The comment period ended Aug. 22 for the proposed rule that would remove inspection exemptions for all varieties of imported grapes entering the U.S. from April 10 through July 10. Only 14 comments received. 
 
The rule isn’t all that important, but it highlights the irritation some harbor for the role of marketing orders in regulating not only shipments from the regulated area but also imports.
Find the rule on www.regulations.gov here
 
 
From the proposed rule, an explanation:
 
Under the terms of the order, fresh market shipments of Vitis vinifera table grape varieties, including hybrids, from the production area are required to be inspected and are subject to grade, size, quality, maturity, pack, and container requirements during the period April 10 through July 10 (regulatory period) each year. Such shipments must be certified as meeting the order’s requirements. Pursuant to section 8e of the Act, table grapes imported into the United States during the regulatory period must also be inspected and certified as meeting the grade, size, quality, and maturity standards contained in the import regulation.
Historically, four varieties of grapes have been exempted from requirements established under the order and the import regulation because these varieties were not grown within the regulated production area. The Emperor, Calmeria, Almeria, and Ribier varieties were first exempted from regulation under the order for the 1983 marketing period (48 FR 16025; April 4, 1983). The import regulation provides that imported grapes must meet the same or comparable grade, size, quality, and maturity requirements as domestic grapes regulated under the order.
The varietal exemptions were made effective in both the order’s regulations and the import regulation on a continuing basis in 1985 (50 FR 18849; May 3, 1985). Subsequently, sixteen other grape varieties genetically related to one or more of the four exempted varieties were subject to administrative exemptions from regulation under the import regulation because they were not grown in the production area.
The order regulates all vinifera species of table grapes, including the exempted varieties. Accordingly, the proposed rule would update the order’s regulations to remove all varietal exemptions including the original varietal exemptions and subsequent administrative exemptions. Pursuant to section 8(e), corresponding updates would also be made to the import regulations.
The Committee believes it is important that table grapes marketed in the U.S. during the regulatory period are of a consistently high quality, grade, size, and maturity. Updating the regulations to remove outdated varietal exemptions will improve the marketing of table grapes; better meet the needs of consumers; increase returns to growers, handlers, and importers; and foster repeat purchases by consumers.
 
 
 
John Pandol of Pandol Brothers weighs in on the issue with this comment submitted to the USDA and is clearly impatient with the regulation. From the comment:
 
 

Pandol Brothers Inc is a grower shipper importer exporter based in Delano California. The company has grown table grapes since the 1940’s, exporters grapes since the 1960’s and imported grapes since the 1970’s. 

Pandol Brothers disagrees with this modification specifically and the marketing order generally. 

The list of exempt varieties is a trip down memory lane. The once dominate Emperor variety lives on only in the illustrations in the instruction materials for new inspectors. For all practical purposes, the only exempt variety of any significance is the Red Globe. 

Red Globe has been imported almost 30 years. If anyone cares to take an intellectually honest look at the impact of this marketing order, Red Globe is the case study. Pandol Brothers markets grapes which require inspection during the April 10 to July 10 period and simultaneously markets grapes which do not require inspection, either Chilean grapes imported prior to April 10, Red Globe which do not require inspection, and any grapes from the San Joaquin Valley which do not require inspection. Pandol Brothers’ experience is that the uninspected grapes have no more problems in the marketplace than the inspected grapes.  In fact, in late June, the market tends to abandon the certified grapes from the regulated areas and migrate as soon as possible to uncertified grapes from the San Joaquin Valley. 

This modification will make no difference what so ever.    

Pandol Brothers takes issue with the cost of inspections stated in the Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. Where did 3.8 cents per box come from? Depending on lot size, prevailing rates and travel time, the range is 12 to 25 cents per box. Note this is only the cost of the inspection service. It does not include additional movement of pallets, pulling samples, repacking inspected boxes, boxes lost to inspection, replacing samples boxes, restrapping pallets and the overhead associated with having additional refrigerated square footage to perform the inspection. If there are delays in making grapes available to market because of insufficient availability inspectors as was the case in both the Delaware River ports and Nogales Arizona in 2017, that should be factored in as well. 

Regarding the November 12, 2015 meeting which was described as open and widely publicized to all members of the grape industry, that is untrue. The Standardization Committee of the California Fresh Fruit Association was not included. 

In closing, Pandol Brothers realizes, that, like the last time the marketing order was modified, these public comments are meaningless, a formality and the USDA pays no attention to them. 

Respectfully submitted 

John Pandol      

 
 
 
TK: We shall see how the USDA plays this relatively minor rule. It is not news on the order of splitting the atom, to be sure. Wasting regulatory machinery on this rule seems against Trump’s principles. Indeed, for some in the produce trade, another marketing order regulation - no matter how limited in scope - is just another brick in the wall.
 
 
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Looking for an interesting Producehack? One website that I recently discovered shows all the contracts granted by the federal government. With the right search terms, one can find out who is getting paid for supplying fruits and vegetables to any federal agency. Here is the link.