Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order; Expanding the Membership of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and Other Changes, 53257-53263 [2015-21880]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations 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 Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This rule expands 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 rule increases the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This will help ensure that the Council reflects the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports into the United States. This rule also adds eligibility requirements for the public member, clarifies the Council’s nomination procedures and its ability to serve the diversity of the industry, and increases the number of members needed for a quorum. This rule also prescribes late payment and interest charges for past due assessments. These changes will help facilitate program administration. All of these actions were unanimously recommended by the Council. SUMMARY: DATES: Effective Date January 1, 2016. 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. This rule 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). rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 (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 will not have substantial and direct effects on Tribal governments and will not have significant Tribal implications. Executive Order 12988 This rule 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 rule expands 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 PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 53257 producers and importers and used for research and promotion projects designed to increase the demand for highbush blueberries. This rule increases the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This will help ensure that the Council reflects the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production and imports into the United States. This rule also adds eligibility requirements for the public member, clarifies the Council’s nomination procedures and its ability to serve the diversity of the industry, and increases the number of members needed for a quorum. This rule also prescribes late payment and interest charges on past due assessments. These changes will 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 § 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 § 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 E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1 53258 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations 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. assessment data for the pasts three years (2011–2013). This data for the top blueberry producing states is summarized in Table 1 below. Council Recommendation Adding Two State Producer Positions The Council met on October 3, 2014, and reviewed domestic production and TABLE 1—PRODUCTION 1 AND ASSESSMENT 2 FIGURES FROM 2011–2013 2011 State Assessments paid Tons Michigan ................... Oregon ..................... Washington .............. Georgia .................... New Jersey .............. California .................. North Carolina .......... Florida ...................... Mississippi ................ Indiana ..................... 2012 36,000 32,750 30,500 32,500 31,000 21,050 18,500 11,700 5,250 800 $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 2013 Assessments paid Tons 43,500 36,000 35,000 38,500 27,000 20,450 20,250 9,050 4,500 750 Assessments paid Tons $528,782 433,326 334,242 347,666 285,502 301,212 198,090 88,246 28,610 3,160 57,500 44,750 40,800 34,000 25,080 25,700 21,200 10,750 3,650 1,600 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 3-year average $668,678 517,579 361,595 359,681 288,578 366,494 190,904 124,576 17,566 7,751 Tons 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 will be increased from six to eight. Based upon recent production figures, this will allow North Carolina and Florida to each have a state member and alternate seat on the Council. Section 1218.40(a)(2) is 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. TABLE 2—U.S.3 AND IMPORT 4 QUANTITIES AND ASSESSMENT 5 DATA FROM 2011–2013 Domestic (U.S.) assessments Year rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES 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 1 Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2013 Summary, July 2014, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, p. 34. VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 $2,151,682 2,434,646 2,577,953 2,387,177 59% 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 2 Council assessment records 2011–2013. Fruits and Nuts, p. 9. 3 Noncitrus PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 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% 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. 4 U.S. Customs and Border Protection data 2011– 2013. 5 Council financial audit records 2011–2013. E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations The Council also reviewed import data by country. Table 3 below shows 53259 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 rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES 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 will 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 will 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 amended accordingly. Thus, the number of Council members will increase from 16 to 20. Of the 20 members, 12 will be domestic producers, 4 will be importers, 2 will be exporters, and 1 each will be a handler and public member. Of the 18 Council members representing domestic producers, importers and exporters, 66.7 percent will represent the domestic industry and 33.3 percent of the Council will represent imports or foreign production. This will realign the Council’s membership to better reflect the geographic distribution of domestic and imported blueberries. 6 Customs 76,889 30,374 9,001 Other Changes Public Member Eligibility The Council reviewed other Order provisions regarding its membership and operations. The Council recommended revising paragraph (a)(6) of § 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 § 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 § 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 will not change. The section is merely revised to add clarity regarding the process for nominating members in states with and without a state blueberry commission or marketing order. 2012 2013 69,754 70,767 14,830 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 77,105 49,763 12,548 The Council also recommended adding language to § 1218.41 to expand the number of nominees submitted to the Secretary for consideration. Paragraph (a) of § 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) is revised accordingly. Likewise, paragraph (d) of § 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 § 1218.41 is modified accordingly and becomes paragraph (c). The Council also recommended adding a new paragraph (d) to § 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 will help ensure that only persons in compliance with the Order’s obligations serve on the Council. Further, this section will clarify that producer and importer nominees must produce or import, respectively, 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries annually. This data 2011–2013. VerDate Sep<11>2014 84,673 48,149 13,813 3-year average E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1 53260 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations will bring the Order in line with how the program has been administered since its inception. Section 1218.41 is revised accordingly. rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES Council Procedures The Council recommended revisions to § 1218.45 regarding procedures. First, the Council recommended increasing the number of members needed for a quorum. Paragraph (a) of § 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 will be a majority of the 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) is added to § 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 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 will 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 will 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, 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. 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 is added to the Order for provisions implementing the blueberry Order, and a new § 1218.520 is 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. Final 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 this final rule on small entities. Accordingly, AMS has PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 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 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 $7.0 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 $7.0 million worth of highbush blueberries. Based on 2013 Customs data, it is estimated that almost 90 percent of the importers shipped under $7.0 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. 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 rule amends §§ 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 rule increases the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one importer, and one exporter. This will 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 § 1218.40(b) of the Order and section 515(b) of the 1996 Act. This rule also prescribes charges for past due assessments under the Order. A new § 1218.520 will be added to the 7 Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2014 Summary, July 2014, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), p. 10. E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1 rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations 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 will be included in a new Subpart C— Provisions for Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order. Authority for this action is provided in § 1218.52(e) of the Order and section 517(e) of the 1996 Act. Regarding the economic impact of the rule on affected entities, expanding the Council membership and other 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 rule 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 will be applied the same. As for the impact on the industry as a whole, this action helps 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 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 rule results in no changes to the information collection and recordkeeping requirements previously approved and imposes 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 rule. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 53261 AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities 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, in 2013, and at executive and subcommittee meetings held in 2014. The Council met in October 2014 and unanimously made its recommendations. All of the Council’s meetings are open to the public and interested persons are invited to participate and express their views. A proposed rule concerning this action was published in the Federal Register on May 8, 2015 (80 FR 26469). The Council mailed copies of the rule to all known highbush blueberry producers and importers of record. The Council also included notifications about the proposed rule in its newsletters and posted the proposal on its Web site. Finally, the proposal was made available through the Internet by USDA and the Office of the Federal Register. A 60-day comment period ending July 7, 2015 was provided to allow interested persons to submit comments. One comment was received during the comment period. The commenter supported the proposed changes regarding the Council’s membership, but recommended changes to the proposed interest and late payment charges for delinquent assessments. The commenter expressed concern with imposing a fixed interest rate on late assessments and opined that a fixed rate could become unreasonable if future interest rates fluctuated. The commenter also recommended that the late payment charge be capped at 3 percent of the assessments due rather than the proposed rate of 5 percent. USDA has concluded that the proposed 1 percent fixed interest rate per month on outstanding balances due the Council and the proposed 5 percent charge on late assessments, are both reasonable fees. Under the blueberry program, assessments on domestic blueberries are due once per year to the Council (by November 30). Thus, handlers have all year to make their one payment to the Council. Handlers will also have a 30-day grace period before interest or late payment charges are applied. Additionally, the rates are comparable to those specified in other research and promotion programs. Finally, if the Council determined different rates were warranted, it could make that recommendation to USDA and the rates could be revised through E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1 53262 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations rulemaking. Thus, no changes have been made to the proposed rule based on this comment. After consideration of all relevant matters presented, including the information and recommendation submitted by the Council and other available information, it is hereby found that this rule, as hereinafter set forth, is consistent with and will effectuate the purposes of the 1996 Act. 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 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 of paragraph (a), revise paragraphs (a)(2), (3), (4), and (6) and add a new paragraph (c) to read as follows: ■ rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES § 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 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 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 PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 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: Subpart C—Provisions for Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order § 1218.520 Late payment and interest charges for past due assessments. (a) 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. E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 171 / Thursday, September 3, 2015 / Rules and Regulations (b) 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: August 28, 2015. Rex A. Barnes, Associate Administrator. [FR Doc. 2015–21880 Filed 9–2–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P person or vessel may enter or remain in the safety zone without permission from the Sector Columbia River Captain of the Port. Persons or vessels wishing to enter the safety zone may request permission to do so from the on scene Captain of the Port representative via VHF Channel 16 or 13. The Coast Guard may be assisted by other Federal, State, or local enforcement agencies in enforcing this regulation. This document is issued under authority of 33 CFR 100.1302 and 5 U.S.C. 552(a). In addition to this notice in the Federal Register, the Coast Guard will provide the maritime community with notification of this enforcement period via the Local Notice to Mariners. Dated: August 12, 2015. D.J. Travers, Captain, U.S. Coast Guard, Captain of the Port, Sector Columbia River. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard [FR Doc. 2015–21947 Filed 9–2–15; 8:45 am] 33 CFR Part 165 BILLING CODE 9110–04–P [Docket No. USCG–2014–0492] DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Safety Zone; Portland Dragon Boat Races, Portland, Oregon National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coast Guard, DHS. ACTION: Notice of enforcement of regulation. AGENCY: 50 CFR Part 622 The Coast Guard will enforce the Portland Dragon Boat Races Safety Zone from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on September 12, 2015 and 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on September 13, 2015. This action is necessary to ensure the safety of maritime traffic, including the public vessels present, on the Willamette River during the Portland Dragon Boat Races. During the enforcement period, no person or vessel may enter or remain in the safety zone without permission from the Sector Columbia River Captain of the Port. DATES: The regulations in 33 CFR 165.1341 will be enforced from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on September 12, 2015 and 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on September 13, 2015. SUMMARY: If you have questions on this notice, call or email Mr. Ken Lawrenson, Waterways Management Division, MSU Portland, Oregon, Coast Guard; telephone 503–240–9319, email MSUPDXWWM@uscg.mil. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: rmajette on DSK7SPTVN1PROD with RULES SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Coast Guard will enforce the safety zone regulation for the Portland Dragon Boat Races detailed in 33 CFR 165.1341 during the dates and times listed in DATES. Under the provisions of 33 CFR 165.1341 and 33 CFR 165 Subpart D, no VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:52 Sep 02, 2015 Jkt 235001 [Docket No. 141107936–5399–02] RIN 0648–XE004 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 2015 Commercial Accountability Measure and Closure for South Atlantic Gray Triggerfish; July Through December Season National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; closure. AGENCY: NMFS implements accountability measures for commercial gray triggerfish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the South Atlantic. NMFS projects commercial landings for gray triggerfish, will reach the commercial annual catch limit (ACL) for the period July through December by September 8, 2015. Therefore, NMFS is closing the commercial sector for gray triggerfish in the South Atlantic EEZ on September 8, 2015. This closure is necessary to protect the gray triggerfish resource. DATES: This rule is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, September 8, 2015, until January 1, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Catherine Hayslip, NMFS Southeast SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 53263 Regional Office, telephone: 727–824– 5305, email: catherine.hayslip@ noaa.gov. The snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic includes gray triggerfish and is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and is implemented by NMFS under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622. The final rule implementing FMP Amendment 29 recently divided the commercial ACL (equal to the commercial quota) for gray triggerfish in the South Atlantic into two 6-month fishing seasons and allocated 50 percent of the total commercial ACL (quota) of 312,324 lb (141,668 kg), round weight, to each fishing season, January 1 through June 30, and July 1 through December 31 (80 FR 30947, June 1, 2015), as specified in 50 CFR 622.190(a)(8). However, because the final rule implementing FMP Amendment 29 occurred halfway through the 2015 fishing year and commercial landings of gray triggerfish accumulated, only 63,918 lb (28,992 kg) out of 156,162 lb (70,834 kg), round weight, remained for the 2015 commercial ACL (quota) for the July 1 through December 31 fishing season. This quota amount was calculated as the difference between the total commercial ACL (312,324 lb (141,667 kg), round weight) and the amount of commercial landings that had occurred by July 1, 2015 (248,406 lb (112,675 kg), round weight). Under 50 CFR 622.193(q)(1)(i), NMFS is required to close the commercial sector for gray triggerfish when the commercial quota specified in § 622.190(a)(8)(i) or (ii) is reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined that the commercial quota for South Atlantic gray triggerfish will be reached by September 8, 2015. Accordingly, the commercial sector for South Atlantic gray triggerfish is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, September 8, 2015, until the start of the next fishing season on January 1, 2016. The operator of a vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper having gray triggerfish on board must have landed and bartered, traded, or sold such gray triggerfish prior to 12:01 a.m., local SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\03SER1.SGM 03SER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 171 (Thursday, September 3, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 53257-53263]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-21880]



[[Page 53257]]

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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: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: This rule expands 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 rule 
increases the number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two 
producers, one importer, and one exporter. This will help ensure that 
the Council reflects the geographical distribution of domestic 
blueberry production and imports into the United States. This rule also 
adds eligibility requirements for the public member, clarifies the 
Council's nomination procedures and its ability to serve the diversity 
of the industry, and increases the number of members needed for a 
quorum. This rule also prescribes late payment and interest charges for 
past due assessments. These changes will help facilitate program 
administration. All of these actions were unanimously recommended by 
the Council.

DATES: Effective Date January 1, 2016.

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 rule 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 will not 
have substantial and direct effects on Tribal governments and will not 
have significant Tribal implications.

Executive Order 12988

    This rule 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 rule expands 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 rule increases the 
number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one 
importer, and one exporter. This will help ensure that the Council 
reflects the geographical distribution of domestic blueberry production 
and imports into the United States. This rule also adds eligibility 
requirements for the public member, clarifies the Council's nomination 
procedures and its ability to serve the diversity of the industry, and 
increases the number of members needed for a quorum. This rule also 
prescribes late payment and interest charges on past due assessments. 
These changes will 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 Sec.  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 
Sec.  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

[[Page 53258]]

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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

                                            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.
    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 
will be increased from six to eight. Based upon recent production 
figures, this will allow North Carolina and Florida to each have a 
state member and alternate seat on the Council. Section 1218.40(a)(2) 
is 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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

                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.

[[Page 53259]]

    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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Customs data 2011-2013.

                  Table 3--Quantity of Blueberries From Foreign Production Areas 2011-2013 \6\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          Quantity (tons)
Foreign blueberry production areas shipping into ---------------------------------------------------------------
                the United States                      2011            2012            2013       3-year 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.
    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 will 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 will 
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 amended accordingly.
    Thus, the number of Council members will increase from 16 to 20. Of 
the 20 members, 12 will be domestic producers, 4 will be importers, 2 
will be exporters, and 1 each will be a handler and public member. Of 
the 18 Council members representing domestic producers, importers and 
exporters, 66.7 percent will represent the domestic industry and 33.3 
percent of the Council will represent imports or foreign production. 
This will 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 Sec.  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 Sec.  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 Sec.  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 will not change. The section is 
merely 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 Sec.  1218.41 to 
expand the number of nominees submitted to the Secretary for 
consideration. Paragraph (a) of Sec.  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) is revised accordingly.
    Likewise, paragraph (d) of Sec.  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 Sec.  
1218.41 is modified accordingly and becomes paragraph (c).
    The Council also recommended adding a new paragraph (d) to Sec.  
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 will help ensure that only 
persons in compliance with the Order's obligations serve on the 
Council. Further, this section will clarify that producer and importer 
nominees must produce or import, respectively, 2,000 pounds or more of 
highbush blueberries annually. This

[[Page 53260]]

will bring the Order in line with how the program has been administered 
since its inception. Section 1218.41 is revised accordingly.

Council Procedures

    The Council recommended revisions to Sec.  1218.45 regarding 
procedures. First, the Council recommended increasing the number of 
members needed for a quorum. Paragraph (a) of Sec.  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 will be a majority of the 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) is added to Sec.  
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 
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 will 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 will 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, 
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.
    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 is added to 
the Order for provisions implementing the blueberry Order, and a new 
Sec.  1218.520 is 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.

Final 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 this final 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 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 $7.0 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 $7.0 million worth of 
highbush blueberries. Based on 2013 Customs data, it is estimated that 
almost 90 percent of the importers shipped under $7.0 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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \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 rule amends Sec. Sec.  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 rule increases the 
number of Council members from 16 to 20, adding two producers, one 
importer, and one exporter. This will 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 Sec.  1218.40(b) of the Order and section 515(b) of the 
1996 Act.
    This rule also prescribes charges for past due assessments under 
the Order. A new Sec.  1218.520 will be added to the

[[Page 53261]]

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 will be included in a new Subpart C--Provisions for 
Implementing the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order. 
Authority for this action is provided in Sec.  1218.52(e) of the Order 
and section 517(e) of the 1996 Act.
    Regarding the economic impact of the rule on affected entities, 
expanding the Council membership and other 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 rule 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 will be applied the same. As for the 
impact on the industry as a whole, this action helps 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 
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 rule results in no changes to the information 
collection and recordkeeping requirements previously approved and 
imposes 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 rule.
    AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote 
the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide 
increased opportunities 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, in 2013, and at executive and 
subcommittee meetings held in 2014. The Council met in October 2014 and 
unanimously made its recommendations. All of the Council's meetings are 
open to the public and interested persons are invited to participate 
and express their views.
    A proposed rule concerning this action was published in the Federal 
Register on May 8, 2015 (80 FR 26469). The Council mailed copies of the 
rule to all known highbush blueberry producers and importers of record. 
The Council also included notifications about the proposed rule in its 
newsletters and posted the proposal on its Web site. Finally, the 
proposal was made available through the Internet by USDA and the Office 
of the Federal Register. A 60-day comment period ending July 7, 2015 
was provided to allow interested persons to submit comments.
    One comment was received during the comment period. The commenter 
supported the proposed changes regarding the Council's membership, but 
recommended changes to the proposed interest and late payment charges 
for delinquent assessments. The commenter expressed concern with 
imposing a fixed interest rate on late assessments and opined that a 
fixed rate could become unreasonable if future interest rates 
fluctuated. The commenter also recommended that the late payment charge 
be capped at 3 percent of the assessments due rather than the proposed 
rate of 5 percent.
    USDA has concluded that the proposed 1 percent fixed interest rate 
per month on outstanding balances due the Council and the proposed 5 
percent charge on late assessments, are both reasonable fees. Under the 
blueberry program, assessments on domestic blueberries are due once per 
year to the Council (by November 30). Thus, handlers have all year to 
make their one payment to the Council. Handlers will also have a 30-day 
grace period before interest or late payment charges are applied. 
Additionally, the rates are comparable to those specified in other 
research and promotion programs. Finally, if the Council determined 
different rates were warranted, it could make that recommendation to 
USDA and the rates could be revised through

[[Page 53262]]

rulemaking. Thus, no changes have been made to the proposed rule based 
on this comment.
    After consideration of all relevant matters presented, including 
the information and recommendation submitted by the Council and other 
available information, it is hereby found that this rule, as 
hereinafter set forth, is consistent with and will effectuate the 
purposes of the 1996 Act.

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 
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 of paragraph (a), 
revise paragraphs (a)(2), (3), (4), and (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:

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


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

    (a) 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.

[[Page 53263]]

    (b) 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: August 28, 2015.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2015-21880 Filed 9-2-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3410-02-P