The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a final rule that amends the transportation credit balancing fund provisions in the Appalachian and Southeast Federal milk marketing orders (FMMOs) and establishes distributing plant delivery credits in the Appalachian, Florida and Southeast FMMOs.
This final rule is a result of a hearing held Feb. 28 – March 2, 2023, in Franklin, Tenn., that highlighted a long-standing milk deficit problem in the three southeastern orders and its impact on producers, cooperatives and handlers serving the markets. AMS subsequently published on July 18, 2023, a recommended decision and request for public comment and on Dec. 1, 2023, a final decision. As required by regulation, AMS conducted a producer vote to determine approval, and more than the required number of producers voted in favor; therefore, AMS is publishing this final rule to implement the changes.
This final rule implements a package of proposals to address this chronic issue and makes minor clarifying changes to the proposed provisions based on public comments received. Specifically, this final rule makes the following amendments to the transportation credit balancing fund provisions in the Appalachian and Southeast FMMOs:
- Updates the components of the mileage rate calculation.
- Revises the month of February from a mandatory to a discretionary payment month.
- Revises the non-reimbursed mileage factor from 85 miles to 15 percent of the miles traveled.
- Increases the maximum assessment rates on Class I milk.
This final rule also establishes distributing plant delivery credit provisions in the Appalachian, Florida and Southeast FMMOs that would make marketwide service payments to qualifying handlers and cooperatives for milk shipments to pool distributing plants from farms that are year-round, consistent suppliers.
The amendments will be effective for milk marketed on and after March 1, 2024. The amended mileage rate factor and assessments will be contained in the March price announcement to be released on February 21, 2024.
This final rule was published in the Federal Register on February 1, 2024. Copies of the final rule may be obtained from USDA/AMS/Dairy Program; STOP 0225 - Rm. 2530; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-0225. The hearing record is also available at www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/moa/dairy.
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