in 
this proposal in the section titled Reporting and Recordkeeping 
Requirements.
    Prescribing charges for past due assessments imposes no additional 
costs on handlers who pay their assessments on time. It merely provides 
an incentive for entities to remit their assessments in compliance with 
the Order. For all entities who are delinquent in paying assessments, 
both large and small, the charges would be applied the same. As for the 
impact on the industry as a whole, this action would help facilitate 
program administration by providing an incentive for entities to remit 
their assessments in a timely manner, with the intent of creating a 
fair and equitable process among all assessed entities.
    Additionally, as previously mentioned, the Order also provides for 
two exemptions. Producers and importers who produce or import less than 
2,000 pounds of blueberries annually, and producers and importers of 
100 percent organic blueberries are exempt from the payment of 
assessments. Of the 2,000 producers, it is estimated that 1,860 
producers and 180 importers produce or import over the 2,000-pound 
threshold and pay assessments under the program.
    Regarding alternatives, the Council has been reviewing its 
membership and contemplating adding new members to reflect changes in 
the geographic distribution of blueberries for the past few years. As 
previously mentioned, in 2014, California became the sixth top 
blueberry producing state, which earned that state a member and 
alternate seat on the Council, while North Carolina lost its member and 
alternate seat. The Council formed a subcommittee that considered 
various options. One option was to eliminate the four regional producer 
positions and allocate nine seats to producers representing the nine 
top producing blueberry states and one seat to a producer representing 
all other producing states (producer at-large). Another option 
considered was to increase the number of state producer positions from 
six to seven so that North Carolina would have a seat. The Council also 
considered maintaining the status quo. Ultimately the Council 
recommended revising the Order so that the top eight producing 
blueberry states would be represented on the Council.
    The Council also considered adding two importers rather than one 
importer and one exporter to its membership. However, upon reviewing 
the import statistics, the Council concluded that it was important to 
have foreign producer representation from the top two countries 
shipping blueberries into the United States represented on the Council. 
Thus, the Council recommended adding one importer and one exporter 
member and alternates to the Council.
    Regarding requirements for late assessments, the Council considered 
not prescribing rates for late charges and interest. However, the 
Council concluded that the rates should be codified along with the 
applicable date when charges would be applied so that the Order is 
clear on what is required. Additionally, the 1996 Act requires that the 
rates be prescribed by the Secretary.

Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
Chapter 35), the information collection and recordkeeping requirements 
that are imposed by the Order have been approved previously under OMB 
control number 0581-0093. Eligible producers, importers, exporters, 
handlers, and public members interested in serving on the Council must 
complete a background questionnaire (Form AD-755) to verify their 
eligibility. This proposed rule would not result in a change to the 
information collection and recordkeeping requirements previously 
approved and would impose no additional reporting and recordkeeping 
burden on blueberry producers, importers, exporters, handlers or public 
members.
    As with all Federal promotion programs, reports and forms are 
periodically reviewed to reduce information requirements and 
duplication by industry and public sector agencies. Finally, USDA has 
not identified any relevant Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with this proposed rule.
    AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote 
the use of the Internet and other

[[Page 26474]]

information technologies to provide increased opportunities or citizen 
access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.
    Regarding outreach efforts, this action was discussed by the 
Council at meetings in October 2012 and in 2013 and at executive and 
subcommittee meetings held in 2014. The Council met in October 2014 and 
unanimously made its recommendation. All of the Council's meetings are 
open to the public and interested persons are invited to participate 
and express their views.
    We have performed this initial RFA analysis regarding the impact of 
the proposed rule on small entities and we invite comments concerning 
the potential effects of this action.
    While this proposed rule set forth below has not received the 
approval of USDA, it has been determined that it is consistent with and 
would effectuate the purposes of the 1996 Act.
    A 60-day comment period is provided to allow interested persons to 
respond to this proposal. All written comments received in response to 
this proposed rule by the date specified will be considered prior to 
finalizing this action.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1218

    Administrative practice and procedure, Advertising, Blueberry 
promotion, Consumer information, Marketing agreements, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 7 CFR part 1218 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 1218--BLUEBERRY PROMOTION, RESEARCH, AND INFORMATION ORDER

0
1. The authority citation for 7 CFR part 1218 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7411-7425; 7 U.S.C. 7401.

0
2. In Sec.  1218.40, revise the introductory text in paragraph (a), 
revise paragraphs (a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(4), and (a)(6) and add a new 
paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  1218.40  Establishment and membership.

    (a) Establishment of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. There is 
hereby established a U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, hereinafter 
called the Council, composed of no more than 20 members and alternates, 
appointed by the Secretary from nominations as follows:
* * * * *
    (2) One producer member and alternate from each of the top eight 
blueberry producing states, based on the average of the total tons 
produced over the previous three years. Average tonnage will be based 
upon production and assessment figures generated by the Council.
    (3) Four importers and alternates.
    (4) Two exporters and alternates will be filled by foreign 
blueberry producers currently shipping blueberries into the United 
States from the two largest foreign blueberry production areas, 
respectively, based on a three-year average.
* * * * *
    (6) One public member and alternate. The public member and 
alternate public member may not be a blueberry producer, handler, 
importer, exporter, or have a financial interest in the production, 
sales, marketing or distribution of blueberries.
* * * * *
    (c) Council's ability to serve the diversity of the industry. When 
making recommendations for appointments, the industry should take into 
account the diversity of the population served and the knowledge, 
skills, and abilities of the members to serve a diverse population, 
size of the operations, methods of production and distribution, and 
other distinguishing factors to ensure that the recommendations of the 
Council take into account the diverse interest of persons responsible 
for paying assessments, and others in the marketing chain, if 
appropriate.
0
3. Section 1218.41 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  1218.41  Nominations and appointments.

    (a) State representatives. (1) When a state has a state blueberry 
commission or marketing order in place, the state commission or 
committee will nominate members to serve on the Council. At least two 
nominees shall be recommended to the Secretary for each member and each 
alternate position. Other eligible persons interested in serving in the 
respective state positions but not nominated by their State marketing 
order or commission will be designated by the State organization and/or 
Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary.
    (2) Nomination and election of state representatives where no 
commission or order is in place will be handled by the Council staff. 
The Council staff will seek nominations for members and alternates from 
the specific states. Nominations will be returned to the Council office 
and placed on a ballot which will then be sent to producers in the 
state for a vote. The final nominee for member will have received the 
highest number of votes cast. The person with the second highest number 
of votes cast will be the final nominee for alternate. The persons with 
the third and fourth highest number of votes cast will be designated as 
additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary.
    (b) Regional representatives. Nomination and election of regional 
representatives will be handled by the Council staff. The Council staff 
will seek nominations for members and alternates from the specific 
regions. Nominations will be returned to the Council office and placed 
on a ballot which will then be sent to producers in the region for a 
vote. The final nominee for member will have received the highest 
number of votes cast. The person with the second highest number of 
votes cast will be the final nominee for alternate. The persons with 
the third and fourth highest number of votes cast will be designated by 
the Council as additional nominees for consideration by the Secretary.
    (c) Nominations for the importer, exporter, first handler, and 
public member positions will be made by the Council. Two nominees for 
each member and each alternate position will be recommended to the 
Secretary for consideration. Other qualified persons interested in 
serving in these positions but not recommended by the Council will be 
designated by the Council as additional nominees for consideration by 
the Secretary.
    (d) Producer, handler and importer nominees must be in compliance 
with the Order's provisions regarding payment of assessments and filing 
of reports. Further, producers and importers must produce or import, 
respectively, 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries annually.
    (e) From the nominations, the Secretary shall select the members 
and alternate members of the Council.
0
4. In Sec.  1218.45, revise paragraph (a), redesignate paragraphs (f), 
(g), (h), and (i) as paragraphs (g), (h), (i) and (j), and add a new 
paragraph (f) to read as follows:


Sec.  1218.45  Procedure.

    (a) At a Council meeting, it will be considered a quorum when a 
minimum of 11 members, or their alternates serving in their absence, 
are present.
* * * * *
    (f) All votes at meetings of the Council and committees may be cast 
in person or by electronic voting or other means as the Council and 
Secretary deem appropriate to allow members participating by telephone 
or other electronic means to cast votes.
* * * * *
0
5. Add Subpart C consisting of Sec.  1218.520, to read as follows:

[[Page 26475]]

Subpart C--Provisions for Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, 
Research and Information Order


Sec.  1218.520  Late payment and interest charges for past due 
assessments.

    (1) A late payment charge will be imposed on any handler who fails 
to make timely remittance to the Council of the total assessments for 
which they are liable. The late payment will be imposed on any 
assessments not received within 30 calendar days of the date when 
assessments are due. This one-time late payment charge will be 5 
percent of the assessments due before interest charges have accrued.
    (2) In addition to the late payment charge, 1 percent per month 
interest on the outstanding balance, including any late payment and 
accrued interest, will be added to any accounts for which payment has 
not been received within 30 calendar days of the date when assessments 
are due. Interest will continue to accrue monthly until the outstanding 
balance is paid to the Council.

    Dated: April 30, 2015.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2015-10449 Filed 5-7-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3410-02-P