Soybean Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Program: Amendment of Procedures and Notification of Request for Referendum
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is affirming without changes its interim rule (79 FR 12037) to amend the procedures to Request a Referendum at 7 CFR Part 1220 by removing the specific number of soybean producers eligible to request a referendum under the Soybean Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information program, commonly known as the Soybean Checkoff Program. The number of soybean producers will be replaced with language that allows the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) to update this number based on information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Additionally, this rule removes specific USDA and Farm Service Agency (FSA) Web site and office addresses and replaces them with more flexible language. These changes will enable AMS to announce future Requests for Referendum without engaging in additional informal rulemaking.
Results of Soybean Request for Referendum
The results of the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) Request for Referendum indicate that too few soybean producers wanted a referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Order (Order) for one to be conducted. The Request for Referendum was conducted from May 5, 2014, through May 30, 2014, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency county offices. To trigger a referendum, 56,999 soybean producers needed to complete a valid Request for Referendum. The total number of soybean producers participating in the referendum was 355. The number of valid petitions received was 324.
Process for Establishing Rates Charged for AMS Services
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is proposing to amend its regulations to provide for a set of standardized formulas by which fees are calculated. The methodology used to calculate and implement the fees charged by AMS user-funded programs would be specified in the regulations. Currently, AMS publishes separate rules for each of the service fees it collects. The fees are calculated using formulas to account for all costs incurred by AMS in providing these services. Each year, fees would be announced in a notice in the Federal Register by June 1 and take effect at the start of the fiscal year, crop year, or as required by specific laws. This would provide greater transparency to the customers we serve as to how the fees are derived. The standardized formulas would be used to calculate fees that AMS charges for providing voluntary grading, inspection, certification, auditing and laboratory services for a variety of agricultural commodities including meat and poultry, fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and cotton and tobacco. The fees would also apply to those persons requesting such services including producers, handlers, processors, importers and exporters. Fees charged for inspection of fruits, vegetables, and specialty crops subject to the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 also would be affected by this rule. Provisions of this proposed rule would not supersede rates established by Memorandum of Understanding, Marketing Orders, or by cooperative agreements already in place. Furthermore, the cotton program would continue to consult with its industry before rates are established.