February 6, 2004
The Honorable A. J. Yates, Administrator
Agricultural Marketing Service
United Stated Department of Agriculture, Mail Stop 0201
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250-0201
Fax: (202) 720-8938
Re: Proposed Marketing Order Regulating the Handling of Processed Blackberries Produced in the States of Oregon and Washington
Dear Administrator Yates:
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) thanks you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed marketing order regulating the handling of processed blackberries produced in the states of Oregon and Washington. OTA opposes this order as written and requests that organic producers be exempted from participation. The reasons for this are several.
First, no attempt has been made to exempt organic blackberry producers (“Class 5”) from promotion programs within the marketing order (the proposed Section 936.31) as required by Section 10607 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. OTA requests that if Class 5 producers are not exempted from the marketing order as a whole, that the provisions of AMS Docket Number FV03-900-1PR, as revised due to public comment, be applied within this marketing order.
Second, the market for organically grown blackberries is significantly different from the market for conventionally grown blackberries. The buyers are different, the distributors are different, and in many cases, even the retailers may be different. In addition, the market for organic blackberries is not dependent on, nor linked to, the market for conventional blackberries, the prices are different, and significantly different factors control the volume, including the time and cost of making the transition to organic production. This means that the market for organic blackberries could well be rising steadily at a time when the market for conventional blackberries is stable or even decreasing. This situation has been demonstrated in the case of raisins grown in California, and OTA has commented to AMS and the Department of Commerce several times regarding this issue. Accordingly, OTA requests that Class 5 producers, if not exempted from the marketing order as a whole, be exempt from the provisions of the proposed 936.50 through 936.59.
Third, OTA had been in touch with the proposers of this marketing order and enumerated our concerns, but the proposed marketing order does not address them, despite OTA’s understanding that our concerns would be addressed.
If the final rule does not exempt Class 5 growers form the marketing order as a whole, OTA requests that Class 5 growers be represented on the Administrative Board by at least one seat. If Class 5 producers are not represented on the Administrative Board, they should be exempted from the marketing order as a whole.
Please exempt organic producers from this marketing order and note this exemption in the proposed Section 936.80, as well as any other appropriate section.
Finally, OTA also strongly urges AMS to post proposed marketing orders in the Federal Register as advance notices of proposed rulemaking, rather than create an entire marketing order without more initial public input.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Associate Policy Director
Organic Trade Association