3-491. Exemption from fruit or vegetable standardization; definitions
A. The supervisor shall exempt any fruit or vegetable commodity from all rules established pursuant to section 3-487, subsection B, paragraphs 1 through 5 and shall exempt the collection of assessments for the commodity subject to this article if the exemption is supported by at least fifty-one per cent of the producers who produce at least fifty-one per cent of the total quantity of that particular fruit or vegetable commodity that was marketed during the preceding year and all of the other requirements of this section have been met. For the purposes of this subsection, "quantity" means the percentage of ownership interest a producer has in the marketed cartons.
B. To initiate the exemption process, a producer or shipper shall present to the supervisor a petition signed by producers, under penalty of perjury, who represent at least one-third of the cartons of the commodity produced in the previous year. The petition shall be submitted on a form prescribed and furnished by the supervisor. On receiving the petition, the supervisor shall negotiate with the petitioner a fee for the estimated costs of the notification, balloting and certification process under this section. The petitioner is responsible for all costs associated with this process and shall pay to the supervisor at least one-half of the fee before proceeding with the petition process.
C. Within ten days after receiving the fee payment under subsection B of this section, the supervisor shall send a notice and a ballot to each shipper of the commodity by certified mail, return receipt requested. The notice shall include a statement that the shipper shall notify each producer the shipper represents of the exemption petition and of the producer's right to support or oppose the exemption.
D. Within sixty days after receiving the notice from the supervisor, each shipper shall return the ballot to the supervisor, filed under penalty of perjury, containing the following information:
1. The name of each producer of the particular commodity that the shipper deals with.
2. The total number of cartons produced in the preceding year by each producer based on the percentage of ownership.
3. The vote of each producer based on the percentage of ownership of cartons.
E. If a shipper fails to return the ballot as prescribed by subsection D of this section, the supervisor may audit the shipper to ensure compliance with this article.
F. Within ninety days after receiving the ballots issued under this section, the supervisor shall review the ballots and determine the results. On payment of the full amount of the costs of the petition process as determined under subsection B of this section, the supervisor shall certify and issue the results of the ballots. If the supervisor certifies that the ballots meet the requirements of this section, the supervisor shall provide public notice of the date the exemption becomes effective, which shall be within ninety days after the supervisor certifies and issues the results of the balloting.
G. Information provided by shippers to the supervisor for purposes of this section is confidential and is not a public record, and the supervisor shall not disclose the information for any purpose except for the purpose of an appeal under subsection H of this section.
H. The petitioner and any producer or shipper of the commodity for which exemption is being sought has the right to appeal to the director on any of the following issues:
1. The validity of the petition submitted under subsection B of this section.
2. The notice requirements of this section.
3. The sufficiency of the submitted ballots.
4. The costs of the petition process.
I. All monies collected by the supervisor pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the citrus, fruit and vegetable trust fund established by section 3-447.
J. The procedures prescribed by this section also apply for producers and shippers to rescind an exemption that was previously granted under this section. The rescission becomes effective on July 1 of a year as determined by the supervisor. No rescission may take effect until the exemption has been in effect for at least two years.
K. For the purposes of this section:
1. "Producer" means a single legal entity that has a percentage ownership interest in the marketed commodity.
2. "Year" means July 1 through June 30.