WASHINGTON – Producers testifying at both the Upper Midwest (F.O. 30) and Mideast (F.O. 33) USDA administrative hearings requested the department rule on the current situation as an “emergency,” which could speed up the formal rule-making process.
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Dairy Program personnel can make that determination based on information entered at the hearing, but the decision will not be announced until it issues its recommended decision, according to a program staffer.
There is no timetable for the USDA to issue its recommendation; it has yet to issue a recommendation on the Upper Midwest order, following that federal order’s hearing in June.
Minimum six months. Although the F.O. 33 hearing is closed, it will take the USDA five to 15 days to receive the hearing record, then parties have another two weeks to correct the record. Interested parties will also have 30 days after receiving the transcript to submit briefs.
After all briefs are received, the USDA is not restricted by a deadline to reach a decision and the process could take at least another two to four months.
E mergency status. If the department declares the situation to be an emergency, it can dispense with formal rule-making process after it announces its recommendations. Its recommendations could either be issued as a final decision, which all milk producers in the affected federal order would vote upon, or an interim final decision.
Producers would also vote on the interim final decision issued and it would be implemented on an interim basis, pending final changes made after an industry comment period.
Not an emergency. If the situation is not deemed an emergency, after the USDA issues its recommended decision, the public will receive a 30- to 60-day comment period. Then, the USDA reviews those comments and determines whether there is sufficient evidence to revise its original recommendation, which can take an additional two to four months.
A department spokesman said although similar hearings are being held in several federal orders, there has been no talk of combining the decisions or waiting to issue a recommendation until all hearings are held and all testimony is considered.
Complete hearing transcripts will be posted, when available, on the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Dairy Program Web site: http://www.ams.usda.gov/dairy/.