Small Business Guide to Marketing Orders

Marketing order programs have a small business orientation, since most of these industries are composed of small entities, and there are many opportunities for small businesses to participate in the activities of the marketing order boards, committee, and councils that locally administer the orders.

For example, all handlers (i.e., shippers) who are regulated under the orders, and others affected by the programs, can participate in the process by:

  1. Serving on committees or subcommittees;
  2. Attending numerous public meetings to consider regulatory and other issues; and
  3. Filing comments in response to proposed or interim rules published in the Federal Register.

In addition to the small business perspective that inherently characterizes the local administrative committees, USDA has specifically directed commttees to fully consider small business impact in their deliberations and recommendations for changes under these programs.

Marketing orders place certain requirements on handlers. These requirements include mandatory assessments to fund the operations of the marketing order committees. In many programs, assessment funds are also used for research and development projects to improve production, distribution, and consumption. Also, many orders establish minimum grade, size, quality, and maturity requirements to promote repeat consumer purchases and increase demand. Order regulations may set the size, capacity, weight, dimensions, or pack of the containers used by the industry to eliminate deceptive packaging and pricing practices. Under orders with quality and pack regulations, handlers must obtain Federal or Federal-State inspection and certification that the commodity meets applicable requirements.

Specialty Crops Program has a policy of non-retaliation in its enforcement of fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop marketing order programs which is designed to accommodate the special needs of small businesses through the use of a series of actions (e.g., a warning letter, a demand letter that results in payment of marketing order assessments, a stipulation agreement, a reduced penalty, or a letter of admonition). These actions are designed to give small businesses and other regulated entities notice of violations and opportunities to come into compliance without penalty. Moreover, the Department of Agriculture's Employee Responsibilities and Conduct Bulletin (pdf) specifically prohibits actions which could be construed as retaliatory.

USDA encourages all producers and handlers to participate in the activities of marketing order boards, committees and councils. It is USDA's policy that membership on industry-governed boards and committees accurately reflects the diversity of individuals served by the programs by including eligible women, minorities, and people with disabilities.

Definition of Minority: Black Americans; Hispanic Americans; Native Americans (American Indians or Eskimos); and Asian Pacific Americans.

Contact Information

Richard Lower
Marketing Order and Agreement Division
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Stop 0237, Room 1406
Washington, D.C. 20250-0237
Phone: (202) 720-2491
Fax: (202) 720-8938
Richard.Lower@ams.usda.gov

The National Ombudsman in the U.S. Small Business Administration receives complaints and comments from small business concerns and acts as a "trouble shooter" between them and federal agencies. Small business comments are forwarded to federal agencies for a high level review and federal agencies are requested to consider the fairness of their action.