The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a proposal the agency said will provide a standardized formula by which fees are collected.
The proposed rule , published Sept. 10 in the Federal Register, would provide greater transparency to the customers served by USDA on how the fees are calculated, according to the agency.
The standardized formulas under the proposed rule — comprised of costs elements such as salary, travel, benefits and indirect costs — would be used to calculate fees that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service charges for providing voluntary grading, inspection, certification, auditing and laboratory services for a variety of agricultural commodities including fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA.
The fees would also apply to those persons requesting such services including producers, handlers, processors, importers and exporters, according to the USDA. 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, according to the agency.
About 70% of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service budget is derived from fees assessed for services provided to agricultural industries.
Currently, each AMS program individually proposes a fee change when a revenue shortfall is anticipated for a specific program or activity.
Making the standardized formulas a part of the regulations would allow AMS to announce annual fees in a yearly Federal Register notice, starting with the effective date of this rule and for subsequent years, according to the proposal.
Comments will be accepted on the proposal through Oct. 10.